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Foods & Feasts of Colonial Virginia

November 27-29, 2014

Long before microwaves, electric stoves and refrigerators, food was prepared in clay pots and iron kettles over hot coals and preserved by smoking, salt curing and pickling. This Thanksgiving holiday, explore foodways of 17th- and 18th-century Virginia during “Foods & Feasts of Colonial Virginia,” a three-day event beginning on Thanksgiving Day.

Jamestown Settlement

Discover how food was gathered, preserved and prepared on land and at sea by Virginia’s English colonists and Powhatan Indians. 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 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 the day, visitors also can learn how Powhatan Indians made stone and bone tools used to obtain and prepare food.

Jamestown Settlement cookingAt the ships’ pier, visitors will be invited 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, as well as explore typical sailors’ fare of salted fish, biscuit and dried foods. Throughout the day, visitors can try making the most common fare – a ship biscuit.

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 recipes published by Elinore Fettiplace in 1604 and Robert May in 1660. On Thursday and Friday, an entire pig will be processed into hams and bacon, followed by salting for preservation.

Museum visitors also can experience several military demonstrations, including the firing of a swivel gun at the ships’ pier and European military tactics and drills near the fort.

Yorktown Victory Center

Open-hearth cooking at Yorktown Victory CenterVisitors 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 will show visitors how soldiers earned their rations. Plundering and theft sometimes occurred when rations were scarce, and a special program will illustrate the consequences.

At the re-created 1780s farm, visitors can witness the bounty of field and garden transformed into stews, pies and breads. A variety of dishes will be prepared at daily in the farm kitchen using 18th-century open-hearth cooking techniques and recipes. On Thursday and Friday, special programs will feature the processing of an entire pig into hams and bacon and salting for preservation, as well as methods of preserving the fruit and vegetable harvest for the winter ahead. In addition, visitors can learn about 18th-century remedies for indigestion.

Thanksgiving Dinner in Cafe

Food preparation in the museums’ interpretive areas is for demonstration purposes only. The Jamestown Settlement Café will offer a traditional Thanksgiving dinner from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 27. For more information, contact the Jamestown Settlement Cafe at (757) 253-2571.

Holiday Tickets, Tours & Packages

Jamestown Settlement and Yorktown Victory Center are open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily year-round, except for Christmas and New Year’s days. A value-priced combination ticket to both museums is $20.50 for adults and $10.25 for ages 6-12, a 20 percent savings on individual museum admission. Admission to Jamestown Settlement is $16.00 for adults and $7.50 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. Admission for local residents of James City County, York County and the City of Williamsburg.

A History is Fun for the Holidays combination ticket – available online only – offers seven days of unlimited admission to both museums at $20.50 for adults and $10.25 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.

Holiday Shopping in Museum Stores

In time for holiday shopping, museum shops offer a selection of books, prints, museum reproductions, educational toys, games and souvenirs relating to the 17th and 18th centuries. Admission is not required to visit the museum gift shops, open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Shop online.