Side Track Museum Exhibit

In the summer I don’t use the hearth often and like to keep busy with other interests. And what a summer it was! Not only record breaking heat, I co- produced an exhibit of wedding gowns with Kimberly Alexander for the Newmarket Historical Society. Along with this exhibit we had three programs.

A Wedding Tea, Gallery Talk and  Wedding Foods “Talk and Taste,”

where I paired food with the gowns.

We began this project by borrowing manikins from University of New Hamshire (UNH). Here, Astrida Schaeffer, who manages the collections at the Museum of Art at UNH, and I take out a gown to be fitted for a manikin.

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It took a week to set the risers, cover them and put them in place. We had plenty of help.

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 Kimberly,Kris, Barbara, Jeff and others all pitched in to staple the cloth on the rises, hang the walls with white fabric, steam iron gowns and dress the manikins. Then we needed to find out where they should go.

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Robert Irwin said “There’s no way to really mock up or simulate what I’m doing until I’m there. An exhibition for me is not a statement but an experiment.”

This was true with our exhibit, it wasn’t until we had all the gowns ready and on the manikins did we truly have a plan for their placements.

Thirteen gowns in all, plus the display cases

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We had a reproduction 1775 gown worn for a recent wedding, a Victorian turn of the century linen embroidered gown and a flapper gown with shoes and hat.

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Two early 1800 farm wife’s everyday gowns that we put in the agriculture section, and a few Victorian gowns in our vignettes.

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There was a dress worn in the 70s that causes quite a stir in the church, a Hot Pants number.

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A stunning silk Laotian gown in gold and red that was breathtaking.

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We had several cases filled with shoes and other wedding objects also.

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Along with our exhibit Kimberly’s gave a Gallery Talk, one Sunday, that was well attended.

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Next came the “Victorian Tea” with Kandie Carl, the Victorian Lady, who did an amazing performance dressing from chemise to stays and then into a lovely mother of the bride Victorian outfit. We sold 93 tickets and there was so much food, it was piled high.

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And last but not least the Wedding Food “Talk and Taste” presented by Colonial Table. Starting with the 1770s, I made a rum punch and served it with navettes. This cookie began its life in Marseille, France, and some became popular with the English.

November, December, and January were the most popular months in which to marry as farm obligations were less pressing than during the summer. Family and friends, gathered in the morning at the minister’s home or in the bride’s parlor for the wedding,

In 1770, there were over 140 rum distilleries in the colonies cranking out 4.8 million gallons of rum every year, so for this wedding we served a punch of rum.

For 1843, I picked orange jellies as they are so festive and would show the skill of the host. Champagne began to be served as a wedding beverage in the late 1800, and in Newmarket, we had a population of French from Canada, so I thought it would be fun to make a croquembouche. This cone of pastry started being used as a French wedding cake in the early 1800s.

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Along comes the 1900s and rationing, and Hello Refrigeration. However because of the war foods were rationed. This spurred homemakers to stretch their ingredients as far as possible. Savory as well as sweet food were encased in gelatin. I made aspic that encased hardboiled egg slice, ham and cornichons.

During prohibition, the speakeasies catered to the urban “upper crust,” and served small bites to their patrons, so they would not leave the building staggering down the street. These were called canapés, sometimes they were finger sandwiches or stuffed mushrooms something that could be carried in one hand and a drink in the other, while guests socialized. This was the beginning of the hors d’oeuvres.

With the popular cooking show of Julia Childs, quiche became the rage. I made my quiches of spinach, and cheese.

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The late 1960s were filled with bright, psychedelic colors, and long hair. Woman wore unbelievably short skirts. To represent our Hot Pants wedding outfit I made cheese fondue, that was introduced to the United States, and really took off, in the sixties.

2000 the new millennium

Things are moving fast we have new ways to get information quickly and wedding planners are showing all the new trends, Sushi went Global and was found at a buffet station near you.

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So it’s time to move over and get ready for Generation Z

Already they have food truck weddings, fresh locally sourced food and family style food stations. What next!

While wedding styles come and go, some things endure, the things that will stay are the traditional white dress, the wedding cake and a celebrating with family and friends.

This exhibit and the tea were worked on by the whole Board of Directors and its members. It was teamwork that made it so successful. A job well done! We took the gowns down packed them up and looked back at how this exhibit was so well-received. It brought in many new people to the museum some as guests and some who became members.

So after a long three months it was over. And we were all as tired as this manikin looks.

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It was a fun exhibit and I enjoyed working with all the participants in making it a success.

To see more, stay tune and see.

Kimberly Alexandria’s blog , Silk Damask at http://www.silkdamask.org/

Sandie

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About Sandie

Since I was a small child I have loved early fireplaces and the smell of smoke in an old house. However it was not until about Fifteen years ago that my journey into hearth cooking began. It all started at the Hurd House Museum in Woodbury Ct. I was the director of the Junior Docent program and among the programs each week we cooked. At about the same time a group of us started the Culinary Historians of Connecticut meeting once a month to discuss equipment used, receipt (18th century term for recipe), and anything between the late 1600 to late 1700 that had to do with hearth cooking. We were fortunate to try our hand at cooking at several Museums throughout Ct and many more private homes. We made cheese; we held a late 1600 dinner and shared our knowledge with others. Our group designrd our own tours such as the Kitchens of Old Wethersfield. In 2000 we were delighted to host the Historic Foodways group of ALFAM at the Hurd House during their conference at Mystic Seaport. We put together a great workshop of Puddings, Sausages, Brown Bread, Beverages you name it we offered it. I am now a member of the ALFAM foodways group. Then it was off to Colonial Williamsburg for the seminar The Art of 18th-Century Cooking: Farm to Hearth to Table. During the years I joined many workshops in Sturbridge Village plus their Dinner in a Country Village and breakfast at the Freeman Farm. So I was pretty much hooked on heart cooking and the 18th century way of life. I joined a wonderful group of ladies and we started the “Hive” a place to improve and grow your 18th century impression and offer research about material culture in 17070’s New England. We also travel with friends and have displays of clothing and teas at Museums in Massachusetts. Many events are held at the Hartwell Tavern at Minute Man National Park. They have been gracious enough to let us play there and entertain and share our knowledge with their visitors. Please visit our “Hive” site if the 1700 interest you. Then the move to New Hampshire and a job at Strawberry Banke in Portsmouth as the co-coordinator of the Junior Role Playing workshop and eventually cooking in front of the hearth at the Wheelwright house. Not only did I enjoy making my evening meals at the hearth to take home but also talking with the visitors. I am an entertainer after all, check out my program page. Most recently I am working at the Museum of Old York in Maine as an educator, hearth cook and organizer of the Junior Docent cooking program in the summer. See some photos in the archive file Because I do make food with the docents and serve food to the public at our Tavern Dinners I took the National Restaurant Association tests called ServSafe and now have my Certification as a Restaurant Manager. I look forward to the Museum of Old York opening again this March 2012 and getting back to the hearth and teaching, however for now I’m cooking at home and enjoying doing so.

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