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Foods & Feasts of Colonial Virginia

November 24-26, 2016
Explore Centuries-Old Cooking Techniques at Jamestown Settlement & American Revolution Museum at Yorktown

Preparing 17th-century dishes at Jamestown Settlement Long before microwaves, electric stoves and refrigerators, food was prepared in clay pots and iron kettles over hot coals and preserved by smoking and salt curing. 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

Powhatan Indian village stew at Jamestown SettlementDiscover 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 at 2 p.m. 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 each day, visitors also can learn how Powhatan Indians made stone and bone tools used to obtain and prepare food and take in a program on Powhatan hunting techniques at 10 a.m.

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 historical Baking in Jamestown Settlement's fortrecipes of the late 16th and early 17th centuries. On Thursday and Friday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., an entire pig will be processed into hams and bacon, followed by salting for preservation. At  4 p.m., museum visitors also can experience European military tactics and drills near the fort. “The Rule of Law,” a role-playing program presented at 1 p.m., explores the evolution of Jamestown government from the 1607 founding of Jamestown through the convening of the 1619 assembly.

At the ships’ pier, a special program  at 3 p.m. allows visitors 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. Throughout the day, visitors can explore typical sailors’ fare of salted fish, biscuit and dried foods and try making the most common food – a ship biscuit. A program at 12 noon on celestial navigation will explore how 17th-century sailors steered by the stars.

“The First Official Thanksgiving,” a documentary film for which scenes were filmed at Jamestown Settlement and of the Godspeed under sail, will be shown at Jamestown Settlement at the museum theater on the hour from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day. Produced by The Community Ideas Station (WCVE Richmond), the half-hour program chronicles events that led to America’s first official thanksgiving, at Berkeley Hundred in 1619. “The First Official Thanksgiving” is a legacy project of the 2019 Commemoration.

American Revolution Museum at Yorktown

The American Revolution Museum at Yorktown camp rations

Visitors to the re-created Continental Army encampment can learn about meager rations of dried beans, salted meat and hard bread that soldiers had to try to turn into nourishing soups and stews. Daily artillery drills at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. will show visitors how soldiers earned their rations. Plundering and theft sometimes occurred when rations were scarce, and a special program at 2 p.m. will illustrate the consequences.

At the re-created Revolution-period farm, visitors can witness the bounty of field and garden transformed into stews, pies and breads. A variety of dishes will be prepared daily in the farm kitchen using 18th-century open-hearth cooking techniques and recipes. On Thursday and Friday from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., historical interpreters will show the processing of an entire pig into hams and bacon and salting for preservation and, at 1 p.m., methods of preserving food for the winter ahead. In addition, visitors can learn about 18th-century herbal remedies for indigestion at 4 p.m.

“Foods & Feasts of Colonial Virginia” is funded in part by a grant from the York County Arts Commission.

Food preparation in the museums’ outdoor living-history areas is for demonstration purposes only.

Thanksgiving Dinner in the Jamestown Settlement Cafe

The Jamestown Settlement Cafe will offer a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, offered on a first-com, first-served basis, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, November 24. The dinner menu and prices are available online.

Holiday Tickets, Tours & Packages

The American Revolution Museum at Yorktown farm roast chickencombination ticket – available online only – offers seven days of unlimited admission to both museums at $21.25 for adults and $10.75 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.

A combination ticket for one visit to both museums is $21.25 for adults and $10.75 for ages 6-12, a 20 percent savings on individual museum admission. Admission to Jamestown Settlement is $17.00 for adults and $8.00 for ages 6-12, and to the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown, $9.75 for adults and $5.50 for ages 6-12. Children under 6 are free.

Holiday Shopping in Museum Stores

In time for holiday shopping, museum gift 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.