Foodways in the Northeast II: A Second Helping

I just returned from a weekend in Historic Deerfield where I attended the Dublin Seminar New England Folklife for the first time. They have been holding this event for more than 30 years, covering such diverse topics as medicine and healing, foodways (food history), textiles, family life, women’s work, diaries, probate inventories, Connecticut doors, life on the commons and in the streets and many more.

The talks from the conference are published a few years after the conference and are available for purchase here. It’s a wonderful collection and I own many of these books as part of my social history collection. This year the talks focused on food history and covered such diverse topics as Indian corn and social identity, the cod industry, dining interactions between the colonists and the Wampanoags, dining and education in boarding schools over the past 200 years, how food and recipes are often used politically and modern indigenous cuisine in New England. I was especially interested in those that dealt with colonial New England or with the “common folk.”

I am not a food historian and before the conference wasn’t all that interested in food history. But I know that in the colonial period, food and medicine very much overlapped and recipe (or receipt) books often contained both culinary and medicinal recipes. So I went hoping that I would make some new contacts through networking and to learn a little more about food history.
I came away with several new friends, and just as important, a new appreciation for food history and it’s role in social history. I will use some of the new resources I learned about as starting points to learn more about food and its role in our ancestors lives.

Upcoming Social History Events in the Greater Boston area

Boston Historic Civil War Tours
Ongoing throughout the summer–highly recommended by a friend of mine in her blog. Click here for more information.

The Object of History: 18th Century Treasures from the Massachusetts Historical Society
June 13 – September 7
Massachusetts Historical Society, free and open to the public, donations appreciated
The exhibit asks explores the meaning of historical objects by asking questions about why some artifacts have preserved. Are they attached in some way to a famous person or historical event? The exhibit includes a variety of portraits and objects including scientific instruments, needlework and maps.

“The Education of Our Children is Never Out of My Mind”
June 13 – September 7
Massachusetts Historical Society, free and open to the public, donations appreciated
The exhibit is a collection of letters between John Adams, Abigail Adams and others regarding their thoughts on teaching children general life lessons. To the extent that these views were at least somewhat widespread, these letters can help us understand how children were viewed in the 18th century. Click here for more information.

Three Bags Full: All about Wool
Saturdays and Sundays through June 30
Historic Deerfield
Springtime is the time for sheep shearing. Come see how our ancestors transformed wool into thread.

Open Hearth Cooking Demonstrations
Saturdays through the end of July
Historic Deerfield
Learn how our ancestors cooked using in-season ingredients (June) and how they stayed cool during the summer cooking (July).

Fire and Ice Day
July 20
Old Sturbridge Village
Learn how firefighters fought fires in the 19th century and help pump water.

Exploring Victory Gardens: How a Nation of Vegetable Growers Helped to Win the War
July 23rd 7:00 pm, $15 fee, pre-registration encouraged
Strawbery Banke
Talk by Dr. Judith Sumner about the role that victory gardens played in the 1940s. Also includes taste-testing of period recipes and viewing films about victory gardens from the 1940s.

Redcoats & Rebels
August 3 and 4
Old Sturbridge Village
Nearly 1,000 soldiers participate in New England’s largest military re-enactment. Visit the soldiers a Revolutionary War era encampment, see mock battles and drills and listen to the fife and drums.

Twilight Tours
August 16, 5 pm – 8 pm, $18 if paid in advance
Sponsored by Portsmouth Historic Houses Associates
Tours of seven historic houses in Portsmouth. Click here for more information.