My Town Monday: Historically Delicious!

This past Saturday evening, 28 of us gathered to take a tasty trip back in time. Not like the people in my books, but figuratively: we were the participants and guests at Carillon Historical Park‘s Tavern Dinner that night.

Our hosts – three ladies and two men – already looked the part in their historical clothing, as they outlined our destination, and why they’d chosen that particular year: 1830. You see, the Miami and Erie Canal had been completed through Dayton the prior year, bringing with it much greater accessibility to supplies from the east, including goodies like sugar and flour. This allowed them to offer much greater variety in the food that could be prepared for a historically-accurate, end-of-winter feast.

The canal also drastically reduced the cost of such goods. A shipment that would have cost $125 to bring to Dayton via horse-drawn wagon or stagecoach, cost only $25 to bring out on the canal. Bring on the food, right?

Most of our meal was cooked here! Cabbage soup and sausage stew are in the kettles. Our hostess checks the oven.

Not quite! After the introduction, we all got a little hands-on experience in preparing some of the evening’s meal. Our group went first to the summer kitchen, where our hosts had been busy since that morning, putting on the cabbage soup appetizer, the main dish stew, and getting the ingredients ready for dessert. They’d baked bread in the stone oven a few days earlier, just as would have been done in 1830. But what’s bread without butter? That still needed to be done, so we all tried our hand at churning. Not a hard job at all, but one that would get tedious if it had to be done all at once, by one person, for it takes about a half hour of steady work. While we churned, our hostess answered questions about the food preparations, and explained how the fire had been going all day, and the soup and stew put on around 2 pm that afternoon. Ever think it takes too long to preheat the oven? This one takes a couple hours! But we’d have cookies by the time dinner was done.

Implements for tea and coffee preparation

Our next stop was the William Morris house, an authentic, preserved historical home which, like the summer kitchen, had been trucked to the park from Centerville, about 10 miles away. There, our hostess described how coffee and tea was shipped in, and the latter roasted and ground. The coffee mill was difficult to crank – luckily, enough had been already ground that we weren’t dependent on what we could do!

After that, we stopped outside the tavern to learn about the musket that might have been used to kill the night’s meal, had we actually been in 1830. Since the group before us jammed the musket, we got to see how the term “flash in the pan” originated, when the musket didn’t create enough force to fire the bullet, but the gunpowder burnt prematurely.

Finally, we headed inside Newcom’s Tavern, Dayton’s oldest building, for dinner.

It's Historically Delicious!

As dusk descended, it certainly felt like a trip back in time to eat in the old, log building by candle light. And the food was wonderful! We started out with bread that was baked in the summer kitchen with the butter we’d churned, and cabbage soup, which was much tastier than it sounds, thanks to its beef broth base and herb seasonings.

The main dish was the sausage stew, which was a mild, savory sausage in a tomato paste base, served with locally-grown rice. The sides were a thick bean-and-corn dish, and apples and onions, which were baked in a crockery pot and dutch oven piled under ash in the summer kitchen’s fireplace. Apples and onions sounds like a strange combination, but it was really good. We also had roasted diced potatoes, with onions, carrots, and turnips.

Candlelight dinner in the tavern

After dinner, we were in for yet another treat. A trio of illusionists who said they’d just ridden in on the stagecoach from Cincinnati performed a few magic tricks and card tricks for us and got more than a few laughs. We capped off the evening with dessert – stewed pears, with the sugar cookies that had just been baked in the summer kitchen. All in all, a fantastic meal!

Have you ever eaten a historic dinner, prepared by historically-accurate means? What do you think of the menu – does it sound like something you’d like to try? Have you ever churned butter or fired a musket?

14 Responses to \

  1. Sounds cool! Colonial Williamsburg is not far from where I live. I haven’t eaten a meal–but did get a historically delicious (love that!) cookie. 🙂 Plus it’s always fun to stop for a photo in the stockades afterwards. Ha ha.

  2. What a fun outing, especially with 28 others. Nope, I’ve never prepared a historical meal, but I often think about how hundreds of years ago, most of the day was spent preparing food or growing it or shooting it. Ah, the simple things we take for granted these days, huh?

  3. Prudence & Marcy, it was great! I wouldn’t mind going again – they put them on every few months.

    Coleen – I love Williamsburg! I think we ate at an ordinary restaurant offsite when I went.

    Lynn, this did make me think about that! I can’t imagine spending the whole day cooking – but that’s what they did. This was a feast meal – more involved and more courses than they’d eat every day. Thanks for stopping by!

  4. That looked like a really fun evening Jennette! Did you take your whole family? I bet the kids loved it. I can’t say that I’ve ever had a historical meal. That almost sounds scary to me. LOL! But dessert sounded good! And there’s always room for dessert! 🙂

  5. Everything but fired the musket! I’m in the SCA, and I have the good fortune to know several folks who are studying for their Laurels (a very high distinction in the society that demonstrates not only hands-on skill, but academic historical knowledge that would rival any Doctorate-level historian–and quite a few Laurels are, in fact, PhDs) in period cuisine. Which means food that was served and eaten in the middle ages, *prepared* a la middle ages (although minus the questionable storage and potential for food poisoning). I’ve had some amazing food at feasts (and some veeery eeeenteresting combinations).

    Plus, in the SCA, you participate–so you dress and act the part. It’s kind of amazing to realize that they had their time-saving devices just like we do today, only in a different context. And many of their time-savers are still useful today–the rotisserie that makes tasty chickens is run by a little motor today, but centuries ago, was run by two men or a handful of dogs.

    And that “cooking all day” stuff? All I have to say is thank all the Gods for Crockpots! 😀

  6. Karen, it was great! I took my daughter and her boyfriend. They really enjoyed it! And I’m always for encouraging kids’ interest in history. I wasn’t sure what we’d be getting into either, especially since they did not have the menu finalized when we signed up, but they fill up way in advance, so I figured that meant something. 🙂

    Athena, I should have known you’d have gone much further back! When I was in SCA in college, we did feast days, but they cheated. A lot, LOL. But I do remember it being very tasty! And no forks & spoons, just yer knife. 😀

  7. I’ve never eaten a historically accurate meal, prepared by historically accurate means, but I’d love to! That said, I’ll fix dinner tonight without whining. After all, I won’t have to churn butter and didn’t rise at dawn to build the fire.

    Thanks for the explanation of “flash in the pan” and the info about the canal bringing lower food prices. Fascinating!

  8. The closest thing I got to that was a Beef Eaters Banquet in London. Fun times. What a great thing to do! Thanks for sharing, Janette! I don’t know if they do anything like that around here. I’v never thought to check. You’ve inspired me. 🙂

  9. I’ve never done that, however, it seems like a great idea. I wish I can find a place near our place that offers a historic meal.

  10. What fun! I’ve had supposedly historically accurate meals, but I’m not certain they were prepared in an historically accurate way. Um. I think I’m really grateful for having been born this century! LOL

  11. Do meals cooked on my grandmother’s woodstove count as historical? I churned many a jar of butter rocking in Grandma’s rocker, the cream sloshing in the gallon jar on my lap. That was the main job at her house for the grandchildren, that and plucking Sunday’s fresh roasting chicken. That sounds like a really fun trip. I’m going to look that one up as a day trip.

  12. Clayton, it was great! Do some searching, who knows what you’ll find? 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

    Lynette – LOL you aren’t kidding! I’d much rather sit at a computer all day than cook!

    Catherine, sure it counts! And isn’t that homemade butter delicious? 🙂