It is a crisp, clear autumn morning. As I walk over a gentle rise toward The Boone House I first see, then smell, the smoke rising from the chimney, letting me know the hardwood fire has been started for our day of cooking. I have been doing this for many years now, and yet it is still a thrill to experience a sense of stepping back in time as I walk toward the house. I close my eyes as I put on my cap, and when I open them I can easily imagine the sounds of a busy 18th century homestead awaking to the demands of the day.
On the way to the house I stop at the garden to pick the herbs we will need for our menu: parsley, sage, thyme, and lovely rosemary whose scent will stay on my fingers for some time. I pick an extra bouquet to place on our table “just for pretty.”
Two other “herbies” from the area and I will be preparing a typical harvest meal at the hearth to show guests what is involved in such an undertaking. Throughout the day we talk as we cook – about our clothes, about the Boones and their lives, about gardening, and food preparation and preservation at harvest time.
The ‘receipts’ (recipes) we use are typical of the 18th century English, Welsh, and German families that lived in the house over the years, though admittedly we use rather simple, homestead dishes that are “forgiving” if we forget a step as visitors constantly ask questions and directions. Since most of our cooking days are on Sundays, we do hasten to explain that none of this would have been done on the Sabbath day as the Boones were observant Quakers. Their Sabbath meals would have been prepared the day before and taken with them to the Meeting House down the road in the beautiful Oley Valley.
Leaning over an open hearth cooking (and talking!) all day is just plain hard work, but the great reward is sitting down at the end of the day, after all the visitors have left and the gates are closed, with kindred spirits who love re-enacting. Together we enjoy the food, the stories of the day, and for just a few more minutes by candlelight as the sun sets, we remain in the mists of time.
submitted by: Courtney Stevens, Pennsylvania Heartland Unit, Mid-Atlantic District
editor’s note: Be sure to check out the website for Daniel Boone Homestead. Approximately one hour west of Philadelphia, it’s a great place to visit when traveling through Pennsylvania.