The week before Battle Road typically finds us very busy-- finishing up sewing projects, making sure that musket is in proper working order, or practicing the tunes for Battle Road on your fife. We're guessing that what to bring for nooning is not top of mind.
We have a few extra challenges this year to consider. The weather has been extremely dry and windy. The brush fire danger is very high, so there will be no fires allowed at Battle Road this year. So preparing a hot meal, as we normally do, is not possible.
With that in mind, our resident Tavern Keeper Mistress Welch has offered the following ideas for your Battle Road victuals....
So what do you make for an 18th century lunch that is to be eaten in front of the public and, therefore, should be historically correct?
Yes, bread and cheese will sustain you for the day but it isn’t very exciting for you or the public. A cold chicken leg from a supermarket roast chicken will do if there is nothing else and you want meat.
With a little time and modest talent in the kitchen, there are several choices that a family might make or units might decide to provide. All the offerings should be seasonally appropriate and available in Massachusetts during the 18th century. Vegetables and fruits were the eatable remains from the winter storage with some early spring greens and herb sprouts. Most of the following suggestions can be made with modest preparation time and you can finish up other projects while they cook.
Using a 17th Century recipe of Gervase Markham from his cookery book Country Contentments, make a chewet pie. Chewets were small pies unlike the masterful lidded pie constructed by Matthew Mees for a “Preserving the Harvest” event. The recipe calls for either cold chicken or veal coarsely chopped, along with fine diced suet, raisins, dates, dried currants, sugar, salt and spices placed in a pie crust in a 9 inch pie pan and cover with a top crust. It is baked for 40 minutes in a 350 degree oven.
Another possibility is to make pasties. E. Smith’s The Compleat Housewife: or, Accomplished Gentlewoman’s Companion (1723) gives a receipt for "Apple Pasties to Fry". You can vary the filling to a savory one with meat and vegetables but you want the filling to be on the dry side or the crust will dissolve. An all-vegetable pasty is a good option for a vegan or vegetarian. I recommend roasting the vegetables; carrot, winter squash, onion, turnip, parsnip, and/or potato in a small amount of sweet oil (olive oil), allowing them to cool, seasoning them as you like and then encasing in a five inch pastry round (fold in half and seal tightly) and baking in a 400 degree oven for twenty minutes. Pasties travel better baked rather than fried.
Cold beef (pot roast), cold spiced corned beef, boiled bacon (Canadian bacon) or ham (not spiral cut) are good choices for meat to be taken along. Hard boiled eggs (small) are another source of portable protein. Pease porridge cold is easy to prepare, inexpensive, tasty and the public loves to see it at events.
One pound rounds of whole wheat bread or French rolls are appropriate for carrying along. A crock of fresh cheese is easy to make, or buy fresh farmer’s cheese. It can be spread on whole wheat or white melba toast rounds as a snack for hungry children.
Dessert? Ginger cakes, Shrewsbury cakes, oat-cakes, pound cake (plain, with currants or caraway seed), seed cake, and dried fruit are all appropriate.
Tuck your meal, and your dishes into a basket and bring along with you…slip a plastic trash bag in to carry home the dirty dishes… covered with a cloth secured inside the basket and you’re ready for the day.
Note: The cookbooks mentioned in this article are available on line.
See you at Battle Road!