11 June 2009

The Williamsburg Art of Cookery

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation reprinted Helen Bullock’s treatise on cooking, The Williamsburg art of cookery; or, Accomplish'd gentlewoman's companion. The cookbook has been kept in its original form which includes a "long s." The "long s" resembles our letter "f". While there are many rules surrounding its use, generally in the middle of a word, the "long s" appears. That means that one often sees words that look like, “paftry”, Muftard” and “difh.” Reading through the text make one think the book was transcribed from a lisping speaker to a very literal stenographer, but in fact, just printed at a time when the "long s" was still used.

While much has changed since the writing of this cookbook, much hasn’t. Roughly half of the cookbook features recipes for sweets! Cookies have always been a temptation. There is also a section on Christmas in Williamsburg. In that section we find Mrs. Tucker’s recipe for a toddy.

To make toddy – Mrs. Tucker

Take one Gallon of Rum and one Pound of Sugar, brown, well mixed in a pot, keep clofely stopped till clear -–fay two Days –and then carefully rack off in a Jug.

It’s hard to argue with a recipe that begins with a gallon of rum!

My most memorable Williamsburg food adventure came courtesy of my elderly aunt. My father came from a large family. Of his brothers and sister, those who had children, with one exception, had only children. Those children who had children had only children. After my father’s generation was gone his sister-in-law remained. Several years ago, she announced that all of the only children, who had never seen each other, should meet and vacation together and she was taking us all to Williamsburg. Williamsburg is fine place to visit, unless you happen to be 15 years old, the age of most of my cousins on this trip. Once you’ve seen the blacksmith and the glass blower, the rest is history and of little interest to the average/any teenager. For dinner she booked us into an “authentic” Williamsburg inn where the authentic menu was squab and creamed beets. Being in her 70’s and a fan of history, my aunt felt that forking over $60 a head for this “authentic” experience would thrill this band of loner teeny-boppers. She seriously miscalculated. They demanded fries and burgers. Dinner was, shall we say, a trying experience.

Being older than my cousins, I handled dinner more maturity knowing two very important things: 1. I could drive. 2. I could buy beer. After my disillusioned aunt retired for the evening, I headed for the car to do both. My fellow only children were in hot pursuit, and demanded I take them with me to the one thing colonial Williamsburg did not have, a 7-11. They bought Big Gulps, hot dogs, chips and magazines. I bought beer and magazines. Back in my hotel room, we band of "onlys" migrated as far from each other as the room would allow and sat quietly, alone, drinking and reading.

I found that in lieu of Mrs. Tucker and her toddy, 7-11 comes in handy.

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