Sunday, December 10, 2023

Authentic colonial cooking: three-day event spotlights traditional fare

Colonial food for all
Jamestown Settlement and American Revolution Museum at Yorktown will be hosting a three-day celebration of the “Foods and Feasts of Colonial Virginia” from Nov. 24-26. (Courtesy Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation)

When it comes to holiday cooking, it’s hard to be more authentic than Jamestown and Yorktown.

From roasted venison to stewed squash, “Food & Feasts of Colonial Virgina” will spotlight 17th-and 18th-century Virginia smoking, curing and cooking.

The three-day-event kicks off Thanksgiving Day and runs through Nov. 26, with demonstrations at Jamestown Settlement and the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown.

The program has offerings for non-cooks, too, from sailing enthusiasts to military history buffs.


Cooking demos will include venison, turkey and other game roasting over an open fire.

There will be clay pots filled with corn, bean and squash stews and a daily program at 2 p.m. highlighting Native American corn dishes, such as corncakes and corn dumplings.

Also on tap at 10 a.m. daily: a lesson in how Powhatan Indians crafted tools from bone and stone.

Some of the other offerings:

  • At the Jamestown fort, historic interpreters will bake bread and cook puddings, pies and pottage on an open hearth.
  • A pig will be be processed into hams and bacon, and salted for preservation on Thursday and Friday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • At the ship’s pier, a program at noon will cover celestial navigation and how 17th-century sailors followed the stars.
  • At 1 p.m., a program titled “The Rule of Law” will feature the evolution of Jamestown’s government from 1607, when the colony was founded, to 1619, when the assembly convened.
  • Also at the ship’s pier, visitors can haul cargo at 3 p.m. and learn throughout the day about what sailors ate, including salted fish, biscuits and dried foods.
  • At 4 p.m, there will be military drills near the fort.
  • A 30-minute documentary titled “The First Official Thanksgiving” will play every day on the hour at the museum theater from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Portions of the documentary were filmed at Jamestown.


Cooking demonstrations will be offered daily in the farm kitchen. Dishes such as stews, pies and breads will be prepared over an open hearth, with techniques and recipes dating back to the 18th century.

On Thursday and Friday between 10:30 a.m and 12:30 p.m., there will be pig processing.

A 1 p.m. demonstration will highlight preserving food for the winter.

Visitors can learn about 18th-century herbal indigestion remedies at 4 p.m.

And over at the Continental Army encampment, there will be daily artillery drills at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., as well as information about how soldiers survived on their rations of dried beans, salted meat and hard bread.

Thanksgiving Dinner

For those who’d like to eat traditional fare, Jamestown Settlement Café is holding a first-come first-served Thanksgiving dinner on Thanksgiving Day from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The menu features turkey, dressing, sweet potato casserole, mashed potatoes, green beans, gravy, cranberry sauce and an assortment of pies.

Dinner costs $16.99 for adults and $8.95 for children aged 12 and younger.


A single combination ticket for both museums costs $21.25 for adults and $10.75 for children between the ages of six and 12. It’s available online only, and it also includes coupon vouchers for Williamsburg Premium Outlets and the Historic Yorktown Rewards Card.

To learn more about ticket prices and options, go to

Joan Quigley
Joan Quigley
Joan Quigley is a former Miami Herald business reporter, a graduate of Columbia Journalism School and an attorney. Her writing has appeared in the Washington Post,, and Talking Points Memo. Her recent book, Just Another Southern Town: Mary Church Terrell and the Struggle for Racial Justice in the Nation’s Capital, was shortlisted for the 2017 Mark Lynton History Prize. Her first book, The Day the Earth Caved In: An American Mining Tragedy, won the 2005 J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Award.

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