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Explore Foodways of Colonial Virginia at Jamestown Settlement, Yorktown Victory Center



Discover foodways of the 17th and 18th centuries during “Foods & Feasts of Colonial Virginia,” November 22-24, a three-day Thanksgiving holiday event at Jamestown Settlement and Yorktown Victory Center, state-operated living history museums that tell the story of our nation’s beginnings.

At Jamestown Settlement, a museum of 17th-century Virginia history and culture, visitors can explore how food was obtained, prepared and preserved by Powhatan Indians and English colonists, as well as the role food played in the relationship between the two cultures. At the Yorktown Victory Center, learn about rations available to Revolutionary War soldiers and how farmers prepared for the winter months.

In Jamestown Settlement’s re-created Powhatan Indian village, visitors can observe how Powhatan Indians preserved crops of corn, beans and squash for nourishment in the fall and winter, and how the culture relied on the seasonal bounty of fruits, vegetables, nuts, game, fish and waterfowl.  At 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. each day, historical interpreters will demonstrate the use of a bow and arrow to hunt game. Throughout the day, visitors will learn how Powhatans made stone tools to obtain and prepare food.  Daily programs at noon and 2 p.m. will explore the importance of corn to the Powhatan Indians and the variety of dishes in which it was used, including corncakes and corn dumplings.

At 10:30 a.m. each day at the ships’ pier, visitors will be invited to haul cargo out of a replica of one of the three ships that brought America’s first permanent English colonists to Virginia in 1607, to learn how the colony was provisioned, as well as explore typical sailors’ fare of salted fish, biscuit and dried foods.  Visitors can try making the most common fare – ship’s biscuit – during a special program at 12:30 p.m. each day.

At a riverfront discovery area, a special program at 11 a.m. each day will compare Powhatan Indian preservation techniques of smoking fish with the English methods of salting fish. During “Bounty of the Sea,” presented at 1 p.m. daily, visitors can explore the influences of English and Powhatan cultures on the preparation of a variety of food derived from the river, including fish, shellfish and waterfowl. Visitors can learn the importance of trade between the English and Powhatans during a demonstration at 3 p.m. each day.

Within Jamestown Settlement’s re-created colonial fort, food preparation will reflect the culinary skills English colonists brought to Virginia.  On Thursday and Friday, an entire pig will be processed into hams, bacon and sausage, with a program on pork preparation at 11:30 a.m. both days. Historical interpreters will bake bread at 1:30 p.m. on all three days, and throughout the event will demonstrate salting and drying methods of preserving fruits, vegetables and meat.  Pudding and pottage are among the 17th-century dishes featured, based on recipes published by Elinore Fettiplace in 1604 and Robert May in 1660.

Museum visitors also can experience a variety of military demonstrations, including the firing of a swivel gun at the ships’ pier at 2:45 p.m. and a pike drill on the mall near the Discovery Tower at 3:30 p.m. each day.

At the Yorktown Victory Center, a museum of the American Revolution, visitors to the Continental Army encampment can learn how soldiers turned meager rations of dried beans, salted meat and hard bread into nourishing soups and stews.  Daily artillery drills and military tactics at 11:05 a.m., 1:05 and 3:05 p.m. will show visitors how soldiers earned their rations.  At 10:45 a.m. and 3:45 p.m. each day, a special program in the surgeon’s tent will explore medical treatments used to care for soldiers.

At the re-created 1780s farm, visitors can witness the bounty of field and garden transformed into stews, pies and breads.  A variety of dishes, including pork roast and sausage, will be prepared at 12:45 p.m. daily in the farm kitchen using 18th-century cooking techniques and recipes.  On Thursday and Friday, special programs at 11:45 a.m. allow visitors to see how farmers salted and cured different cuts of meat and, at 2:45 p.m., how they preserved a bounty of fruits and vegetables for the winter ahead. At 4:45 p.m. each day of the event, visitors can learn about 18th-century remedies for indigestion.

Jamestown Settlement and the Yorktown Victory Center are open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily year-round, except for Christmas and New Year’s days.  A combination ticket to both museums is $17.75 for adults and $8.50 for youth ages 6-12.  Admission to Jamestown Settlement is $13.50 for adults and $6.25 for youth ages 6-12, and to the Yorktown Victory Center, $8.75 for adults and $4.50 for youth ages 6-12. An annual pass to both museums is $35 for adults and $17.50 for youth. Residents of James City County, York County and the City of Williamsburg receive complimentary admission.

Food preparation in the museums’ interpretive areas is for demonstration purposes only.  Visitors can purchase food and beverages at the Jamestown Settlement Café, open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. 

Jamestown Settlement is located on Route 31 southwest of Williamsburg, adjacent to Historic Jamestowne.  The Yorktown Victory Center is on Route 1020 in Yorktown, near Yorktown Battlefield. The museums are separated by a 25-minute drive along the Colonial Parkway, administered by Colonial National Historical Park.  For more information, call (888) 593-4682 toll-free or (757) 253-4838, or visit hif.ciniva.net.


Schedule of Daily Demonstrations

Jamestown Settlement

10:00  Powhatan Hunting Techniques Powhatan Indian Village

10:30  Cargo Handling Ships’ Pier

11:00  Preserving Food at the Water’s Edge Riverfront Discovery Area



11:30  Preparing the Pork (Thursday & Friday only) James Fort

11:30  Pike Demonstration  (Saturday only) Mall< 12:00  The Abundance of Corn Powhatan Indian Village

12:30  Preparing the Ship’s Biscuit  Ships’ Pier

1:00    Bounty of the Sea  Riverfront Discovery Area

1:30    From Flour to Bread  James Fort

>2:00    The Abundance of Corn  Powhatan Indian Village

2:45    Swivel Gun Demonstration  Ships’ Pier

3:00    Trade Demonstration  Riverfront Discovery Area

3:30    Pike Demonstration  Mall

4:00    Powhatan Hunting Techniques Powhatan Indian VillageJ

Yorktown Victory Center

All Day  Supplying the Army Continental Army Encampment

10:45  Keeping the Troops Healthy Continental Army Encampment

11:05  Artillery Demonstration Artillery Station

11:45  Butchering & Curing (Thursday & Friday only) 1780s Farm

12:45  Something’s in the Oven 1780s Farm

1:05    Artillery Demonstration  Artillery Station

2:45    From Harvest to Storage 1780s Farm

3:05    Artillery Demonstration Artillery Station

3:45    Keeping the Troops Healthy Continental Army Encampment

4:45    Dr. Mom’s Medicine Chest 1780s Farm