Posts Tagged ‘soldier’s fare’

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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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.


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,


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),


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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Ideally, hopefully, “God willin’ ‘n the creek don’t rise,” a soldier
who fought in the Revolutionary War received, as part of his
daily rations, one pound of bread OR one pound of flour OR
one pound of hard biscuits. And so I made several batches
of the latter for my “Cook Like a Soldier” programs this past
year. Here are a few, hot ‘n fresh from my mo-dern oven:


Hard biscuits are really quite easy to make. After all, there
are only three ingredients: flour; a bit of salt; and water.*
Mix them together into a fairly stiff dough, roll it out and
cut, then bake at 350 for 20 minutes or so until they’re
good and dry (you’re not cooking them as much as just
evaporating all the water). The best part is, they can be
made today and used next week, next month, or heck,
even next year! In fact, the longer you wait, the better.

Since a Rev War soldier was given a pound of these hard
biscuits, I weighed out that amount. At the size I made
them (roughly three inches in diameter), I discovered
that 17 individual biscuits equaled a pound:


Naturally, if I’d made them larger, there’d be less in a pound,
and more, if they’d been smaller. But I must say, I was quite
amazed to see, exactly, the amount a Rev War soldier could
potentially receive EVERY single day! It made me wonder if
there were times when he had so many biscuits, he didn’t
know what to do with them? Of course, on those days, and
during those weeks, when possibly little, or even nothing,
no other food, was being delivered, I imagine a few hard
biscuits in the bottom of a soldier’s haversack would’ve
seemed like manna from heaven!

I sewed up the handy-dandy cloth bag so that I could tote
the biscuits from one place to another, as well as use them
repeatedly for display purposes. Besides, as I understand it,
that’s what Rev War soldiers might’ve done, as well, in order
to carry their rations from some distribution point back to their
own camps.

One of the nicest aspects of always having a supply of hard
biscuits on hand is that I can wrap up a few and take them
with me whenever I participate in re-enactments. That way,


if I ever get hungry and/or need a quick snack, I have a little
something on which to nibble. The added bonus is that they’re
historically-accurate little somethings. What could be better?!

Of course, the Big Question is: How do they taste?

Well, actually, I think they’re quite delicious! They’re especially
yummy hot, right outta the oven, before they harden. But even
after, when they ARE hard as rocks, I still enjoy eating them. I’d
say the taste is a cross between a cracker and a regular biscuit.
In fact, I think they ARE, truly, delightful ‘n delectable! HUZZAH!


*The receipt for hard biscuits was shared at a symposium
conducted by Kimberly Boice this past March at Ft. Mifflin.
It’s also in
The Packet , by Mark R. Tully ( (c) 1999-2007;
see page 4).


NOTE: Hard biscuits were known as such during the wars of the 18th
and early 19th centuries. Unless you were in the Navy, then they were
called “ship’s biscuits” or “sea biscuits.” It wasn’t until the American
Civil War that they were referred to as “hard tack.”

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…was all that was necessary, and all that was likely
used, by Revolutionary War soldiers to create a simple
bread, particularly on those days when they received
a pound of flour as part of their individual rations. This
basic dough would’ve then been cooked by spreading
it on the flat side of a piece of firewood, on a rock or
a plank, or even just setting it amongst a fire’s ashes.
Whatever was available, whatever worked. No matter
how it was baked, it would’ve constituted a day’s
serving of bread.

Of course, in true soldier’s fashion, flour and water
were also all I needed, and used, this past summer

colonial_bread on a plank_DN_onderdonk

for my “Cook Like a Soldier” programs. And the same
combination was also employed earlier this month
when I participated in the first-ever Military Timeline
Event at Long Island’s Old Bethpage Village (OBV),
along with fellow members of the Huntington Militia.
Again, using a soldier’s potential flour ration, mixed
with a little water, I worked up dough for another
round of what I’ve fondly dubbed “soldier’s bread.”

I also cooked a pot of rations at OBV, which consisted
of beef, peas, and rice, with a few pieces of hard biscuit
thrown in for good measure. They make for some fairly
decent dumplings!


Of course, hard biscuits could also be distributed as part
of a Rev War soldier’s daily ration. I’ve baked quite a few
batches in recent months. More on that is up next.


NEXT: Those delightful ‘n delectable hard biscuits!

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I’ll be conducting a new program, “Cook Like a Soldier,”
at the Vander Ende-Onderdonk House this coming
Saturday, August 24. We’ll discuss, then prepare and
cook, the typical daily fare of a Revolutionary War soldier.
We had a highly successful trial run of the program today
for members of the Press. All despite a bit of thunder and
a whole lotta pouring rain! HUZZAH!

Then, on Sunday, August 25, I’ll be fireside again, during
the re-enactment of the Battle of Brooklyn. It’ll be staged
in Green-Wood Cemetery, where a portion of this important
battle took place.

Both programs are part of the annual series of events and
activities known collectively as Battle Week. They’re designed
to commemorate the anniversary of the Battle of Brooklyn,
the first TRUE battle in the War for Independence.

It’s gonna be one busy weekend! HUZZAH!


UPDATE: CLICK HERE to see the article in today’s (Friday, 8/23/2013)
edition of NYC’s
The Daily News.
News about this event is making the rounds! CLICK HERE for coverage
by an online media source in Queens County.


Cook like a Soldier 2013(1)

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