January, 2009

Where Do Pilgrims Eat?

January 26th, 2009 by admin

Alright, I wrote that title for the search engines so we get on Google’s first page for “pilgrims”. But a question that we often really do get at the museum is “where is a good place to eat in Plymouth”? I’m going to mention a couple of my favorites and I hope some of colleagues will add some of theirs. If I don’t mention a particular restaurant it’s because:

  1. I haven’t gotten around to writing about it yet
  2. I haven’t been there, or
  3. I don’t like the joint

I’m not going have anything negative about any local business so you’ll only see positive comments here. That said, my wife and I went out for our 16th wedding anniversary (we got married in Reno, NV) the other night at one of our perennial favorites, Tuscany Tavern, in North Plymouth. A former sandwich shop, this place never fails to delight us with both their food and atmosphere. It only seats about 25 people so it can be boisterous, but this is part of its charm.

As you might guess from its name, Tuscany Tavern is an Italian restaurant. Everything is cooked to order in the busy open kitchen. That night my wife and I did something we almost never do- order the same dish. We always like to try a couple of entrees and invariably I always end up wishing I ordered what she did. This time however, we split a Caeser salad (mmm, anchovies) and each got the Scampi with linguini.

Cooked perfectly, the meal was just enough that I did not feel over-stuffed when we left. My only issue is that the chef continues in a contemporary culinary pet peeve of mine…leaving the tail end of the shell on. This is fine for shrimp cocktail but I just don’t like dipping my fingers in sauce. Whiny, I know, but hey, I’m writing this post.

Of course, it being a special occasion we had to split a chocolate mousse cake, alas no Port to go with it. That’s alright, the Chardonnay we had with the meal was sufficient.

To say the cost of the meal was reasonable is to understate the fact. All in all, every single time we go to Tuscany Tavern it is a memorable affair.

Next up: The Blue Eyed Crab


Welcome To New Plimoth

January 14th, 2009 by admin

A truly “Behind the scenes” event happened on Monday that I feel needs to be revealed to the reader.  I showed up a few minutes late for my meeting with Penny, our diligent wardrobe employee (she is assisted by two lovely interns) to return the clothing I wore every day in the village when I became, to the visitor, Alice Bradford, wife of the Governor of New Plimoth, William Bradford.  Returning your clothing is a bittersweet moment.  On one hand you’re glad that for the next several months you’ll be wearing modern clothing; warm boots on cold days, slickers on rainy days and of course for the women, no stays!   On the other hand you can be sad to see them go.  I love my orange checked petticoat, that bright blue waistcoat that fit me so well and of course the beautiful robins egg blue (or is is it lilac?) gown that Jill Hall made for me during my first season.  As a woman, I enjoy the ease of wearing petticoats instead of pants,  I miss the practicality of wearing a hat with a wide brim and scoggers are as practical as a garment can be, but, as the season ends our clothing needs to be cleaned, mended, altered and reassigned, so we hand it in each year, say good bye to old favorites and hope that in the spring we will once again be seeing them, bright and clean.

That’s not exactly what I was writing about though.  I showed up a few minutes late, logged in each garment with Penny, had a chat with the wardrobe department, then stuck around to talk with Bill.  Scott came along presently and a discussion about our favorite books, and what exactly was revealed by Massasoit during the story ending with the phrase “three moderate stools” followed.  I picked up a copy of Training Manual IV as I will be scheduled to be on the Mayflower II at some point next season and there was more talk about sweatshirts sizes, hats, golf shirts, Bob Dylan and Neil Young.  Tom stopped in with some vacation dates to be claimed and some camping stories and as noon time rolled around we all made our way to the Carriage House.  The lounge in the carriage house is where we have our breaks.  There are old couches, chairs and a couple of tables where we can eat our lunches.  Pilgrims on break will read magazines, catch up on source materials, nap, chat with co-workers and rejuvinate before heading back into the village.  It’s a comforting place, and this day it was so much so, there were probably 25 people jammed into this one room.  Kathleen Wall, our Foodways coordinator had cooked up two generous pots of comfort.  One was a spinach soup (it reminded me of the escarole soup my grandma made) and the other a vegetarian gumbo. A large pot of rice accompanied either choice.  Around the table conversations ranged from the latest movie someone had seen to what exactly a “Cougar” is and everything in between.  Nearly every department in Plimoth Plantation was represented in this unexpected convergence; folks from WIP, the Craft Center, the Artisan and Marine Departments, Grounds, Wardrobe, Education, Farm and CID were there.  This is why many of us love this job.  Being in a room with so many people who know (for the most part) where you’re coming from, eating a simple bowl of soup that is the best you’ve ever had at that moment and laughing. Is there ever a time in your life when those things aren’t important?  Unfortunately I think there are many times in our lives when we don’t get enough comraderie.  There are certainly many jobs we could have where it would not even be thought of, but we are pilgrims, comraderie and food are very important to us.  The people we are trained to portray would not have survived with out it.  We know this and this wisdom brings us together in modern times as well.  Welcome to New Plimoth, pull up a cushion, have som boyled rice and a bowl of soup….what ever that is.


Apprentice Colonial Interpreter

Twelfth Night Cake

January 13th, 2009 by admin

“Dost thou thinke because thou art vertuous, there shall be no more Cakes
and Ale
Shakespeare, William. Twelfe Night, or, What you will. Act II, scene 3.

Christmas wasn’t just a day in the seventeenth century, it was twelve! And
the evening of the last day was the begin of Misrule, where a bean found in
a piece of cake would determine who would be king. It was a world upside
down, which seems to be another way to say far too much drinking. In Plimoth
in the first years of the colony they had nothing to drink but water, so
drunkenness seems to have been kept to a minimum. They had planted barley
(to make malt for beer) but it grew “indifferent good”. And turning the
ground over by hand for barley is a great deal of work. In 1623 some of the
newcomers of the Anne and James complained about the lack of beer in
Back to cake – this Twelfth Night cake tradition continues. In New Orleans
they make King Cake, which is a cake made with yeast, has a bean hidden
inside and has icing colored green, purple and yellow. The saffron in this
cake will give it a yellow color.

To make spice cakes.
To make excellent spice cakes, take half a peck of very fine wheat flour;
take almost one pound of sweet butter, and some good milk and cream mixed
together; set it on the fire, and put in your butter, and a good deal of
sugar, and let it melt together: the strain safron into your milk a good
quantity; then take seven or eight spoonfuls of good ale barm, and eight
eggs with two yolks and mix them together, then put your milk to it when
somewhat cold, and into your flour put salt, aniseeds bruised, cloves, and
mace, and a good deal of cinnamon: then work all together good and stiff,
that you need not work in any flour after; then put in a little rose-water
cold, then rub it well in the thing you knead it in, and work it thoroughly;
if it be not sweet enough, scrape in a little more sugar, and pull it all in
pieces, and hurl in a good quantity of currents, and so work all together
again, and bake your cake as you see cause in a gentle warm oven.”        -
Markham, Gervase. The English Housewife, Best, ed. p. 115.

Notes on spice cake:
A peck is sixteen pounds, so a half peck is eight pound. If you figure
(roughly) one pound of flour (modern, all purpose, from the grocery store)
is about three and a half cups to the pound, that’s a whopping 28 cups of
flour. That’s a lotta cake! I’ll break it down for a quarter batch:

7 cups flour
1 stick (1/4 pound) of butter, preferably unsalted
yeast, 2 packages (this takes the place of the ale barm although if you have
ale barm, go ahead and use it – and then call me to share some!)
2 eggs and 1 yolk
sugar (maybe a half cup)
saffron, a few threads
milk (use about a cup to soak the saffron in)
salt (about a teaspoon)
aniseeds, crushed
spices: cloves, mace, cinnamon
rosewater (This is the flavoring, there’s no vanilla this early on. If you
don’t have food grade rosewater [available in our Gift Shops!] consider
anise extract over vanilla).
1 or 2 cups of raisins (sometimes cakes have as much fruit as dough by

Preheat your oven to 375.
If you have a baking stone (one that you probably use for pizza) you could
bake the cake right on that. Or you can bake it in a greased casserole dish.
Or you could bake it in two greased cake pans.
Melt the butter in the milk. Add the saffron and put aside. Add the yeast to
1/2 cup of warm water. Let dissolve completely, about 4 minutes. It will
look thick.
Take you flour and add the sugar, salt, aniseeds, cloves, mace and cinnamon.
Beat the 2 eggs and the egg yolk into the now cooled milk. Add 1/2 cup
cream. Add this liquid, as well as the dissolved yeast into the flour
mixture. Beat it well. Now you have to use your judgment – is there enough
spice (does it smell good to you? Do you want some more cinnamon? Maybe a
little more sugar? Does it need more liquid – I’d go for the richness of the
cream,,,, It should pretty well hold together as a piece, more doughy then a
batter bread, softer then ordinary bread dough.
Add your flavoring – a teaspoon, and if that’s not enough for you, then
another. Keep kneading it. Starting to feel the texture get more velvety?
It’s almost cake.
Hurl in your raisins!  You may have to take smaller lumps and work the
raisins in. All of this handling is helping the gluten to form, and you
really get to work out your arms!
Form it into a ball (or two, depending on how you’re going to bake it).
Put it in the oven and turn the oven down to 350. This is the falling oven
effect that a wood fired oven would have. Check it after 45 minutes. If the
top is getting very brown (which it might, depending on how much sugar you
used) drop the heat to 325. After an hour look to see that it is risen and
golden brown, then thump in the bottom to hear if it sounds hollow. If it is
still sqiggy or otherwise not done, keep it in and keep checking it. I let
my nose tell me – it smells not wet.
Let it cool (and pick off any burnt raisins) before you enjoy.

Kathleen M. Wall
Colonial Foodways Manager
Plimoth Plantation


January 3rd, 2009 by admin

Now as little fond of Christmas as William Bradford seems to be, New Years,
a more secular holiday, would not have delighted him more. Was he just an
old grump? What’s so wrong with celebrating a holiday? Well, first, if you
think of a holiday as a holy day, then an excess of drunken revels probably
isn’t the best observance. And as for New Years, the question is just when
is the year new – the Old Style in England preferred a 25 of March start to
the year, but that’s another whole story. But if you’re celebrating between
Christmas and Twelfth Night’s you’re looking at the wassail, which is the
salute, the drink, the drinking and the song in the 17th century. One little
word supplies a lot of meaning.

‘Wassail’ comes from the Old English (old as in 10th century – that’s right,
the 1100’s – real old. In the 1600’s they were speaking Modern English, just
like us, just not exactly like us) wes hál  which is literaly ‘be in good
health’ or ‘be fortunate’. Nothing wrong with offering someone good health
or good fortune. Usually you would do this salute over a glass of wine. How
is this different from a modern day toast,’To the New Year Chingching’?
There’s the part where you would drain your cup- every time – and these
weren’t dainty six ounce wine glasses . They were drinking from cups that
might hold between a pint and a quart. That’s a lot of wine. Is it any
surprise the phrase “in his cups”  meaning drunk is also often in Wassail

Wassail the drink is either spiced ale (ale being beer without hops in it,
not like the sort of ale you can but now) or honeyed wine or mead with herbs
in it.  Since the museum is never open in the Christmas/New Years/ Twelfth
Night season I don’t have these recipes at hand, but I also don’t have a
sense that there were a lot of recipes for this sort of thing, because
people knew what to do, and just did it. Not helpful for us, but just think
of the things you do each day, each year that you do in particular way, that
’s not the same as your neighbor or your aunt or your brother.  Part of the
mystery of Foodways.

Wassail the revels…. if you start with excess of drink and go from there…
Back in the ‘80’s we had a dialect training tape that included a story of
Old Jude, who went out a-wassailin’, but drank so much here never knew where
he was until he was half way home again. Please, don’t wassail and drive.

Wassail the song, being usually sung by those who had first had wassail the
drink, has been compared to a cat cry, ‘Nuff said.

I must go and choose a cake for Twelfth Night and leave you with these words
from Shakespeare on wassail: ‘That Memorie..shall be a Fume.‘

Kathleen M. Wall
Colonial Foodways Manager
Plimoth Plantation

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