Jamestown and Yorktown Celebrate ‘Foods & Feasts of Colonial Virginia’

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A historical interpreter prepares an assortment of authentic 17th century dishes. (Courtesy Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation)
A historical interpreter prepares an assortment of authentic 17th century dishes. (Courtesy Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation)

Jamestown Settlement and Yorktown Victory Center are getting in the holiday spirit this week with “Foods & Feasts of Colonial Virgina.”

This annual three-day program will begin Thanksgiving day and run through Saturday.

Visitors to Jamestown Settlement can learn all about how food was gathered, preserved and prepared by both Powhatan Indians and English Colonists.

Interpreters at the settlement will display tools of 17th-century cooking, such as clay pots and iron kettles while sharing information about the popular food-preservation methods of the day like salt-curing, smoking and pickling.

A daily showcase at 2 p.m. in the Powhatan Indian village will involve the roasting of venison, turkey and game over an open fire, in addition to the preparation of corn, beans and squash in clay pots.

Within the walls of the re-created fort of 1610-1614, food preparation will reflects the techniques that colonists brought with them to the New World. Interpreters will bake bread daily and demonstrate cooking puddings, pies and pottage over an open hearth. A whole pig will also be processed into hams and bacon from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday and Friday.

At the ships’ pier at 3 p.m. a hands-on program will allow guests to haul cargo and learn about sailors’ provisions, which included salted fish and dried foods. Visitors can even make their own ship biscuit, the most common fare for travelers to the colony.

A special presentation on “Food at Sea in the Early 17th Century” from author, historian and performer Simon Spalding will take place on Friday at the settlement’s Robins Foundation Theater. Spalding will take visitors on a culinary sea voyage through time, complete with poetry and song. This program will begin at 1 p.m.

For visitors who wish to learn about colonial cooking but who want to enjoy a more modern meal for the holiday, a traditional Thanksgiving dinner will be served Thursday at the Jamestown Settlement Café on a first-come, first-served basis from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Guests at Yorktown Victory Center all three days will have the opportunity to investigate how soldiers in the American Revolution prepared their rations, as well as what happened in the encampments in times of scarcity.

The Victory Center’s Revolution-period farm will be churning out a number of hearty and authentic 18th-century recipes each day, and guests can learn how farming families in the Revolutionary era turned raw produce into hearty stews, pies and bread that sustained them through the harsh Virginia winters.

On Thursday and Friday at 10:30 a.m., historical interpreters at the farm will process a whole pig into hams and bacon while providing information about salting and storing food for winter in Revolutionary times.

Interested parties can find out ticket information and look at complete hours of operation here.