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WILLIAMSBURG, Va. – Long before microwaves, electric stoves and refrigerators, food was prepared in clay pots and iron kettles over hot coals and preserved by smoking, salt curing and pickling.  

This Thanksgiving holiday, explore foodways of 17th- and 18th-century Virginia during “Foods & Feasts of Colonial Virginia,” a three-day event November 27-29, 2008, at Jamestown

FF YVC Farm kitchen open hearth.jpg

Yorktown Victory Center visitors learn about
open-hearth cooking at the 1780s farm.  


Settlement and the Yorktown Victory Center.  Together, the two state-operated living-history museums 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 preserved their harvest for the long winter ahead.

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 for hunting game. Throughout the day, visitors will learn how Powhatans made stone and bone tools used 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. each day, visitors can explore the influences of Powhatan, English and African 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 the re-created 1610-14 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 several military demonstrations, including the firing of a swivel gun at the ships’ pier at 2:45 p.m. and European military tactics and drills near the fort at 3:30 p.m.

At the Yorktown Victory Center, a museum of the American Revolution, visitors to the re-created 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. and 3:05 p.m. will show visitors how soldiers earned their rations. Plundering and theft sometimes occurred when rations were scarce, and a special program at 10:45 a.m. and 1:05 p.m. will illustrate the consequences.

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 1:45 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 3:45 p.m., how they preserved the fruit and vegetable harvest for the winter ahead. At 4:35 p.m. each day of event, visitors can learn about 18th-century remedies for indigestion.

 amestown Settlement and 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 for both Jamestown Settlement and the Yorktown Victory Center is $19.25 for adults and $9.25 for youth ages 6-12. Admission to Jamestown Settlement is $13.50 for adults and $6.25 for youth ages 6-12. Admission to the Yorktown Victory Center is $9.25 for adults and $5.00 for youth ages 6-12. Children under age 6 receive complimentary admission. 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 State Route 31 southwest of Williamsburg, adjacent to Historic Jamestowne.  The Yorktown Victory Center is located on Route 1020 in Yorktown, near historic Yorktown and Yorktown Battlefield. For information, call (888) 593-4682 toll-free or (757) 253-4838, or visit hif.ciniva.net.