An industrious housewife on the nineteenth-century Indiana frontier could make sure her family ate as well as we do today. We have our ways of securing foodstuffs and preparing meals year round, but so did she. That’s what I learned from Sarah Withrow, who supervises Hearthside Suppers at Conner Prairie Interactive History Park.
The staff at Prairietown, the park’s area devoted to life in the year 1836, looks for “receipts” (recipes) and tries them out. In addition to meats such as chicken, pork or beef, the Hearthside Suppers include vegetables and preserved foods that would have been available in winter. Pickled beets and brandied peaches are amazingly good, says Sarah. With so much sugar, the latter can last up to 3 years without refrigeration or freezing.
A teacher for 26 years, Sarah compares her work at Anderson High School with teaching guests to prepare traditional foods at Conner Prairie, which she describes as “educating people in a really fun environment.” She also enjoys finding unusual words for foods, such as beef “gobbets,” meaning fragments or lumps, such as pieces of stew meat. These would be seasoned with herbs and spices, perhaps mace or nutmeg, then served over toast.
The Hearthside Suppers, says Sarah, offer “a little bit of history, some food facts, and a great meal, all at the same time.”
Hearthside Suppers are recommended for ages 10-adult. March 2-6, 9-13, 16-20, 23-27 at 6-9 p.m. Reservations required at $60/person or $55/member. Call 317.776.6006 or visit http://www.connerprairie.org/ for more information.