Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Remember When . . . The Stove Was Stone?

Last week I got to visit our local(ish) colonial reenactment place, Old Bedford Village. I can't remember it if I'd been there before, so it was a blast for me to visit now, especially as I'm writing books set in the 18th century. (Would have been more fun had the 3-year-old not insisted on being held the entire time and the weather been 15 degrees cooler, but you know. We take what we can get, LOL.)

They have an entire village set up there, and different reenactors there throughout the week. When we went, there was a lady in one of the houses demonstrating spinning and explaining about how the kitchens worked, a blacksmith, and a woodworker. Gotta say--my favorite was our first stop, the Biddle House, where I got to learn more about the everyday workings of the home. =)

We watched her spin some wool onto a walking wheel (also called a great wheel and a wool wheel). This baby's so big that you have to walk back and forth about six feet as you're spinning--hence the name. The wool ends up on a spool, then you detach it from the big wheel and start spinning it onto the weasel, which puts it into skeins. It takes 150 rotations to equal one skein--and because the ingenius creators of this device knew well no one was going to sit there counting to 150 all day, the weasel pops after 150 revolutions. Sound familiar? Altogether now: "Here we go round the mulberry bush, the monkey chased the weasel . . ." =)

The lovely lady, after explaining more about fabrics and dyes and how "ripe" urine was used to get the dye to set, moved over into her kitchen to show us how one crafted a meal in the day.

There's a huge fire place taking up almost the entire wall of this house, divided into two sections that meet in a very wide V. The right side is a traditional fireplace, complete with a crane to swing a pot back and forth over the flame. But the left side has a stove top supported on the stone--a very thick piece of iron perfectly fitted to this side of the fireplace. On it you could put your pots, or cook food directly on the surface. Managing the fire underneath for the desired temperature, of course.
They had small, moveable ovens to show us too. A larger one for cooking meat, which onto a spit so you could rotate it within the metal box. The box was then set up against the fire. Not only would the heat cook the meat facing it, it circulated through the box to cook it all around. The lady showed us a smaller version of the same with a shelf inside it--on here they would bake biscuits and cookies. Three at a time, which means that a traditional recipe for about 2.5 dozen cookies took four hours to make.

So yep, a fun, educational morning in Pennsylvania. =) And boy was I glad in that 95 degree, humid heat that I wasn't wearing the long sleeves and petticoats of the reenactors!

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like you had a great time! That walking wheel sounds so cool! I've never seen one of those before!