This year will soon be gone. Yep, in just a few short
hours, 2015 will slide into the history books. And so
I thought I’d write up one last post before it goes!

The Israel Crane House was again part of the annual
Essex County (NJ) Historic Holiday House Tour, which
took place the weekend of December 5 and 6. Of course,
I was busyImage (63) in the Crane kitchen, where
visitors were welcomed with a variety
of foods to sample. The spread featured
the usual suspects: Gingerbread Cakes;
Pounded Cheese (with crackers); and
Shrewsbury Cakes. Newly-added were
Chocolate Drops. As in previous years,
we offered hot spiced cider, dried apple
slices, a ham, chestnuts, candied orange
peels, and more. No one left hungry, that’s for sure!

I always look forward to this annual event, and this year
was no exception. The best part (besides the yummy food!)
is all the lively, in-depth conversations I have with those
who stop by the kitchen to see “what’s cooking.” It’s never
a dull moment. I have fun every year. I trust the visitors
do, too! HUZZAH!

Welcome to the Crane kitchen. Come on in!


Our spread of goodies:


New for 2015 were these tasty Chocolate Drops:


I prepared and cooked a dish each day, as well. First I made
a “Squash Pudding” (Saturday) and then a “Tart of the Ananas,
or Pine-Apple” (Sunday).

Both were baked in the bake kettle:


the Squash Pudding:


the Pine-Apple Tart:


Our spiced cider heated up over the fire each day:


Also new this season was a sweetmeat I saw Stephen Schmidt,
a fellow member of Culinary Historians of New York (CHNY),
make during the “Eating Through Time” symposium held this
past fall at the New York Academy of Medicine (NYAM). As he
did, I followed the “To Make White Marmalet of Quinces” receipt
from Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery (circa 1550-1625).

Here is a portion of one of two batches I made:


I was also busy hearth-side on December 15 for “Family Fun
Day,” when I made oodles of “Dough Nuts,” all in accordance
with a receipt in Seventy-Five Receipts for Pastry, Cakes, and
(1828), by Eliza Leslie. We had more hot spiced
cider, as well.

Little nut-sized balls of dough ready to be boiled:


the fire doing its magic with our Dough Nuts and our cider:


TA-DA! our Dough Nuts! YUM!


All in all, we had lots of good eats at The Israel Crane House
this year. Here’s to another fantastic and tasty year of cooking
over an open fire in 2016! HUZZAH!

Happy New Year to one and all!


It’s time once again for us all to hail the woman who’s largely
responsible for “inventing” our Thanksgiving holiday, and that
woman is…drum roll, please…Sarah Josepha Hale! Yes, we
should all hail Hale! (get it? it’s a funny…you know, ‘cuz
the two words sound the same!).

During the mid-19th century, Hale lobbied tirelessly for a national
day of thanksgiving. At the time, it was already observed somewhat
regularly in New England, but she thought it should be nation-wide.
As the first-ever female editor of Ladies’ Magazine and later, Godey’s
Lady’s Book
, Hale used her position to publish numerous editorials
promoting the idea. The New Hampshire native also wrote letters
to any and every politician she could find, including then-President
Abraham Lincoln. Her campaign finally proved successful when he
declared Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863. However, it was
many years before the entire country embraced it, particularly
in the South (for obvious reasons!). Nevertheless, Thanksgiving
has become one of America’s beloved celebrations. And we owe
it all to Hale’s incessant efforts. It’s amazing what one person
(and a woman, at that) can do!

Incidentally, Hale was quite a prolific writer. She penned a variety
of works, including cookbooks (such as The Good Housekeeper,
which was first published in 1839), numerous novels (she even
described a Thanksgiving dinner in one), and the nursery rhyme
“Mary Had a Little Lamb.”

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!


For more factual information about our annual feast day, check
out the following:

New England, in the time of the so-called “Pilgrims,” when a day
of thanksgiving meant a day spent listening to religious sermons
and of fasting, NOT feasting:



And from those who “live” it daily at Plimoth Plantation:


There are plenty more, but I’ll let you search for ’em!

Oh, and in case anyone’s noticed, yes, this is a repeat of what I posted
at this time last year…and the year before that and…

I haven’t written anything here in a while. Life just got in the way.
Too much other stuff going on. Plus, once I stop, whether for a short
or long period of time, it’s often tough to get up ‘n running again.
Nevertheless, here I am! And to make it easy on myself, I’ll start
with something simple (HA! famous last words!).

Awhile back there were some posts on Facebook about popcorn,
and whether or not it has been on America’s tables since colonial
days. I’d never really thought much about it. My only encounters
with it in an historical context was when it was popped nightly
at one house during the Candlelight Program when I worked
Image (59)at Conner Prairie decades ago. Eventually,
a fellow hearth cook (one Kathleen Wall
of Plimoth Plantation) mentioned a book
that might provide some answers: Popped
Culture, A Social History of Popcorn in America

(1999), by food historian and prolific book
writer Andrew F. Smith. So, not being too
familiar with the subject, I ordered it, and
my copy arrived soon after.* Of course,
being an ever-busy (or trying to be) person, I’ve not had
alotta time to read it. However, I’ve recently done a quick
look-through, and of particular interest was the following
passage found in the “Preface” that pertains to those
ubiquitous and highly annoying popcorn myths.

While it is impossible to disprove myths,
I can report that no archaeological or
historical evidence was uncovered
[presumably during his research]
to support the following frequently
repeated statements:
— Columbus found popcorn in the Caribbean;
— Pilgrims ate popcorn on the proverbial first
Thanksgiving in Plymouth in 1621;
— Amerindians attached religious significance
to popcorn;
— Native Americans living in what is today the
eastern United States or southern Canada ate
popcorn in pre-Columbian times;
— Popcorn or maize was cultivated outside
of the Americas before Columbus’s arrival;
— Colonial Americans ate popcorn as a snack.

My favorite is that last one. As if colonial Americans ate snacks!
What a hoot! I can’t wait to read the rest of this book.


*it came from amazon.com; the shipping was more than the book!

Summer is gone, and Fall is “officially” here. Guess I should
share the rest of my “vacation photos” before it’s too late!

So, here’s the last shots from my jaunt to the 2015 ALHFAM
National Conference in Williamsburg, VA. And then I can get
back to writing about historic cooking and foods. HUZZAH!


We spent the final day of the Conference visiting the two
sites that represent Jamestown, the first English settlement
in 1607. It was not only the first in Virginia, but also on this
continent. (Yes, that’s right, Plymouth came later!) One site
(shown in the first set of photos) is the actual, original, and
archaeologically-verified location of Jamestown. The second
site (and set of photos) is the re-created village, complete
with costumed interpreters depicting daily life of 400-plus
years ago.



It was a struggle for the early settlers to carve out decent lives
for themselves in the Virginia wilderness. Many did not survive:









It’s been discovered recently who is buried under the crosses
shown in the photo below. A significant find, as the people had
to’ve been of great importance in order to be buried in the chancel
of the church at Jameston. Here’s more about it.


The re-creation of the above-mentioned church:




As I stated above, we also paid a visit to the re-created Jamestown
Settlement. Here, costumed interpreters present life as it may’ve
been during those first years.

First up (at least for me), was a stop at the Costume Department.
This is where everyone is outfitted for whatever character(s) they
portray out on the grounds.




Then it was time to head out to the grounds. First, I wound my
way through the re-created Native American village, pictures


of which I posted previously (see those near the end). I headed
next to the docks and the replica ships. They certainly are mighty
small and cramped! I can’t imagine living on one for two or three
months (and they did, so I don’t have to! HUZZAH!):




On to the main village of Jamestown, to see its buildings and people:







The church, which was central to the early colonist’s lives:






Mustering a few good men from our ALHFAM group:






Whew! That’s the last of ’em. Finally! Now on to posts that deal
more with historic cookery. HUZZAH!

Hope everyone’s ready for more photos of my summer jaunt down to Virginia for the 2015 National ALHFAM Conference. Of course, most of them have absolutely nothing to do with historic food or cooking. Then again, I haven’t done much in that arena this summer. Made a batch of raspberry ice cream in July, and I’ll be at the Battle of Brooklyn later this month (August 30). Other than that, it’s been a rather slow summer, historic cooking-wise. Come the fall, however, there’ll be plenty of hearth cooking again at The Israel Crane House. I’m eager to return! HUZZAH!

Back to those photos.

First up are a few that wrap up my time at the Yorktown encampment and it’s accompanying Battlefield.

Officer’s tent: IMG_4383 Another for supplies: IMG_4406 IMG_4404 A young soldier demonstrates the workings of a cannon: IMG_4390 And again, the camp kitchen. I just love this! HUZZAH! IMG_4424 Yorktown Battlefield. Yep, it’s just that. A big empty field! IMG_4440 IMG_4437 Early on, I took advantage of a pre-conference field trip that included touring the ruins of Rosewell Plantation. Once at the center of a 3000 acre plantation and home to the Page family, the main building was a three-story mansion, complete with dependencies and outbuildings. The owner’s expressed goal was that it be far grander than the Governor’s Palace at then-capital Williamsburg. Sadly, it was gutted by fire in 1916, so we’ll never really know. There’s a visitor center nearby, where a few old photos, recreated models, and the like, give some idea of its former grandeur, but…alas….

In any event, here’s what Rosewell most likely looked like during the 18th century:
Image (37) and here’s what it looks like now: IMG_4343 IMG_4323 IMG_4326 IMG_4331 IMG_4333 IMG_4336 And a few shots from my wanderings ’round Colonial Williamsburg: IMG_4812 IMG_4835 IMG_4823 IMG_4846 IMG_4816 IMG_4873 IMG_4839 IMG_4827 IMG_4878 IMG_4883


Note: The first image of Rosewell (the pen and ink drawing) is from the site’s brochure.


NEXT: The last (hopefully!) batch of summer trip photos (unless something better comes along! LOL)

It’s been nine years now, but I frequently
think of a beloved pet that passed away
on this day in 2006. He was a dear furry
friend and “cat-companion.” Yes, I have
another, and she’s a sweetie who keeps
me company, but it’s just not the same.
You could say it was a type of “first love”
with my previous buddy: he’s the one
I’ll never forget. In any event, as today
is the anniversary of his passing, once again I offer the following
remembrance. It’s the same every year, with minor updates.


Twenty-plus years ago, when I was living in Indianapolis, Indiana, I discovered
a stray cat sleeping now and then in an unused dog house in my back yard. As
time went on, I saw him more frequently, and I began to set out some food. Occasionally, I’d come home from work, and there he’d be out on the patio.
At first, I’d let him in, he’d ever-so-casually walk around the room, and then
head back out. sc001ab8d7 Slowly but surely, he became a regular visitor. Eventually, he’d come inside, eat, take a nap on
my couch, and go back out. Soon we became a team. It always seemed he
knew when I’d just gotten home, for he’d show up within minutes. Other times, if I didn’t see him right away,
I would soon hear him. There’d be meowing coming from one direction
or another, and all I had to do was meow back, and he’d come running. There were many times when I came home, and he’d be at the patio door, waiting patiently to come in. And if
I’d just had a long hard day, I’d lie
on the floor, he’d sit sphinx-like on
my chest, and we’d have ourselves a little cat nap. Before long, I’d come home,
let him in, and he’d stay until the next morning, when I’d be awakened by his meowing to be let out. As cats go, it was a match made in heaven. When I
moved to New York, he came with me. On the plane, in the cabin. In fact,
during the next several years, whenever I’d go back and forth to Indianapolis,
he went with me. He didn’t mind flying. I’m sure being in that cramped carrier, “placed under the seat in front” of me per airline regulations wasn’t the greatest, but he knew that I was right there. Several times I took him out (unbeknownst to the flight attendants, of course), and he’d quietly and calmly sat in my lap.
He’d even look out the window. As I said, we were a team. In any event, to make this long story short…the point of all this is that, eight years ago today (July 28) my beloved pal, this dearly-loved cat, who had essentially adopted me, passed away. He’d never been sick a day in his life, yet suddenly he became ill and was gone in no time. It was utterly devastating. And horribly heartbreaking.

Kitty-Pooh, 1992-2006

Kitty-Pooh, 1992-2006

Since those early days in Indianapolis, he had been my constant companion. He went from being a mostly outdoor cat to being a completely indoor one. He went with me from one state to another, and from one apartment to another and then another. There was even that short time spent in Jersey (what I refer to as my homeless period). He was there as I navigated the trials and tribulations of life in the Big Bad City. Not to mention all the ups and downs of pursuing an acting career. He was there, too, when my parents passed, first one, then the other. And the loss of my beloved dog, Casey. In short, for nearly 14 years he was the one constant in my life. And so, this is in honor of my beloved pal. You were the bestest cat I could ever hope for. My handsome fella. Mon copain. My gift from God. You were dearly loved and are greatly missed.



nap time!

nap time!

About a month ago, I hopped on a train and headed South
to Williamsburg, Virginia, in order to attend the 2015 Annual
ALHFAM* Conference. Held on the campus of William & Mary
College, it was hosted by its neighbor, Colonial Williamsburg
. The five-day affair featured assorted pre-conference
field trips and workshops, a day to experience all that CW


has to offer, another for traipsing ’round the four separate
sites that comprise Jamestown and Yorktown, and last, but
not least, two full days of informative sessions that covered
every topic imaginable, from the role of modern technology
in museum settings to the tools required to better engage
audiences of all ages to the care ‘n feeding of re-enactors
at historic sites. Yours truly led a session, as well, entitled
“Fake Fanny Receipts and Other Travesties…,” wherein
I delved into the folly of using any of the ever-increasing
number of so-called “historic” recipe compilations, instead
of the truly authentic, original historic cookbooks (more
on that later).

Naturally, I took photos during the Conference. However,
just days before I left, my trusty camera went all wonky.
It still captured fantastic photos, but at a price. You see,
when I’d frame a shot, I’d do so blind. There’d be nothing
on the view screen, as it was completely blank! So, I had
to eyeball it, click the button, then check the resulting
photo (which it still showed, thankfully) to see if I got
what I wanted. If yes, I could go on to the next, but if
NOT, then I had to adjust, ever-so-slightly, how it was
aimed and try again. Repeatedly! Getting exactly what
I desired was rather hit ‘n miss (mostly, miss! although,
it did get easier as time went on). Of course, then I had
to sort through ’em all and delete the pesky “not-quites.”
dagnabit If I’d had enough time, I would’ve purchased
a new camera before I left, but alas…. So, I made do.
Besides, it was certainly better than nothing!

In any event, I’ll start sharing a few photos. And I’ll
begin with those that deal with my favorite subject,
historic cooking. Others, of the more general sort,
will follow. Enjoy!


I’d have to say that, for me, the biggest and most
fan-ta-bu-lous thrill of this entire trip, was…well,
other than the fact that I got to wear THIS at all
times, all day, every day, everywhere I went…


Woo-Hoo and HUZZAH! What fun!

Oh, sorry. Let’s see, where was I? Ahh, yes…the greatest
thrill was…walking into the recreated Rev War military
encampment at Yorktown and seeing this…


…a fully-operational (albeit a partial) camp kitchen. HUZZAH!


Now, I’ve read much** about the building and use of these
set-ups, have seen numerous period depictions of them, as
well as photos ‘n videos of modern-day attempts to re-create
them, and I always discuss the details of their use whenever


I present my “Cook Like a Soldier” program, but this, THIS,
was the first time I’d ever seen one! AND seen it being used!
Wow! It was absolutely marvelous. I only wish I could’ve not
only stayed longer in order to explore it further, but also been
able to cook on it. How cool would that be?!


There were also a couple of gridirons made outta barrel hoops…


and the obliging barrels, filled with soldiers’ rations…


It seemed that our time at this site was extremely limited, so
I know I missed alot. Maybe, some day, I’ll be able to return?
Here’s hoping!

Up next are various views of the communal clome bake oven
at the re-creation of the Jamestown Settlement (which, BTW,
is separate from the site of its actual location). Unfortunately,
no baking was being done at the time.




In the section of the Jamestown Settlement site known as
the Powhatan Indian Village, a young fellow was cooking
squirrel and pigeons over an open fire…



He was munching on previously-cooked fish and other stuff, as well…



NEXT: Photos taken during my pre-conference field trip


*ALHFAM = Association for Living History, Farm and Agricultural Museums

**For more information, read John U. Rees’ highly-informative articles.


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