December, 2008

It’s A Jolly Pilgrim Christmas?

December 22nd, 2008 by admin

Since you are not here this time of year, dear reader (nor are most of us), you may never get a chanced to hear our character’s talk about the Yuletide season. Apart from the idea of Yuletide being a pagan holiday many of the people you might be familiar with in our Village, belonging to a “reformed” church, simply did not believe in celebrating the day of the birth of their Savior. I’ll let Governor William Bradford speak for himself:

“Only I shall remember one passage more, rather of mirth, then of weight. On
the day called Christmas Day, the Governor called them out to work, (as was
usual) but the most of this new company [the men who arrived in the Fortune,
November 1621] excused themselves, and said it went against their conscience
to work on that day. So the Governor told that if they made it a matter of
conscience, he would spare them, till they became better informed; so he led
away the rest and left them: but when they came home at noon, from their
work, he found them in the street at play openly; some pitching the bar, and
some at stool-ball, and such like sports. So he went to them, and took away
their implements, and told them, that is was against his conscience, that
they should play and others work; if they made the keeping of it matter of
devotion, let them keep their houses, but there should be no gaming, or
reveling in the streets. Since which that time nothing hath been attempted
that way, at least opening.”
– William Bradford, Of Plimoth Plantation. ed. Caleb Johnson. 2006.
XLibris. pp. 149-50.

This does not, of course, mean that the holidays went uncelebrated. People that still stuck with the Church of England possibly did celebrate within the comfort of their own homes, perhaps with carols and a bit of evergreen hanging on the walls.

On your next visit you might ask the various inhabitants of the town what they thought about celebrating holidays. Some answers might surprise you.


Pilgrim Christmas Recipe-Idolatry In A Crust

December 18th, 2008 by admin

Mincemeat, part II

Mincemeat, in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, was in fact, minced
meat. Usually beef, sometime mutton, occasionally veal. But meat alone
isn’t mincemeat. It also had copious amounts of raisins (a/k/a ‘raisins of
the sunne’) and currents and sometimes dates and prunes, as well as generous
amounts of spices and sugar. The weight of the dried fruit might equal or
exceed the weight of the meat, and in the 1620 the raisins were much more
expensive per ounce then the meat was.

Suet isn’t something we cook much with any more, but fat is another
component of the mince pie. The fat is what makes it rich. During the 1700′s
butter starts to come in as the fat of choice, and by the 20th century seems
to be more common.

If I were making this mincemeat at home (and I have) I would take three
pounds of beef, one to one and a half pounds of butter, three pounds of
dried fruit, all cut small and well mixed (and be grateful that I don’t have
to pick stems off the raisins and stones out of them) with some orange peel
(two or three oranges worth). Salt, pepper, cloves (this can be strong – not
too much) and mace (or nutmeg if you have that – they have a very similar
flavor profile). Put it into pastry – you can use pie pans if you want,
sprinkle more sugar on top and bake them in your oven.

If you want to risk idolatry, make little rectangle pies and have them
symbolize the manger where the Christ child was born. If you don’t want to
fall into idolatry, make little rectangle pies just because they’re fun. You
could even use frozen puff pastry and ‘let your soul delight in fatness’.
And if you want to be thoroughly superstitious, go out on each of the Twelve
Days of Christmas to a different house and eat a mince pie in each to have
good luck for each of the twelve months in the year ahead. Either way, enjoy
Christmas and the twelve days after!

Kathleen M. Wall
Colonial Foodways Manager

What’s Cooking in 1627?

December 10th, 2008 by admin

Since we’re not open for the public, no one is actually cooking in the 1627 English Village. But, if we WERE open, you might find someone contemplating Christmas – in private – and thinking about mince pie. Mincemeat in the 17th century had actual meat in it, as this recipe from Gervase Markham’s English Huswife (1623 ed, pp. 103-4):

A minc’t pie.
Take a Leg of Mutton, and cut the best of the best flesh from the bone, and parboyle it well: then put to it three pound of the best Mutton suet, and shred it very small: then spred it abroad, and season it with pepper and salt, cloues and mace : then put in good store of currants, great raysons and prunes cleane washt and pickt, a few dates slic’t, and some orange pills slic’t: then being all well mixt together, put into a coffin, or into diuers coffins, and so bake them: and when they are serued vp open the liddes, and strow store of suger on the top of the meat, and upon the lid. And in this sort you may also bake Beefe or Veale; onely the Beefe would not be parboyled, and the Veale will aske a double quantitie of suet.

A few quick notes -
orange pills are peels
coffins are stand alone pastry cases (but there is no reason not to use a pie plate), diuers are diverse or several
liddes are the upper crust of the pie

Why would someone in 1627 keep a meat pie a secret? Perhaps because some Puritans thought mince pie a Christmas no better then ‘Idolatry in a crust’.

Thank you Lisa, Paula and Kathleen for baking mince pies with me.

Kathleen M. Wall
Colonial Foodways Manager

This one’s for Lisa

December 5th, 2008 by admin

Recently a very good friend of mine left the employ of Plimoth Plantation. I suppose it is in the growing and shrinking pains of any organic thing that some pains hurt more than others. As this is my fourth time at this institution I am certainly no stranger to its occasional difficulties.

I won’t make this a eulogy for her leaving but rather a celebration of her time with us. Lisa was tireless. It was obvious at times that the amount of work she took on would sometimes take its toll on her health. And still she would, to quote Col. Slade in “Scent of a Woman”, tango on. At a recent annual fete (The Crappies Awards, where front line staff lampoon everyone who isn’t us), many people from our near and distant past came to honor Lisa. Many who could not attend sent letters outlining how Lisa had touched their lives. There were, of course, tears and cheers (and beers).

Most of you will never know how much we lost with her leaving and I hope it is our intention to make sure you never do. We who remain still have a job to do. As difficult as it will be, our mission is to cull from each other as much of her vast intellectual capitol as we are able and give it all to you.

I’m sorry, I am seldom without words. So let me close this brief post, one far too short to work as tribute, but I admit as I write this the words grow blurry. I will end by simply saying:

Thank you, Lisa.


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