Friday, 03 February 2017 12:26

Cookin' it Colonial style: Historic site begins culinary demos

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Interpreters try chicken stew they made last week. Interpreters try chicken stew they made last week. Contributed

While there will be no public taste tests, visitors to Historic Halifax will be able to see and smell 18th Century cooking creations and techniques throughout this month.

Called Pass the Pepper, Please: 18th Century Culinary Arts, the program is part of the state historic site’s transformation into a living history destination, said Site Manager Robert Bemis.
“Our goal is to get people to experience the time period,” said site interpreter Frank McMahon Thursday. “It’s to give them the experience of the type of food, the type of cooking of our ancestors.”
The interpreters at the site have chosen what to cook and “to see how it turns out,” McMahon said.
The food being prepared will reflect more what the working class in Halifax ate rather than the meals prepared by the wealthy, Bemis said.

(The program will continue through the last Saturday of the month and will be held from noon to 4 p.m. There will also be musket demonstrations)

The idea of the culinary arts program was crafted by the interpreters and many of the recipes come right out of, or are inspired by the 18th Century cookbook called The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy.
Saturday the interpreters have chosen clam chowder as the meal to prepare.
The difference between cooking then and cooking now is fire management, McMahon said. “They were using open hearth fires. You had to feed the fire,” and raise the pot up and down to control the heat.
In some ways the cooking then can be compared to grilling today. “I think once you get used to cooking with fire, it makes the foods taste different because you get the taste of the smoke from the fire,” McMahon said.
The time of meals was also different, with the biggest meal, called dinner, typically prepared between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. to take advantage of daylight.

In the gallery: Photos of last week's trial run of making chicken stew

The interpreters will be trying to use ingredients which would have been seasonably available at the time.
For instance, McMahon said, potatoes and cabbage would be a mainstay during winter. “They’re not going to have a salad in February in the 18th Century. They’re eating fresh meats, there’s no refrigeration. They’re limited to what’s available on the farms. The British ate grains and meat, not the modern healthy diet.”
There was a farmer’s market and trade market near the central green of Halifax and most houses had gardens behind them. “It was pretty common to have a kitchen garden,” McMahon said.

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