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'Foods & Feasts' Holiday Event Serves Up Colonial Cooking Methods

WILLIAMSBURG, Va., November 6, 2015 — Savor the Thanksgiving holiday by exploring centuries-old cooking and preservation methods during Jamestown Settlement’s and Yorktown Victory Center’s “Foods & Feasts of Colonial Virginia,” November 26-28, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. This annual three-day event begins on Thanksgiving Day.

At Jamestown Settlement, a museum of 17th-century Virginia, discover how food was gathered, preserved and prepared on land and at sea by Powhatan Indians and English colonists using clay pots and iron kettles and preserving meats and vegetables by smoking, salt curing and pickling.

At the Yorktown Victory Center, a museum of the American Revolution, learn how Revolutionary War soldiers prepared rations in an earthen “kitchen” and see how Revolution-era farming families transformed the season’s garden produce and crops into stews, pies and breads and preserved food for the winter ahead.

Jamestown Settlement Showcases 17th-Century Cooking; Friday Lecture on ‘Food at Sea’

In the re-created Powhatan Indian village, visitors can see venison, turkey and other game roast over an open fire, while stews of corn, beans and squash cook in clay pots. A daily program at 2 p.m. will show the importance of corn to the Powhatan Indians and the variety of dishes in which it was used, including corncakes and corn dumplings. Throughout each day, visitors also can learn how Powhatan Indians made stone and bone tools used to obtain and prepare food and, at 10 a.m., take in a program on Powhatan hunting techniques.

Within the re-created 1610-14 fort, food preparation will reflect the culinary skills English colonists brought to Virginia. Historical interpreters will bake bread on all three days and throughout the event will demonstrate open-hearth cooking of pudding, pies and pottage, based on historical recipes of the late 16th and early 17th centuries. On Thursday and Friday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., an entire pig will be processed into hams and bacon, followed by salting for preservation. At 4 p.m. each day, museum visitors also can experience European military tactics and drills near the fort.

At the ships’ pier, a special program at 3 p.m. allows visitors to haul cargo from 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. Throughout the day, visitors can explore typical sailors’ fare of salted fish, biscuit and dried foods and try making the most common food – a ship biscuit. A program at noon on celestial navigation will explore how 17th-century sailors steered by the stars.

On Friday, November 27, author, historian and performer Simon Spalding will present “Food at Sea in the Early 17th Century” at 1 p.m. in Jamestown Settlement’s Robins Foundation Theater. Spalding presents a culinary sea voyage through time, illustrated with poetry and song while playing fiddle. He is author of Food at Sea – Shipboard Cuisine from Ancient to Modern Times.

Yorktown Victory Center Explores Fare 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 at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. will show visitors how soldiers earned their rations. Plundering and theft sometimes occurred when rations were scarce, and a special program at 2 p.m. will illustrate the consequences.

At the re-created Revolution-period farm, visitors can witness the bounty of field and garden transformed into stews, pies and breads. A variety of dishes will be prepared daily in the farm kitchen using 18th-century open-hearth cooking techniques and recipes.  On Thursday and Friday from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., historical interpreters will show the processing of an entire pig into hams and bacon and salting for preservation and, at 1 p.m., methods of preserving food for the winter ahead. In addition, visitors can learn about 18th-century herbal remedies for indigestion at 4 p.m.

“Foods & Feasts of Colonial Virginia” is funded in part by a grant from James City County. 

Thanksgiving Dinner in the Jamestown Settlement Café

Food preparation in the museums’ interpretive areas is for demonstration purposes only. The Jamestown Settlement Café will offer a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, offered on a first-come, first-served basis, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, November 26. The dinner menu and prices are available online.

Tickets & Packages

A Jamestown Settlement and Yorktown Victory Center value-priced combination ticket is $21.00 for adults and $10.50 for ages 6-12. Admission to Jamestown Settlement is $16.75 for adults and $7.75 for ages 6-12, and to the Yorktown Victory Center, $9.75 for adults and $5.50 for ages 6-12. Children under 6 are free.

A History is Fun for the Holidays combination ticket – available online only – offers seven days of unlimited admission to both museums at $21.00 for adults and $10.50 for ages 6 through 12 and includes coupon vouchers for Williamsburg Premium Outlets and the Historic Yorktown Rewards Card. Additional multi-attraction holiday ticket and package options are available.

How to Get Here

Jamestown Settlement and the Yorktown Victory Center, open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily year-round, are separated by a 25-minute drive along the Colonial Parkway, a National Scenic Byway. Jamestown Settlement is located on Route 31 just southwest of Williamsburg. The Yorktown Victory Center is located on Route 1020 in Yorktown. For more information, call (888) 593-4682 toll-free, (757) 253-4838 or visit hif.ciniva.net.