Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Hometown: ‘Foods & Feasts’ Event Serves Up Colonial Cooking Methods

Surveying soldiers' rations in Yorktown Victory Center's re-created Continental Army encampment. Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation photo.
Surveying soldiers’ rations in Yorktown Victory Center’s re-created Continental Army encampment. Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation photo.

Savor the Thanksgiving holiday by exploring centuries-old cooking and preservation methods at Jamestown Settlement and Yorktown Victory Center.

“Foods & Feasts of Colonial Virginia” will start Thanksgiving Day and run through Saturday.

Jamestown Settlement

At Jamestown Settlement, a museum of 17th-century Virginia, guests can discover how food was gathered, preserved and prepared on land and at sea by Virginia’s English colonists and Powhatan Indians.  In the re-created Powhatan Indian village, visitors can see venison, turkey and other game roasted over an open fire, while stews of corn, beans and squash cook in clay pots.

A daily program at 10 a.m. will explore the importance of corn to the Powhatan Indians and the variety of dishes in which it was used. At 1 p.m., visitors can discover Powhatan dishes derived from the river and help wrap a fish in clay to bake in the hot coals, or see hunting techniques at noon and 4 p.m.

At the ships’ pier, a special program at 10:30 a.m. allows visitors to haul cargo from a replica of one of the three ships that brought America’s first permanent English colonists to Virginia in 1607. Throughout the day, visitors can explore typical sailors’ fare of salted fish, biscuit and dried foods and try making the most common food – a ship biscuit.

Stirring a pot of stew in Jamestown Settlement's re-created Powhatan Indian village. Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation photo.
Stirring a pot of stew in Jamestown Settlement’s re-created Powhatan Indian village. Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation photo.

The English colonists brought their culinary skills to Virginia, which will be up for display in the re-created 1610-14 fort. From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday and Friday, an entire pig will be processed into hams and bacon, followed by salting for preservation.

On all three days, historical interpreters will demonstrate baking bread in a Devon oven (made of pottery and produced in England) and open-hearth cooking of 17th-century dishes, including pudding, pies and pottages.

Military demonstrations will include the 11:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. firing of a swivel gun at the ships’ pier and, at 3:30 p.m., European military tactics and drills near the fort.

Yorktown Victory Center

At the museum of the American Revolution, visitors will learn soldiers prepared rations in an earthen “kitchen” and see how 1780s farming families transformed the season’s gardens and crops into stews, pies and breads, while preserving food for the winter ahead.

In Yorktown Victory Center's re-created 1780s farm kitchen, a historical interpreter cooks over an open hearth. Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation photo.
In Yorktown Victory Center’s re-created 1780s farm kitchen, a historical interpreter cooks over an open hearth. Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation photo.

Throughout the day, historical interpreters in the re-created Continental Army encampment will show how soldiers turned meager rations into nourishing meals.

Plundering and theft sometimes occurred when rations were scarce, and a special program at 10:45 a.m. and 1:05 p.m. will illustrate the consequences. Artillery demonstrations will be held daily at 11:05 a.m., 1:35 p.m. and 3:05 p.m.

From 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday and Friday, visitors to the re-created 1780s farm can see how farmers salted and cured different cuts of meat and, at 3:35 p.m., how they preserved fruits and vegetables. Beginning at 2:05 p.m. daily, a variety of dishes will be prepared in the farm kitchen using 18th-century open-hearth cooking techniques and recipes.

In addition, visitors can learn about 18th-century remedies for indigestion at 4:35 p.m.

Thanksgiving Dinner in the Café

Food preparation in the museums’ interpretive areas is for demonstration purposes only. The Jamestown Settlement Café will offer a traditional Thanksgiving dinner from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thanksgiving Day.

For more information, contact the Jamestown Settlement Café 253-2571.

Admission to the Jamestown Settlement and Yorktown Victory Center is free to residents James City County, York County and the City of Williamsburg, including the College of William and Mary. Proof of residency must be shown.

For guests from outside the Historic Triangle, there are discounts for those purchasing tickets to both museums. Entrance for children under six is free, as is parking.

Jamestown Settlement and the Yorktown Victory Center are open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily year-round, are separated by a 25-minute drive along the Colonial Parkway.

For more information, call 253-4838 or visit their website.

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