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After taking part in a hearth cooking class at The Israel Crane House
about a year ago, a woman rounded up several friends and arranged
to do another this year. So on Saturday, February 28, they all arrived,
each one ready, willing, and oh-so-eager to whip up a winter’s mid-day
meal. We had seven lovely ladies, and I tell you, they were great fun!
Everyone worked so well together. And given the ease with which they

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tackled the five different receipts, nobody would’ve known that all but
one had never done any hearth cooking before. It was a fantastic group,
one that operated like such a well-oiled machine, that we even ended
early. A hearty HUZZAH to them all!

As for the day’s menu, my goals in creating it were to include dishes
that were not only appropriate for the season, but also for a merchant’s
family such as the Crane’s, and to showcase multiple cooking processes,
including frying, baking, and roasting. We traveled through time, as well,
for the receipts we used came from cookbooks of the 17th, 18th, and
early 19th centuries:

An Excellent Way to Roast Pigeons or Chickens.
The Art of Cookery Refin’d and Augmented (1654), by Joseph Cooper;

Carrot Pudding.
American Cookery (1796, 1st ed.), by Amelia Simmons;

Potato Fritters.
The Cook’s Own Book: Being a Complete Culinary Encyclopedia
(1832), by A Boston Housekeeper;

To Make a Tart of the Ananas, or Pine-Apple. From Barbadoes.
The Country Housewife and Lady’s Director…Part II (1732),
by Richard Bradley; and

No. 51. Chocolate Drops.
The Complete Confectioner, or, The Whole Art of Confectionary
(1790, 2nd ed.), by Frederick Nutt.

Okay. Enough of that! On to some photos. And thankfully, THIS time
I was able to take quite a few. Unlike the class I conducted late last fall,
when I totally spaced it and forgot. Heck, even I was disappointed! In
any event, as you’ll see from the following, when all was said and done,
and the ladies had worked their magic, we had a truly marvelous meal,
one which definitely provided some mighty good eating! HUZZAH!

______________________________

The fire was blazing and the ingredients were set…

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photo 3

All the ladies arrived, and we were ready to begin. First, I presented
the background of our menu. I also explained some unfamiliar terms
and gave a few basic tips on cooking at an open hearth, handling all
the various equipment and utensils, what cooking technique to use
for which dish, and other such matters.

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And thus, it was on to the prepping ‘n cooking…

First up, our chicken. Now, Cooper’s receipt directs the cook to make
a forcemeat (what we might call stuffing or dressing today) containing
grated bread, hard boiled egg yolks, the fowl’s liver, a couple of spices,
and so on, which is finely minced. This mixture is then placed between
the bird’s skin and flesh, instead of in its cavity. Finally, it’s trussed
and roasted.

Of course, if a portion of skin tears during the process, a few little
well-placed stitches will take care of the problem…

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into the reflector oven it went…

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photo 1(2)

After several unsuccessful attempts to insert the chicken “normally”
(aka horizontally) and securely in the oven (so it wouldn’t flop
around), it was decided to place it perpendicular to the spit…

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It worked! It may’ve looked a bit odd, but at least it was roasting…

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On to the carrots for the pudding, which were cleaned, sliced,…

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and boiled, along with the potatoes for the fritters…

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The carrots were then mashed, combined with other ingredients,
and the whole set into a bake kettle. Soon, our Carrot Pudding
was cooked to perfection!

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Pineapple pieces were par-boiled in Madeira for the tart…

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a simple paste was made…

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the two were put together, and it was ready for the bake kettle…

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NICE!!!

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Mashing those previously-mentioned boiled potatoes for the fritters…

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the clumps of ‘tater fritter batter may not’ve looked too pretty, but…

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once fried, either in a spider…

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or on the griddle…

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they were very, VERY delicious! So much so that we nearly ate
them ALL before the cooking of the entire meal was completed!

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Several of our dishes posed on the hearth for a group photo…

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Our chicken cooked up fairly quickly!

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And finally, the Chocolate Drops, which proved to be the easiest
and simplest dish to prepare!

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And so, after all the chopping, slicing, grating, mixing, pounding,
stirring, boiling, frying, baking, and roasting, our wonderful winter’s
mid-day meal was ready to be eaten:

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The Carrot Pudding…

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Our “Tart of the Ananas, or Pine-Apple“…

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and the Chocolate Drops…

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Excellent job, ladies! HUZZAH!!! I look forward to working
with you, again.

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Before we say “Farewell” to December and 2014, I thought
I’d share a few photos taken at The Israel Crane House
recently, during the annual Essex County (NJ) Historic
House Holiday Tours.

I thoroughly enjoy this event every year, and I always
look forward to it. It offers a marvelous opportunity
to share food and in-depth discussions with visitors.
This year, the crowds were non-stop on Saturday,

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when it poured rain, and they tended to ebb ‘n flow
on Sunday, when we had sun with clear blue skies.
Go figure!

As in the past, quite a spread of goodies was available
for visitors to enjoy. It consisted of the usual suspects,
ranging from a baked ham to shelled walnuts and roasted
chestnuts to hot spiced cider. Several items that’d been
prepared in advance were offered, as well. Of course,
all were done in accordance with receipts from several
of my favorite historic cookbooks. They included…

Hannah Glasse’s “Ginger-Bread Cakes” from her book
The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy (1747). And
as I’ve mentioned here previously, these are unique
in that treacle is specified, rather than molasses:

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“Shrewsbury Cakes,” from American Cookery (1796) by Amelia Simmons:

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Open any cookbook written prior to 1830 or so, and you’re
bound to find a receipt for these small cakes. Sadly, they’ve
since fallen out of favor.

“Pounded Cheese” per Dr. William Kitchiner’s The Cook’s Oracle (1817):

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And “Naples Biscuits,” from the 18th century receipt book
of the James Logan Family of Germantown, PA. These were
generally made in advance for use in other dishes. Numerous
historic receipts specify that grated Naples Biscuits be added
to other ingredients. However, they were often served just
as they are, along with tea or another beverage:

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I usually make a dish or two during each year’s event, as well.
This year, I put together a Potato Pudding. Time was sorely
limited, so I mixed all the ingredients on the first day and
baked it on the second. I followed the same receipt that I’d
used previously for a Culinary Historians of New York (CHNY)
program. It’s from an early 19th century manuscript cookbook,
which is part of a new online collection of such sources. The type
of potatoes to be used are not specified, so I chose sweet:

into the bake kettle…

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it’s a-baking:

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between the visitors and staff, it didn’t last long!

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All in all, it was a highly successful AND enjoyable event.
I can hardly wait ’til next year’s!

In the meantime, Happy New Year to all! I hope your 2015
is as good, no, better, than your 2014. I’m looking forward
to everything it has to offer. HUZZAH!

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to one and all. HUZZAH!

Rockefeller Ctr Tree 2009

As always, I had a grand ol’ time this past weekend during
the annual Essex County (NJ) Holiday Historic House Tours.
I was busy both days chatting with visitors in the kitchen
of The Israel Crane House. I enjoy this event every year,
and once again, it was great fun. HUZZAH!

However, before I continue, I need to step back a few weeks
and report on the most recent hearth cooking class at Crane’s.
Held in mid-November when our national Thanksgiving holiday
was just around the corner, this particular session was designed
to offer participants opportunities to “Cook Like a Pilgrim.” And

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so, we replicated several dishes that might’ve been prepared,
cooked, and eaten by those early Plymouth settlers and their
neighbors, the Wampanoags, in the autumn of 1621.

Now, I won’t delve too deeply here into the details of that
so-called “first thanksgiving feast.” I’ve written several times
about the myths behind the annual holiday, including this post.
In addition, you can check out the website for Plimoth Plantation,
as well as the various blogs associated with it. Suffice it to say
that it was far different from the modern incantation. The very
foundations of the holiday have been misconstrued, as it was
not a day of thanksgiving, particularly in a religious sense,
for if it had been, the settlers would’ve not only spent the day
listening to sermons in the meeting house (church), but they
also would’ve been fasting, not feasting. However, it was
indeed a harvest celebration, just like all the others that’d
been traditionally held in the colonist’s native England. It
wasn’t necessarily an annual event, either, in the homeland
or the new colony (there was none in 1622), even after
a spectacularly bountiful harvest.

But never mind all that. This was a hearth cooking class! What
about the food? What was offered at the long-ago colonial feast?
What was available? What did the colonists and the Native Peoples
eat? What specific dishes were most likely cooked and shared?
Heck, more importantly, what did WE cook during our recent
“Cook Like a Pilgrim” class?!

To create a viable menu for our meal, I began by studying
various sources, including books, websites, and the like.
I also relied on my knowledge of basic food history. All
of this enabled me to select period-appropriate foods and
dishes. Fortunately, there’s also an eye-witness account.
It’s a letter that Mayflower passenger and Plymouth colonist
Edward Winslow wrote to a friend back in England shortly
after the event, wherein he described the proceedings:

Our harvest being gotten in, our governor
sent four men on fowling, that so we might
after a special manner rejoice together after
we had gathered the fruit of our labors. They
four in one day killed as much fowl as, with
a little help beside, served the company
almost a week. At which time, amongst
other recreations, we exercised our arms,
many of the Indians coming amongst us,
and among the rest their greatest king
Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom
for three days we entertained and feasted,
and they went out and killed five deer,
which they brought to the plantation and
bestowed on our governor, and upon the
captain and others. And although it be
not always so plentiful as it was at this
time with us, yet by the goodness of God,
we are so far from want that we often wish
you partakers of our plenty.

So we know fowl (most likely ducks, geese, and other types
of waterfowl), and a good supply of venison were on the table.
Additional research revealed what else might’ve been offered
during the harvest meal. It also allowed me to safely say what
was probably NOT eaten. Thus, there were no mashed potatoes or
pumpkin pie nor any cranberries or 30-pound turkeys.

Thus, our “Cook Like a Pilgrim” menu was set. It would consist
of venison, duck, mussels, hasty pudding, a salad, and “pompion.”
I soon found receipts (recipes) for all these dishes in either my

our venison roasting in the tin reflector oven

our venison roasting in the tin reflector oven

own facsimiles of 17th century cookbooks or in others online.
I must say that, at first, it was a daunting prospect, this
searching in an unfamiliar century, but soon I was happily
discovering a host of different options. And so, with a bit
of tweaking,* we followed the instructions of the following:

Gervase Markham’s To roast venison, from his The English
Hus-wife
(1615)
Finding a specialty meat store that sells venison, effortless;
dealing with the resulting sticker shock, priceless!

To Stew a Mallard, from The Good Housewife’s Jewel, by
Thomas Dawson (1596)
A receipt Dawson stole, er, “borrowed” from The good Huswifes
Handmaide for the Kitchin
, which was published in 1594. Yep,
plagiarism was rampant even back then! And we used a duck,
as mallards are WAY too expensive. Heck, even our Miss Duck
wasn’t cheap! Which was surprising. I imagine it’s because
few people eat it nowadays. Most stores had a limited supply,
and the birds were always frozen. Boy, I tell ya, at one point
when I was in the midst of the meat section of one Brooklyn
Big Name Store, I was suddenly struck by the fact that I was
surrounded by vast quantities of different versions of chicken
(fresh, frozen, whole, legs only, wings only, boneless, skinless,
tenders, fryers, bites, etc.) and smaller sections of beef and
pork varieties, but there were only three $35 frozen ducks
in one little cubicle of a freezer case. Clearly, we Americans
have a VERY limited meat palate. Sad. But I digress…

John Murrell’s To frye Mussels, Perywinckels, or Oysters,
to serue [serve] with a Ducke, or single by themselves
,
from his A New Booke of Cookerie: London Cookerie (1615)
I wanted to include seafood of some kind on our menu, as
it would’ve most definitely been readily available. It was
too late in the season for some fish, but not for mussels,
so I choose them. I also figured they’d have been greatly
appreciated by the Native Peoples at the 1621 feast. After
all, you’ve heard the advice to “serve what your guests
will like,” yes?! The best part of this particular receipt
is that it states “to serue [serve] with a Ducke.” Perfect!
I just loved how everything fit together so well! HUZZAH!

Another way to make a hasty Pudding, courtesy
of The Queen-like Closet (1672), by Hannah Wolley
This is the quintessential British dish. It would’ve been easy
to make and would’ve fed a boat-load of people. Although it
was typically made with flour, Indian (aka corn) meal would’ve
been used in 1621. Flour would’ve been in limited supply, if
it was available at all. Plus, early wheat crops in the colony
did poorly, so corn meal was a handy, and logical, substitution.
And thanks to the Wampanoag’s assistance, it WAS readily
available. HUZZAH, again!

Markham’s To make an excellent compound boild Sallat
(from the same book as mentioned above)
The best part of this dish is…YES! They ate sallats (salads)!

And finally, we made use of several receipts for “pompion.”
Which to an early settler meant any type of squash, including
pumpkins and ‘vine apples (aka acorn squash). Among others,

"pompions" aka pumpkins & acorn squashes

“pompions” aka pumpkins & acorn squashes

we used one from Robert May’s The Accomplisht Cook (1685)
and another from New-Englands Rarities Discovered, by John
Josselyn (1672). It was quite fascinating to see the number
of pumpkin/squash receipts increase exponentially in cookbooks
from the early to the mid-1600s.

Overall, I think it was a successful class. It provided everyone
with opportunities to enjoy a meal composed of assorted and
non-traditional Thanksgiving (so-called) dishes. Of course,
I’d like to offer this class and its menu every fall. That
remains to be seen, I guess, but…well, here’s hoping!

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=============================================

NOTE: I sincerely apologize for the appalling lack of photos.
There just wasn’t time or opportunities to take any. I’m even
disappointed! **sigh**
Ahh, well…so it goes…dagnabit

*By “tweaking,” I mean taking into account what the early
settlers had access to, whether it grew in their own fields
and/or gardens and what they likely brought with them
on the initial voyage. I also wanted to be reasonable,
but not punitive, all while staying true to my concerns,
goals, and overall drive for historical accuracy. So, for
instance, one receipt calls for dates. Yeah, no to that.
No way. But many, in fact most, of them make use
of various spices. I said, “Yes” to those, and I did so
for a couple of reasons: one, they were a normal part
of the cooking process during this time period (the early
1600s); and two, they were easily stored, whether while
being transported or when in a home.

Heads up! This is a repeat from last year…and the year
before that! Yep. I’m STILL lazy! LOL oy

Anyway…I think we should all hail the woman who’s largely
responsible for “inventing” our Thanksgiving holiday, and
that woman is…Sarah Josepha Hale! Yes, we should all hail
Hale! (get it? it’s a funny…you know, ‘cuz the words match!)

Nevertheless, HUZZAH for Hale!

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:

http://marybarrettdyer.blogspot.com/2013/11/thanksgiving-in-new-england-no-parties.html

____________________

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

http://hazelwood.patch.com/groups/house-and-home/p/discovering-thanksgiving-the-truth-about-the-holiday

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

Absolutely!

Elections come and go, but there will always be cake! And what
better way to celebrate your participation in this year’s (or any
year’s, for that matter) electoral process, then by voting and
afterwards enjoying some “Election Cake.” So whether your
candidate wins or loses, at least you’ll have a tasty treat!

In our nation’s early years, there were two receipts for this
dish. One could be found in Mrs. Child’s The American Frugal
Housewife
(originally published 1832):

ELECTION CAKE.
Old-fashioned election cake is made
of four pounds of flour; three quarters
of a pound of butter; four eggs; one
pound of sugar; one pound of currants,
or raisins if you choose; half a pint of
good yeast; wet it with milk as soft as
it can be and be moulded on a board.
Set to rise over night in winter; in warm
weather, three hours is usually enough
for it to rise. A loaf, the size of common
flour bread, should bake three quarters
of an hour.

I find it interesting (and a bit humorous!) that Mrs. Child refers
to this Cake as “old-fashioned,” despite the fact that, at the time,
such cakes had been around less than 50 years! Yep, Election
Cakes are strictly an American “invention,” just as is our whole

electoral process. And thus, you’ll not find a single receipt for it
in earlier cookbooks. In fact, there’s only one other, prior to the
publication of American Frugal, and it’s in American Cookery (1796),
by Amelia Simmons. As you’ll see below, Simmons’ receipt is similar
and yet different. Of course, most notable is the vast quantities
of each ingredient, even though they’re basically the same (at
least in part). But what I found intriguing was the inclusion of
not only a few spices, but also wine AND brandy. Hmmmm, eat
several slices of Simmons’ Cake and perhaps be easily persuaded
to change your vote?!

At the same time, an Election Cake really isn’t all that different
from many other cakes, particularly those that include raisins
and/or currants. It’s probably because, when someone (who
was most likely a woman) had the brilliant idea to bake a cake
for an upcoming election, she didn’t make up an entirely new
receipt; she merely selected an already-familiar one. In a way,
it’s similar to what the early settlers in this country did; they
took an unknown New World ingredient (such as corn), mixed
it with an Old World receipt, and thus created a “new” dish.
In this case, an oft-used receipt (possibly one for a good
ol’ British plumb cake) was selected, re-named, and given
a new function and new status.

Back to Amelia Simmons’ receipt:

Election Cake.
Thirty quarts flour, 10 pound butter,
14 pound sugar, 12 pound raisins,
3 doz eggs, one pint wine, one quart
brandy, 4 ounces cinnamon, 4 ounces
fine colander seed, 3 ounces ground
allspice; wet the flour with milk to
the consistence of bread over night,
adding one quart yeast; the next
morning work the butter and sugar
together for half an hour, which will
render the cake much lighter and
whiter; when it has rise light work
in every other ingredient except
the plumbs, which work in when
going into the oven.

Interestingly, the above receipt is only in the second edition
of Simmons’ work. Although it was published in the same year
as the first (1796), it was done so in a different city.

When I made this at The Israel Crane House for the Big Election
two years ago, I used Child’s receipt, as it was a bit simpler, at
least ingredient-wise. And I made it even easier by quartering
the proportions (starting with just one pound of flour and so on).
Working with yeast was challenging at the time, as most cakes
I’d made before then (using historical receipts) hadn’t called
for it. It can be tricky knowing how much to use and how long
to let the mixture rise. Nevertheless, it turned out fine back
then, and it proved to be a delicious success.

So, it’s another year, another round of elections, and yes, that
means…cake. “Election Cake,” that is! HUZZAH!

__________________________________

[NOTE: this is an edited and partially re-written version of a post from 2012]

Earlier this month, I presented another ‘straight-talk’ version
of my “Cook Like a Soldier” program to a group of lovely
ladies who make up the Fortnightly Club in Summit, NJ.

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The Club is a women’s social and philanthropic organization
dedicated to community service and outreach, which also
sponsors social activities for members and their families.
It meets regularly at the historic Twin Maples Mansion,
a spacious landmarked early 20th century former home.
Which, incidentally, was designed by an architect who
resided at the time in Israel Crane territory, otherwise
known as Montclair, NJ.

Now, as you may know, particularly if you’ve ever perused my
Portable Historic Programs page, this talk deals with soldier’s
fare during the American War for Independence. I discuss what
foods the troops ate, how they were prepared and cooked, who
did the cooking, how the rations were delivered, and so on. And
in an effort to not only tell the audience what specific food items
a soldier received on a daily and weekly (hopefully!) basis, but
to also show people what what they were, I have bags of each
on display. So, for instance, I set out a whole pound of flour,

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a pound of hard bisket, and three pints of peas. But what I’ve
struggled with is, how do I exhibit the flesh-y side of things?
As in the meat? The beef and the pork? Or the fish? Sure, I can
bring samples of each, and I have done that (taken a slab of salt
pork and made my own salt cod), but it’s a bit tricky, especially
if it’s a hot or warm day. It can get rather messy…and smelly!
And then, what do I do with them afterwards? Eat ‘em? Well,
after it’s been dragged many miles and then man-handled by
various people, even I don’t care to do that!

Finally, I decided I would set out pictures of each ration meat.
Or rather, the source of it. Of course, I had to find some images,
and they had to be ones that’re period-appropriate for the Rev
War years. Then it hit me: use copies of 18th century woodcuts!
One for each animal! So I got out my copy of “Catchpenny Prints,”
and I found fantastic ones for the beef (a cow), the pork (a pig),

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and the fish (a, er, a fish!). I enlarged each one, then cut it out
and glued it to card stock. So now, each meat ration is represented
nicely on my table of soldier’s fare. I have it all, from the beef and
fish to the bread and peas to all the others. I think it looks pretty
good, yes?! HUZZAH!

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