The past ten weeks have been a blur of activity in the various kitchens of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. I was excited to return to the Historic Trades department for the Summer of 2014, this time to work with Frank Clark and the other knowledgeable staff of Historic Foodways (see The First Oval Office Project for my formal introduction to the trades) . I was also excited to see Frank recognized this summer as the Master of the trade, a position that acknowledges his dedication to the research and reintroduction of many cooking processes the City hasn’t seen in nearly 250 years. This became especially poignant in the weeks following as his was the last Master’s status conferred by Director Jay Gaynor before his unexpected death, and by President Colin Campbell before he steps down from that position at the end of the year.
As I worked with the cooks this summer I quickly became aware of their varied and important presence within a museum I thought I was already familiar with. Their research and passion for the various elements of domestic and professional cooking in the Atlantic World have allowed them to contribute to different facets of CW’s development & affords them more pride than they exercise (in all the right ways). One example are the Georgian beer recipes which have allowed the staff to collaborate with and mutually support local microbrewery Alewerks. These exclusive draughts are marketed through the Products Division and is one of the goods that guests can actually savour in the city or at home.
Likewise, the research efforts of Jim Gay yielded a chocolate program that caught the attention of Forrest Mars Jr. – modern day confectioner and philanthropist. Mars was struck by the quality of work being accomplished by the Foodways team and was fundamental in the development of the American Heritage Chocolate line. He also graciously supported the restoration of the Charleton Coffee House.
Mars continues to support the Historic trades and has most recently been a key contributor to the Anderson Public Armoury restoration. This site played host not only to the tradesmen whose work was needed by the Continental Army, but by the cook employed to nourish them as a benefit for their labour. He will continue his involvement in telling the City’s food history with the construction of the Market House, a building that played host to the exchange of many consumable goods.
This blog is a retrospective on my time spent exercising and developing my skills in the Georgian kitchen, getting to know the Master, Journeymen, Apprentices, fellow interns Tiffany Fiske-Watts and Todd Ellick, & ultimately myself. I’ll share photos of the dishes I recreated, address the details of their production, and share sources that I covered in my interpretation of the role of food in fashion and life of the 18th century citizen of the Old Dominion. As with any sort of research, the blog will also be useful in sharing topics & insight tangential to the interpretation offered at the museum.
Questions & comments are happily considered!