I received a call from the Wilton Historical Society. They were in need of a hearth cook who could work with children during their school program.
So off to Connecticut I went. I would be there for the week, working at the hearth in the Sloan-Raymond-Fitch house
I stayed at the very comfortable home of Lola, the museum educator the first night, Sunday. I needed to make vegetable soup and little cakes for 92 students and their teachers and parents. The way I had set up the program was to have the children divided into two groups for a hands-on experience, making 18th century food. I had two parents who stayed in the room for the whole day, helping and that was wonderful, plus there was a teacher or other parent with the group as the moved from station to station .
The students arrive at the kitchen and wipe their hands with wipes, then divide into two groups in front of the table. I gave a 5- to 10-minute discussion on the hearth, bake oven and its door, peel, toe kick toaster, butter churn and chores that boys and girls would do in the 1700s, and I had put a chicken spinning on the hearth as one of the talking points.
5 to 10 minutes was about as long as they could stay still.
One group of six did the vegetables a the other one group was divided into two to make two batches of little cakes and one student started on the butter churn.
One mother helps with the cutting of the carrots, celery, onions and field greens.
The students managed a small knife, and everything they cut went into a large bowl. With 92 students each day we were very lucky to only have two, slight, finger cuts.
The other side of the table was busy making oatmeal jumbles and butter. Students took turns with the butter, changing places as they went.
When the bell rang we put the cookies in Tupperware, stashed it in the pantry , cleaned the table cloth and set up for the next group that was already filing in and washing their hands.
This procedure was repeated for each class.
Then came lunch, however no rest for the weary. It was time to regroup and wash some of the bowls and get ready for the afternoon students.
The cookies and soup I made the night before was served to the children by a parent or teacher to have with their lunch in the big hall. That is why I made them the night before.
While we were having lunch, Mario Pedone, the maintenance man, whom I could not have done without, kept the fires going for us, and sat in from time to time, which helped keep some of the boys in order.
Then came 2:15 and everyone was back on the bus. The parents left and I cleaned up the things in the room and the best thing is that several ladies from the museum came and helped me cart thing s to the real kitchen and wash them up so I could reset for the next day.
I left and went back to Lola’s and began baking the little cakes that the students made, making sure there were 150 for the following day. I didn’t have to do the soup, as that was being done at the museum the next day by the ladies.
So it went for five days about 92 children a day and each day was different. Some classes were very well behaved and others not so, parents very helpful and other not. It’s the name of the game when doing school groups.
I enjoyed myself, and hope I instilled, in some of the students, an interest in early American life and how their ancestors worked hard, took nothing for granted, and didn’t waste anything, if possible.
“Education is not the filling of a bucket, but the lighting of a fire.”
– W.B. Yeats