Association of European Open Air Museums

By Kathy Dickson

“Poland is a country which has popped up on the map of Europe from time to time never quite in the same place twice.” Olga Tokarcuk, Polish writer, activist and Nobel recipient

In August I had the opportunity to travel to Poland to represent ALHFAM at the biannual conference of the Association of European Open Air Museums (AEOM). Approximately 100 delegates were in attendance, including representatives from across Europe as well as Australia, Africa and the United States. I was a little nervous about attending since I didn’t think my junior-high level German and Spanish would get me very far. I have found you can get by when traveling in a foreign country with a few basic phrases and a lot of smiling and pointing, but sessions at a conference seemed to present a much larger communication problem. It turns out I need not have worried. Only one speaker did not present their session in English. As a native German speaker, he chose to present in German, not because he couldn’t speak English, but because he could speak faster in German, and his time was limited. Headphones were always available for simultaneous translation into English or German, the two official languages for AEOM. If you have ever considered attending, don’t let thoughts of a language barrier stop you.

It was a wonderful experience. One evening at dinner I paused to marvel that I was hearing conversations taking place around me in German, Dutch, English, Polish, French and Czech. There were likely a few others that my ears could not distinguish. Though we are from different continents, often the organizational challenges are the same as those faced by museums in the United States and Canada. At the top of the list was not enough money for maintenance. Many conversations mirrored the discussions that have lately taken place on the ALHFAM-L concerning women in men’s roles and in a few cases men in women’s roles. I am not trying to start up that argument again, but the consensus was the interpreter should dress appropriately for their gender in the time period represented and simply let the visitor know this job would typically have been performed by a man or woman as the case may be. This can then be used to start a conversation about historical gender roles. If this is too distracting, for instance, a woman in petticoats in a military formation, the interpreter should dress as the gender they portray. So just like museums in the United States and Canada, the European museums are still struggling to be inclusive and appropriate without having all the answers.

Another ALHFAM-L topic came up in discussions–visitors showing up in costume. Everyone approaches it differently, from prohibiting it to ignoring it to asking the costumed visitors to wear a badge to set them apart from staff. Some encourage it by offering costume rentals.

I heard one comment that I wrote down in big bold letters. “Having to raise funding shifts the focus of the museum from education to cultural attraction. Like health care everyone should have access and it should be free.”

I think the most unique idea I heard was presented by Den Gamle By, a very large, open air museum in Aarhuys, Denmark. The museum includes an 1864 village, 1927 town and a 1974 city. For a while they also had a homeless man living on site. The individual constructed his home from found materials and lived on the grounds interacting with the public. Can you image trying to sell that idea to your board of directors?

The Jamtli Museum in Östersund, Sweden is working with their city to address the very modern issue of displaced people. Through a partnership with the city, the museum created a village to house 42 immigrants from North Africa. Under a ten year contract the museum will continue to house the immigrants, and at the end of the contract, the housing belongs to the museum. Unlike the homeless man at Den Gamle By, these families are not interacting with the public. Their housing is not in a public area, and the museum and the immigrants are still figuring out what they can do together.

A top concern for the AEOM is the disappearance of traditional crafts and skills. Now that really sounded familiar. The leadership was very interested to learn about the Skills, Training and Preservation (STP) initiative launched by ALHFAM and have invited a presentation at the next conference in 2021 at Skansen in Stockholm, Sweden.

At this conference the delegates voted to establish an institutional membership fee, something they have never had. The membership fees will be used to provide funding for future opportunities and projects.

Sculptures at Ostrow Lednicki, purportedly the site of King Mieszko’s baptism

AEOM was a truly a traveling conference. We met at Katowice, where we explored the Silesian Museum before moving on to the Upper Silesian Museum in Chorzów. The next stop was Opole to spend the night. Following morning sessions, we visited the Opole Village Museum and then headed for Gniezno. Katowice to Gniezno is a distance of about 250 miles. Conference sessions were held at the College of Europe in Gniezno with breaks for museum trips, including the Archaeological Museum in Biskupin and the Museum of Milling and Agriculture in in Osieczna.

Poland is wonderful country with great museums, fabulous old cities, friendly people, beer and cake. There was always cake. Cake for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Wherever there was food there was cake….and potatoes.

Cake for breakfast, lunch and dinner
Kathy Dickson currently serves as ALHFAM vice president

Posted in AEOM, ALHFAM, Education, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

How to Host an Early Twentieth-Century Halloween Party

Excerpt of an article written by Seleena M. Kuester, 2012. ALHFAM members can access the full text of this article and thousands more though the A.S.K. database. Not a member? Join today!

The end of the nineteenth century and first few decades of the twentieth century are considered by many to be the “Golden Age” of Halloween celebrations in the United States. Before the advent of trick-or-treating as we know it, the Victorians and their successors enjoyed hosting and attending Halloween parties, complete with seasonal decorations, festive foods, homemade costumes and a variety of games and stunts. Cheap and plentiful paper decorations and craft materials put out by companies like the Dennison Manufacturing Company made decorating the home for a Halloween party easy and affordable.

In October of 2011, Primrose Farm, a 1930s living history farm in St. Charles, Illinois, decided to host its own period Halloween party as a public program. The program was not based on any real-life event known to have occurred at the farm. It was developed to be fun and educational, designed to connect participants with the past through a familiar holiday. The program took the shape of a 1930s children’s Halloween party, with period decorations, foods, games and activities. This article outlines the process and resources used to create this party, in the hope that interpreters and program planners at other sites can use it as a guide to develop their own “Golden Age” Halloween program.

Decorations and Costumes

Based on research, the decorations were a combination of store-bought and homemade. As guests approached the summer kitchen, they were greeted by a candle-lit jack-o-lantern peering through the window. Inside, the room was lit with a combination of kerosene lamps and a reproduction 1930s Halloween lantern. Around the room hung a few reproduction die-cuts of jack-o-lanterns and skeletons. These types of widely available decorations were made by companies such as Beistle and Dennison. In addition, decorative swags made from crepe paper streamers and cut-outs of black cats, inspired by the Dennison’s Bogie books, adorned the windows.

Guests were invited to wear costumes to the party. The hostess wore a 1930s day dress with the addition of a festive black and orange crepe paper apron and crepe paper beanie, both handmade. Crepe paper costumes were heavily marketed by the Dennison, which sold a wide variety of crepe paper as well as costume patterns.

Food and Games

Since refreshments were being served to the public, the menu was simple and consisted of donuts and hot apple cider. Black and orange paper napkins and plates were provided for the donuts while teacups from the farm held the cider. The table centerpiece was a variation on a Jack Horner Pie, a decorative container filled with party favors or fortunes for each guest.

A variety of fortune-telling games, popular at Halloween parties until more recent times, were the highlight of the evening. These included a game in which the player took a spoonful of dried corn kernels from a bowl. He or she then counted out the pieces in a spoon to a chant that listed out various professions. The profession called out on the last kernel predicted the player’s fate. Having obsolete period professions in the mix provided a quick history lesson for guests, as well as some laughs.

Conclusions

This type of program could be adapted to a range of living history settings and modified to accommodate larger groups. Rather than offer the party as a public program requiring advance registration with participant limits, it could be offered as part of daily interpretation or as a special event. A vintage Halloween party can provide a fun and familiar setting from which to explore the past.

This is an excerpt of an article that first appeared as: Kuester, Seleena M. “How to Host an Early Twentieth-Century Halloween Party.” ALHFAM Bulletin, Volume XLII, No. 3 (Fall 2012): 12-16.

1 Diane C. Arkins, Halloween Merrymaking: An Illustrated Celebration of Fun, Food and Frolics from Halloweens Past (Gretna, LA: Pelican Publishing Company, 2004), 9.

Posted in ALHFAM, Bulletin, Education, Event, Halloween, interpretation, programming, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Coffee and the Revolution of Daily Life

Excerpt of an article written by Peter Lummel, 2003, Open-Air Museum Domain Dahlem, City Museum of Berlin, Berlin, Germany. ALHFAM members can access the full text of this article and thousands more though the A.S.K. database. Not a member? Join today!

Library of Congress

Coffee and the Industrial Revolution

The Industrial revolution transformed the world, starting with England in the eighteenth century and continuing with Continental Europe and North America in the nineteenth century. In those days most people in the industrialized and urbanized world had to work away from home six days a week and often more than 12 or 14 hours a day. The income was low, the work was hard, the air in the factories was hot and bad. At home and at work the diet was not sufficient; hunger was the daily companion of a lot of workers.

Especially in the factories, hot and stimulating coffee gained importance as a substitute for longer breaks, for warm food at home, and for hard liquor. Canteens were opened in the factories, and from them workers could acquire coffee at a very low price. The entrepreneurs took account of the new scientific knowledge about nutrition and the diet of the working class. Scientists compared the coffee and its effect on the human body to the importance of oil for a machine.

The term “coffee break” was created in the US after World War II. In 1952 the Pan American Coffee Bureau launched a radio, newspaper and magazine campaign with the theme “Give Yourself a Coffee-Break — And Get What Coffee Gives to You.” After that, more than 80 percent of the firms had introduced a coffee break.

And what about coffee at work in our own time? There seems to be a direct link between coffee and the new economy and other new creative jobs, computer jobs in particular, if you have observed coffee advertisements. And isn’t it one of the rituals of modern business discussions— also in our museums— to offer a cup of coffee to our guests?

Coffee and Revolutionary Inventions

Photo: Katie Cannon

A last and almost unknown revolution of coffee has to do with the Internet. Does anybody know the real story of the webcam at all? In 1991 fifteen computer scientists of the University of Cambridge, who were addicted to coffee, had only one common coffee machine in. Every day they had to deal with the problem that the coffee pot was already empty, after they had walked the long way to the coffee machine. So they wrote a new computer program and used a special camera to be able to check the level of the coffee pot on their screen in their local intranet. Beginning in 1993, everybody could see the so-called “Trojan coffee pot” via the World Wide Web, and after a short time it became a trendy Internet address for thousands of people who loved coffee and that crazy story. So it was the power of coffee that led to the invention of the world’s first webcam.

This is an excerpt of an article that first appeared as: Peter Lummel, “Coffee and the Revolution of Daily Life” in Debra A. Reid, ed., Proceedings of the 2003 ALHFAM Conference & Annual Meeting, 109-112.

Posted in ALHFAM, food, Material Culture, Proceedings, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Rendezvous in Time ALHFAM 2019 Sainte Marie among the Hurons

by Del Taylor

Putting together an ALHFAM annual meeting and conference begins long before the members show up. I recalled how great it was to be at my first ALHFAM conference in 2000. One of the many memories I have was being in contact with conference chair Edward Baker. I’d never been to a conference like this before, and I didn’t know what to expect. Edward answered all of my questions and made me feel that there was nothing to worry about. It was this experience that I used during our conference at Sainte Marie among the Hurons this year.

Having a realistic budget is crucial to hosting a successful conference. Although we started off with a finance committee, we ended up with a three-person group that was the driving force of the conference. When decisions had to be made, we discussed the best course of action, and we divided the tasks that had to be done, whether that was receiving invoices, making sure the bills or paid, or finding financial support and sponsors for many aspects of the conference. And an important point: The largest part of our budget was food services, and the food is what folks tend to remember. The food service staff both at the conference hotel and at our site did an amazing job and served us well.

Along with setting up the budget, we had to find an appropriate venue. We were very happy to secure the Quality Inn and Conference Center, as it met all of our requirements. The location was ideal, as was the room rate, especially because so many attendees were from the States and had to deal with the exchange rate. The only real concern was the size of the meeting rooms, but this was balanced by the size of the hospitality room and the great service from the hotel management and staff.

Key to running any conference is to spread out the work load among teams and committees. I followed ALHFAM’s guide to running an annual meeting and conference and sought volunteers to assist with the project. We are very fortunate to have some very talented staff members who put in some serious time organizing various aspects of the conference.

The format of the conference was another important topic, as this has taken various forms, depending on the host site. We did the best we could to make sure that there was a good balance between session days and field trip days, and worked with area museums, historic sites and attractions to arrange visits that would be interesting, informative but also within our budget. We received low-cost or free admission from all of them. By all accounts our partners provided excellent services for us.

One of the very special parts of this year’s meeting was the overnight on our site. I’d wanted do this from the beginning, and our management worked with us to make it happen. We decided that the group would spend a majority of its time in the longhouse, discussing history and the story of Sainte Marie. It turned out to be an exceptional evening and one that I will not soon forget.

The initial response to our call for papers brought only a trickle of proposals, but, as usually happens, many came in right before the deadline, and we ended up with 75 to consider. The program co-chairs and I decided on the number of sessions we could handle and the selection criteria for the proposals. We agreed that we would use our site for sessions, as we looked at it as being the perfect opportunity to bring the professionalism and knowledge of ALHFAM and its membership directly to the visitor as well as attendees. We found that if we mixed curatorial, programming, administrative and hands-on sessions, we had the luxury of having a broad range of topics from which attendees could choose. A part of the program which many ALHFAM members look forward to is the annual plowing match. Despite the great challenges of finding a local person who would be willing to allow us use of a team of horses, and the necessity of finding a suitable location, we were successful in securing both.

There are always many questions that come from conference attendees, whether they are ALHFAM veterans or first-timers, and each of them is important. My philosophy was simple: answer the questions as they come in, immediately if you can, and no more than a couple of hours later, if at all possible. I used the same standard in relaying information to the membership at large, using the ALHFAM listserv and email messages sent via the ALHFAM webmaster.

The lesson: Communicate; communicate often; communicate quickly.

Another important lesson was a very simple one: Never appear to be tired or burdened during the event. Showing frustration, in my mind, shows weakness and loss of control. If you look happy and appear happy, you will be happy. I personally was very happy that all who attended had a good time, so that made it easier. Do everything with a smile, even if you are frustrated. I firmly believe that if your attendees see no problems there will be no problems and all will be well. I was fortunate to have a wonderful team to share the load. Knowing your people and what their strengths and weaknesses can certainly make your work easier. Count on them and use them.

Candice Moreau, Program Chair

Use the ALHFAM Annual Conference Planning Guide. It includes the organization’s expectations for the conference as well as the collective wisdom of the many great people from various organizations that have hosted annual meetings and conferences over the past 50 years. These guidelines are very helpful in making sure specific details are not missed.

You can count on attendees to offer help. They will and, this year, indeed they did. I will be eternally grateful for the help that was offered and given. No one knows conferences like our people, and it is second nature for all of us to offer a helping hand.

Finally, good luck to the future conference chairs, and in the wisdom of a previous conference committee member, “breathe”.

Del Taylor, 2019 Conference Chair  Photo Credit: Lauren Muney
Posted in Administration, ALHFAM, Annual meeting, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Farmer Tom…Forgotten?

by Jessica Michonski

 Monticello Gardens,  photo by the author

To visit the home of a historical figure is always an experience to be partaken…especially for a historian. In July 2019, I had the privilege to visit Monticello – Jefferson’s estate in the mountains of Virginia – while on vacation with my family.

I was enthralled with the classic architectural details of the house, the beauty of the surrounding countryside, and enjoyed walking the extensive grounds and gardens. The small museum gallery that was near the visitor center was also a highlight, with its mixture of interactive and standard exhibits that gave much more detail about the people and objects of Monticello.

For a plantation, though, I was disappointed to find that agriculture was barely presented. Horticulture and food were discussed in great detail, but very little was said in regard to the actual crops and animals being raised by Jefferson. Nor were the revolutionary experiments that he was conducting in soils or animal breeding discussed.

There were several minor mentions of Monticello’s agricultural activities scattered around the site. Examples included a mention of sheep in a panel about textiles, two postcard-size butchering diagrams in the smokehouse, and a small 10-foot section in the museum gallery that features a plow with Jefferson’s wooden moldboard design. All of these are tantalizing hints of a forgotten legacy – one that is on par with importance with his political achievements.

I do not fault Monticello’s staff for choosing the areas to focus as they did: they are faced with the same issues that many museums face in order to make their content relevant in a digital age. They are shaped by political and social perceptions of the current age, and what people are willing to fund. They also chose their narrative based on the seeming wealth of scholarly research available on Jefferson.

What is interesting to note is that while Jefferson is lauded as the father of modern American agriculture, there is actually very little published about why he is called such. Upon searching, it surprised me to find that there was hardly any literature available for academics, let alone the general public. So far, I’ve been able to locate one book from 1991, and several academic journal articles from 1945 that were specifically devoted to Jefferson’s agricultural activities. Being used to having multiple sources about figures like “Farmer” George Washington at my fingertips, it seemed very inconsistent that so little research exists for the contributions that affect our daily lives even now in 2019.

It would be fascinating to see what “Farmer” Thomas Jefferson’s agricultural journals hold. Certainly with a growing increase in non-chemical methods of agricultural, it would be of interest to see at least where the current no-till planting practices developed from.

Who knows? It may take a book to hold them all.

Barbara McEwan,Thomas Jefferson: Farmer, (Jefferson, NC: McFarland Press, 1991).

Agricultural History, Vol. 19, No. 3, 1945. http://www.aghistorysociety.org/journal/browse/years/results.php-v=19&n=3.html

Jessica Michonski has a B.S. in Agriculture and History with plans of becoming an agricultural historian. She previously interned at Howell Living History Farm and Old Sturbridge Village, concentrating on the agricultural presentations of both. She also presented a session at the 2017 Annual Conference called “Wanted: Young Employees.”

Following some conversations the author found the following additional source:

M. L. Wilson, “Thomas Jefferson – Farmer”, Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, Vol. 87, No. 3, Bicentennial of Thomas Jefferson (Jul. 14, 1943), pp. 216-222.

Blog editor Martha Katz-Hyman did a little digging and found the following sources on Jefferson’s agricultural work for those interested in more information.

Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Jefferson’s Farm Book, with commentary and relevant extracts from other writings; ed. by Edwin Morris Betts (Charlottesville, VA: Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation, 1999; originally published in 1953). The blog author found a transcription of the Farm Book online at the Massachusetts Historical Society. You can access it here: https://www.masshist.org/thomasjeffersonpapers/farm/

Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Jefferson’s Garden Book, 1766-1824, with relevant extracts from his other writings; ed. by Edwin Morris Betts; Peter J. Hatch (Charlottesville, VA: Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation, 2012; originally published in 1944).

Posted in Agricultural Museum, ALHFAM, Education, Historic Agriculture, Historic Farming, historic houses, interpretation | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Have Actors, Will Travel!: Reconnecting Hawaiʻi and New England through the Humanities

by Mike Smola

Moses Goods portraying Henry ʻŌpūkahaʻia
Photo Credit: Gina Maeda

Hawaiian Mission Houses Historic Site and Archives has spent the last eight years developing a very successful History Theater program through our Oʻahu Cemetery Pupu Theatre program. These are first-person, scripted portrayals of actual historical figures from Hawaiian history. The last several years of the program, Hawaiian Mission Houses (HMH) has had sold-out performances and had to expand the program from two to three weekends. HMH has also begun to partner with museums, churches, and community groups to travel these portrayals to Maui, Kauai, and Hawaiʻi Island. From September 29 to October 23, 2019, “My Name is ʻŌpūkahaʻia,” with a companion Hawaiian cultural program performed by musician and vocalist Poʻai Lincoln, the Cultural Programs Coordinator at HMH, will be travelling to New England and Washington, D.C. to reconnect the historical ties between New England and Hawaiʻi through the story of ʻŌpūkahaʻia.

Poʻai Lincoln, Cultural Programs Coordinator, Musician, Vocalist Photo Credit: Brandon Hagio

Theater and dramatic presentations coupled with other humanities fields such as anthropology, ethnography, music, literature, and history, can be a very powerful method of interpretation and education. HMH has certainly found this to be true through its own program. In the words of a theater reviewer in Honolulu, “It’s entertaining, educational without being didactic, and an engaging introduction to important figures in Hawaii’s history.” The key, HMH has found, is the inclusion of verbatim quotes from primary source research material rewoven by talented scriptwriters. As the HMH staff is fond of telling guests, “We don’t have to put words in these peoples’ mouths, because we have them through the use of letters, diaries, and newspaper stories– we use their own words.” This is something the HMH staff and the audience feel make the portrayals authentic and real in ways that a normal theater production might not.

ʻŌpūkahaʻia (later given the name Henry), was a Native Hawaiian born during King Kamehameha the Great’s wars of unification that would unify all of the islands into a single kingdom. His immediate family was killed during a rebellion against Kamehameha’s rule. ʻŌpūkahaʻia was taken captive but later given to his uncle. He left Hawaiʻi in 1807 aboard an American merchant ship. The journey took about two years to New Haven, Connecticut. In New Haven, ʻŌpūkahaʻia fell in with a group of Yale students connected to the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions in Boston. ʻŌpūkahaʻia converted to Christianity and toured New England to gain support for the American Board’s efforts. ʻŌpūkahaʻia was a powerful public speaker, and his efforts led to the formation of the Sandwich Islands Mission. This mission set sail in October 1819 and arrived in Hawaiʻi in April 1820 with seven American couples, five children, and four Native Hawaiians who had attended the Foreign Mission School in Cornwall, Connecticut. The changes in Hawaiian government, society, and culture over the next 70 years would largely come about due to the relationships between the Hawaiian royalty and these missionaries in the first 35 years of the Sandwich Islands Mission.

The history theater programs are always followed by a “talk back session” that involves the actors, theater director, and Hawaiian Mission Houses staff. This where the different fields in the humanities intersect and really come to life. This part of the program is also where the interesting discussions of history and the different aspects of theater are really considered and discussed with the guests in a relaxed and welcoming environment that promotes discussion about the program they’ve just experienced.

“My Name is ʻŌpūkahaʻia “will be touring the east coast to churches with historical connections to the missionaries and ʻŌpūkahaʻia, museums, living history sites such as ALHFAM members Old Sturbridge Village, the D.A.R. Museum, universities such as Yale and Williams College, and organizations such as the American Antiquarian Society and the Congregational Archives at 14 Beacon Street in Boston. There will also be discussion programs funded by MassHumanities featuring scholars from Massachusetts and Hawaiʻi to unpack the nuances and impacts of this one Hawaiian man’s journey that led to massive changes in his homeland. For a performance schedule and more information visit https://www.missionhouses.org/bicentennial-menu

Mike Smola is the Curator of Public Programs at the Hawaiian Mission Houses Historic Site and Archives and is the researcher for the History Theater programs. He has been an ALHFAM member since 2011 and served on the ALHFAM Board from 2016 to 2019.

Photo Credit: Pacific Edge Magazine
Posted in ALHFAM, Education, historic houses, Living History, Museums | 1 Comment

Colonial Cooking: When THEY Won’t Let You Use the Hearth

Excerpt of an article written by Clarissa F. Dillon, 2003, Past Masters in Early American Domestic Arts, Haverford, Pennsylvania.

ALHFAM members can access the full text of this article and thousands more though the A.S.K. database. Not a member? Join today!

hearth

Courtesy DAR Museum

There are many reasons why some colonial cooks are faced with sites that won’t let them use the hearth. Through the presentation of period food preparations, even without a fire, visitors can perhaps go away with a greater understanding of lives of people in the past as well as an appreciation of their skills.

Pickling

Cucumbers were usually pickled to last until the next harvest. Most pickling receipts called for heating the vinegar before pouring it over the prepared fruit, but it is possible to find some that worked “cold.”

The best Way to pickle Cucumbers

Take the least Cucumbers, rub them well, and put them in a Pot or Barrel, then put in a Round or Layer of Dill or Fennel Seed in Branches, and upon that a Layer of Cucumbers so as not to touch one another; strew on them some Ginger, Mace, and Cloves finely beaten, some whole Pepper, and a little Salt; then lay in another Layer of each, and fill up the Pot with white Wine or Elder Vinegar. This Pickle serves for Grapes, or other Things.[1]

 Dairying

Dairying is an excellent activity for “cooking without a fire.” If you have a program that goes on all morning, churning can be the first step in a more complex preparation. After making and paddling butter until it is completely clear of buttermilk, you can move on to an odd but evidently desirable eighteenth-century dish. You’ll need to bring two hard-boiled eggs with you.

To make Fairy Butter.

TAKE the Yolks of two hard Eggs, and beat them in a Marble-mortar, with a large Spoonful of Orangeflower Water, and two Tea Spoonfuls of fine Sugar beat to Powder; beat this all together till it is a fine Past[e], then mix it up with about as much fresh Butter out of the Churn, and force it thro’ a fine Strainer full of little Holes into a Plate. This is a pretty Thing to set off a Table at Supper.[2]

Grinding Spices With a Cannonball— No, Really!

If pounded in a mortar with a pestle, peppercorns bounce out all over the place. Grinding, a circular movement with pressure, is better. With a cannonball, spices can be pulverized in a small wooden dish quickly and effectively. By rolling it under the palm of your hand, you can “grind” the peppercorns using the weight of the cannonball with very little effort on your part. You can also hang a small iron pot from the crane, which has been swung out into the room, put the spice(s) in it, and then put in the cannonball. By gently rocking the pot back and forth, you make the cannonball go round and round, pulverizing the contents, again with very little effort on your part. There are period references to this: “Note, That the Seeds are pounded in a Mortar; or bruis’d with a polish’d Cannon-Bullet, in a large wooden Bowl-Dish.”[3]

This is an excerpt of an article that first appeared as: Clarissa F. Dillon, “Colonial Cooking: When THEY Won’t Let You Use the Hearth” in Debra A. Reid, ed., Proceedings of the 2003 ALHFAM Conference & Annual Meeting, 119-133.

[1] Martha Bradley, The British Housewife:- in 2 vols (London: printed by S. Crowder and H. Woodgate… [1756]; facsimile reprint in 6 vols by Prospect Books, Tomes, UK, 1998), Vol. IV, p. 574.

[2] Glasse, op. cit., p. 142. There is a very similar receipt, using twice as much of the ingredients, called “French Butter” in Smith, op. cit., p. 101. Her final instructions do differ: “…when it is well mix’d force it thro’ the corner of a coarse cloth, in little heaps on a china-plate, or through the top of a dredging-box.”

[3] John Evelyn, Acetaria. (London: Printed for B. Tooke…1699; facsimile reprint by Prospect Books, London, 1981), p. 102. Cf. Nott, op. cit., n.p. [M 72} and R. Bradley, op. cit. [Part II], p. 36.

Posted in ALHFAM, Farm Museum, food, growing food, historic houses, interpretation, Living History, Uncategorized | Leave a comment