Highlights Reel


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Completed my docent training at Smith’s Castle and spent their Heritage Days weekend event talking to visitors about the kitchen and hearth. Led a small group of pirate reenactors through the entire house – a perfect introductory audience for my first whole-house tour. Working in the gardens Wednesday afternoons.


The website for Plimoth Plantation states that it takes “the average visitor” two and a half hours to see everything. Who are these people? We spent six hours, felt like two, and could’ve easily spent another four. Was extremely impressed with the first-person docents we met – and speaking in OP English, too! Enjoyed poking around the backs of the houses and peeking in at their gardens. Most of them were dressed with branches to protect the seedlings. I purchased a small pipkin and some seed packets (summer savory and cornsalad) from the gift shop. I deserve a medal for self restraint.


Visited the Hempsted Houses in New London, CT. The stone house dates to the mid 1700s; the larger Elizabethan frame house dates a hundred years earlier, and is the oldest house in New London. This photo of the earlier house’s hearth is far better than the ones I took that day.


This is the main hearth in the 18th-century stone house. It is now believed the house was built by French Acadians driven out of Canada by the English.


Some friends gave me an old, neglected bake kettle (aka a Dutch oven) in need of a loving home. I may have done a little dance over this. It’s going to take some serious elbow grease, but I’m determined to restore it to life and usefulness. Reading a fantastic book titled Cooking with Fire – my brain is ablaze (ahem) with ideas for our firepit.

Feel free to stop by my flickr photostream to see other photos of my adventures.

Spring Cleaning, Foraging, and Docent Training (not necessarily in that order)


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It finally feels like spring is here. From 12 o’clock, moving clockwise: dandelion, Barbarea vulgaris, Allium tricoccum, Allium vineale, hosta. Yellow flowers are Ficaria verna, which must be cooked to remove a toxin – this is a new one to me this year. To its left is very young Lepidium virginicum (peppergrass), below that is Daucus carota. The green leaves resembling curly dock are young horseradish leaves. The pale blue green succulent in the center is sedum, probably Autumn Joy. All gathered on an evening stroll through our yard.

Completed two of the four two-hour docent training sessions at Cocumscussoc. Still learning how to properly pronounce – and spell – Cocumscussoc. Met a number of lovely, enthusiastic, informative, helpful, kind people involved in historic interpretation and reenactment – several of who have generously offered to help me cobble together some sort of kit.

Gathered a large basketful of stinging nettles for a friend who is the chef at an old Newport tavern.

Noticed that I feel happiest and most content with myself and my life when I am gardening, foraging, or cooking.

Brainstormed a book idea.

Decluttered and rearranged the contents of two outbuildings. Sorted through thirty years’ worth of photos and personal ephemera. Did a dump run, threw out half a trash bag full of old photos, cards, and letters; other things – including furniture – donated or given away.

In the process, I scratched up a few things for my kit:

  • Adirondack pack
  • two bone-handled table/butter knives
  • two two-pronged forks
  • two cutting boards made from an old pecan tree from my grandparents’ farm (now freshly oiled and drying in the kitchen)
  • wooden (probably teak) bowl
  • long wooden bowl/platter/trencher
  • wooden spoon
  • tin spice grater
  • rolling pin
  • wooden spoons
  • Blue Fluted Royal Copenhagen platter
  • short-handled broom
  • wrought iron S-hook
  • fire bricks
  • basket
  • colonial-style pantry box
  • packet of oak-gall iron ink
  • an old wool army blanket to use as fabric for a petticoat
  • assorted fabrics and old cotton sheets for assorted future sewing projects
  • an old milking stool (from Mexico but who’s to know?)
  • tent, sleeping bag, and sleep mats (modern, but useful in a pinch if I attend an overnight event)
  • hatchet (modern, but useful around fires)

Still need/want:

  • tripod
  • bake kettle, preferably with a flat lid
  • knife
  • more S-hooks
  • pot to boil water or make soup in
  • plate/platter (treenware, I hope)
  • horn drinking mug (wish I’d bought one in Edinburgh last year)
  • redware
  • spider skillet
  • shift (preferably linen)
  • cap
  • wool petticoat
  • apron
  • jacket
  • fichu
  • stockings
  • tattoo coverup

Wood stove cooking, and a lesson about limes

So I succeeded in cooking a pot of beans on our wood stove. Unfortunately, I also learned (the hard way) that lime rind imparts intense bitterness. I have a favorite recipe for beans that calls for tossing in a halved, unpeeled orange and, not having any oranges handy but still wanting the brightness of citrus, I tossed in a halved, unpeeled lime that was languishing in a bowl on my kitchen counter. Big mistake. Ruined the whole batch, including a really nice smoked ham hock. My husband gamely wolfed down a couple of bowls spiked with great lashings of hot sauce, but finally conceded that it was pretty awful. As much as I hate to waste food, I tossed the rest.

Still – I cooked a thing on our wood stove!


Snowed in with more on the way…


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Well! The new Facebook group Colonial American Foodways now has over 150 members, several of whom are historical interpreters, some of them professional. We’ve had some lovely discussions and shared a lot of information. Seems like this was a niche just waiting to be filled.

I’ve also confirmed that I will be giving a talk on edible garden weeds at my local library branch next month. Several of the plants I’ll be featuring were known – and in some cases intentionally introduced – by colonists as food and medicine.

Last weekend I attended yet another hearth cooking class at Historic Deerfield, this one featuring recipes by Hannah Glasse. On the day’s menu: Pounded Cheese, Brown Chicken Fricassee, Red Cabbage in the Dutch Style, Norfolk Dumplings, and Indian Pudding.

Lastly, had my birthday dinner with my beloved husband at Newport’s White Horse Tavern, the oldest continually operated tavern in the United States (since 1673). The chef is a friend; we are still talking about the Brussels sprouts. No kidding.

Lastly, this morning I’m experimenting with our woodstove. I’ve never really tried to use it for cooking. Going to see if I can get the stove hot enough to cook a pot of beans all day without making the house unbearably warm. We shall see….


A lengthy sojourn, and a new thing


It’s been a tumultuous month. I completely managed to overwhelm myself with expectations, as I so often do. Also realized I’d wandered waaaaay off into the weeds, focus-wise. I was all over the place: historical clothing, manners, military history, buttons, shoes, diseases – when what I really meant to focus on was food.

Several people have expressed to me an interest in colonial American foodways: gardening, cookery, and a certain amount of foraging, too. I’d searched for a Facebook group on these topics, and only found one, which I joined – but quickly discovered it was largely inactive, with the single admin posting the occasional Jas. Townsend & Son video. Also, he was apparently a bit of a racist. So I left that group, did a bit of complaining about it to my friends, and they encouraged me to start my own, which I did last night. It’s called Colonial American Foodways and it only has a dozen or so members so far.

I will be moving or at least copying a lot of relevant content/links from this platform to that one. Not sure what that means for the future of this blog, which is semi-secret anyway. If you’re on Facebook, we’d love to have you join our little fledgling group.



http://www.peakexperiencelab.com/blog/2017/2/9/does-your-historic-site-say-make-american-great-again – living history perspectives

http://recipes.history.org/ – History is Served: 18th Century Recipes for the 20th-Century Kitchen

http://emroc.hypotheses.org/ – Early Modern Recipes Online Collective

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCxr2d4As312LulcajAkKJYw – Jas. Townsend & Son’s YouTube channel

https://recipes.hypotheses.org/ – The Recipes Project: Food, Magic, Art, Science, and Medicine

https://thehistoricfoodie.wordpress.com/ – The Historic Foodie’s Blog: An Enjoyable Ramble through of Historic Foods and Cooking Techniques

http://18thccuisine.blogspot.com/ – 18thC French cuisine as a habitante in Nouvelle France may have cooked.

https://afroculinaria.com/ – Exploring Culinary Traditions of Africa, African America and the African Diaspora

https://britishfoodhistory.wordpress.com/ – British Food: A History

https://rarecooking.com/ – Updating Early Modern Recipes (1600-1800) in a Modern Kitchen

http://www.fourpoundsflour.com/ – Historic Gastronomy

http://www.gardenhistorymatters.com/ – Garden History Matters

https://gathervictoria.com/ – Wild Food, Magical Cookery

https://historiccookery.com/ – Adventures in late 18th & early 19th Century foodways

http://historiccookingschool.com/ – Historic Cooking School

http://www.medievalcookery.com/ – Medieval Cookery

https://mycherokeegarden.com/ – My Cherokee Garden: A Collection of Native Plants Culturally and Historically Significant to the Cherokees

https://nativehearth.com/ – Native Hearth: Indigenous Food Traditions

https://revolutionarypie.com/ – Historic American cooking in a 21st-century kitchen

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCzI73MXvMNesn7TlnQo8IgA – River Cottage YouTube channel

https://savoringthepast.net/ -Savoring the Past: Sharing Insights on the History of Food

http://www.historicalcookingproject.com/ – The Historical Cooking Project

Dare to Interpret

Our Girl History

I just got off the phone with a good friend of mine. She’s planning a civilian living history event at the end of April. Meanwhile, I’m thinking about interpreting peacetime British garrison life on the eve of the American Revolution next month. Her event will fall on my birthday, while she has work on the date of mine. We found ourselves clamoring to express why exactly each event is worthy of the other’s attendance, despite schedule restraints. It became a discussion of what makes an event worth going to. Both of us are sick of trotting out the stale history-book stories. In the age we live in, we don’t have time for “edutainment” that doesn’t teach something we care about. So what are the stories that urgently need to be taught?

I find myself desperate to teach history that will inform the world I live in now, and which perhaps…

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Everything Old is New Again



One unexpected aspect of my new focus on all things colonial is the phenomenon of “kit goggles” – by which I mean, I’m suddenly looking at everything through new eyes, and always posing the question, “Could I use that as part of my kit?” Every trip to the thrift store, every tag sale, every craft studio and antique shop becomes a treasure hunt.

Today is the first day of the new year, and the holiday decorations are coming down. I’m dusting and wiping and rearranging things. I rummage through my dried culinary and medicinal herbs and toss whatever is old and stale into the fire – this also goes for any old feathers, dried moss, flowers, seedpods, or fungi we may have brought home and put on a shelf last summer. I just like a good New Year’s clean out. And this year is different because of my kit goggles.

Which is how I was able to really see the kit potential in this box. I received it as a gift many years ago, and was told it was a Shaker box. It stored my coin collection. I had to move it today while cleaning, and this time I stopped and really looked at it. The tag inside reminded me it was made at Frye’s Measure Mill in Wilton, New Hampshire. But as I perused their website, I realized this is not a Shaker-style box, but rather an oval colonial pantry box, approximately nine inches across. I have no idea what I’ll use it for, kit-wise, but I aim to use it if I possibly can.

Salmagundi Pt. II – A collection of research notes from the previous week, in no particular order.


Meanwhile, back in England…


GEORGIAN PERIOD 1714 – 1830 (1837)


Where is my wooden needle case?

Is there a way to not make this story incredibly heavy, to match the Puritans’ burdensome world view? Is there a way to resurrect a bit of Sir Terry P. into this thing – if he could write about Puritan colonial America? With keen observation, sharp wit, and deep – if often bewildered – affection? He certainly touched on religion often enough – I should probably read all of those again. I want this to be allegorical, but I’m not sure I’ll know what the allegory exactly IS until I’m halfway through it, if that. I’m just kind of hoping it will reveal itself to me as we go along. What I know for sure is that if I sit here and refuse to try to write a story until I’m sure I know what it’s about or how it will end, I will never start.




Pocket Contents: Coins

In 1652, Massachusetts challenged England’s ban on colonial coinage. The colony struck a series of silver coins, including the Pine Tree Shilling. On the coin the lettering MASATHVSETS IN encircles a pine tree. The reverse bears the inscription NEW ENGLAND AN DOM, the date 1652 and the Roman numeral XII (twelve pence or one shilling) in the center.

All Pine Tree shillings were dated 1652, though they were produced for many years. Therafter, that way, if England ever found out about this illegal coinage, Massachusetts could claim it had not made any coins since 1652.


https://www.vcoins.com/en/stores/charles_davis/44/product/coleman_r_counterfeit_georgian_copper_coins_a_guide_to_identification_of_georgian_counterfeit_imitative_and_evasive_copper_coins_circulating_in_great_britain/619356/Default.aspx – guide to counterfeit coins of England and the colonies

http://www.learnnc.org/lp/editions/nchist-colonial/1646 – making sense of colonial money, values

Find a reproduction of a wooden comb and/or brush and use it daily – Stuart/Georgian

https://livesandlegaciesblog.org/2015/01/28/perukes-pomade-powder/ – I want to find/buy/make a wooden hair comb – for grooming, not a decorative comb

Also….George Washington didn’t wear a wig, but instead had how own hair powdered and pomaded and styled to look like a wig. So…he must have had long hair.


Wanted to create a blog list for my sidebar but it seems like WordPress only allows you to add other WordPress blogs.


Linsey-woolsey – a fabric made from weaving flax with wool to make a heavier cloth used for winter clothing


Astronomical events if 1650? 1680? 1770?


“Floors were kept clean by weekly scouring with abrasive sand. Often done on Saturdays, and then a layer of white sand was strewn on the floor and swept into decorative patterns; a thick layer of sand on the kitchen floor boards protected them from grease, candle wax, and other stains.” (American Household Botany)

“In New England, anti-slavery sentiments persuaded many to use maple sugar in place of molasses and sugar imported from the West Indies.” (AHB, p. 204)

Amelia Simmons – American Cookery

Hannah Glasse – The Art of Cooking Made Plain & Simple

“The New Household Receipt Book” – Hale

“The American Woman’s Home” – H. Beecher Stowe

The Good Housekeeper – Hale

America Cookery – Simmons 1796

The Improved Housewife or Book of Receipts – Webster 1853

Practical Cooking 1878

The Modern Cook – 1877

The Virginia Housewife 1824

The English Housewife – Gervase Markham 1615

1734 John Tennent’s “Every Man His Own Doctor, or The Poor Planters Physician”

“Samp” recipe

Wampanoag garden? Maize, squash/pumpkin (C. pepo), and beans (P. vulgaris)

Josselyn. “New England Rarities” – “standing dish” recipe

Strawberry cornmeal bread

Green arrow arum – tuckahoe (Peltandra virginica)

All introduced to N. America:

  • Shepherd’s purse
  • knotgrass
  • Black nightshade
  • Chickweed
  • Comfrey
  • Mullein
  • Plantain
  • Flax
  • Hemp
  • Red clover
  • Eglantine rose
  • Sorrel
  • Skirret (Sium sisarum)
  • Queen Anne’s lace
  • Sheep sorrel
  • Wood sorrel
  • Purslane



Herbs in colonial gardens:

  • Yarrow
  • Feverfew
  • Southernwood
  • Wormwood
  • Mugwort
  • Tansy
  • Lavender cotton
  • Garden chamomile

Furniture – Jacobean styles (1670-1694) were copied in America. Wood carvers in vicinity of Hadley, MA used lots of oak (AHB, p.273)

Cattails subbed for old world bullrushes to cane chairs.

What the hell is “alehoof?”


An early germination test was to scatter some seeds on a hot stove surface. Those that retained some moisture and presumably were more viable would crack and jump; nonviable seeds lacked moisture and simply burned. (AHB)

I want to read more stories of the Tory/Loyalist perspective.