Oct 28, 2013
07:46 AM
Arts & Entertainment

Enjoy an Authentic Colonial Thanksgiving Dinner in Old Wethersfield

Enjoy an Authentic Colonial Thanksgiving Dinner in Old Wethersfield

Charles T. Lyle

       The Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum in Old Wethersfield is gearing up for it’s annual Late 18th Century Thanksgiving, scheduled to take place on Nov. 17 from noon to 3 p.m. Culinary expert and TV chef Prudence Sloane will be on hand to serve up a side of savory tidbits of Colonial Thanksgiving trivia—like how the town leaders of Colchester postponed Thanksgiving in 1705 until they could acquire enough molasses to bake their favorite pumpkin pies, a holiday staple even back then.

      The museum itself is a historic gem made up of three meticulously restored homes along Main Street—the Joseph Webb House, the Silas Deane House and the Isaac Stevens House. The complex offers a glimpse at life in Connecticut from the time of the American Revolution to the early 20th century. And George Washington really slept here—at the Webb House, for five nights when he came to meet with French general Comte de Rochambeau to plan the campaign that led to the defeat of the British at Yorktown.

      I was lucky enough to have a ticket to last year's authentic Connecticut Thanksgiving (the most important holiday in Colonial times) at the museum, which was hosted by “Mr. and Mrs. Silas Deane.” Executive director Charles Lyle credits a Connecticut forebear, Miss Juliana Smith of Sharon, for making a significant contribution to the highly anticipated annual event. A handwritten letter from Smith (courtesy of the Centerbrook Historical Society) describes in detail the events of the day as well as the menu of the bountiful Thanksgiving dinner she served to her own family and friends in November 1779. The Smith letter was the inspiration Lyle needed to complete his plan to reenact a lavish 18th-century Thanksgiving.

      Many guests arrived for dinner in period attire (but it wasn’t required) and were greeted by “Mr. and Mrs. Deane” (part of a large cast dressed in period costume). The elegant home was filled with the sounds of live music of the period and the front parlor was set up for game playing. Wine and hors d’oeuvres were served in the dining room (one of the wines was a Madeira, considered a patriotic drink back then because it wasn’t subject to British taxation). And while people mingled, I followed a delicious aroma to the kitchen and discovered a turkey roasting on a “spit jack” (an early rotisserie, and an indicator of the family’s wealth) inside the large hearth. Katie Sullivan, a museum representative, told me a slave named Hagar was the Deane’s cook and that they had six slaves in all. The image was sobering.

      The clang of a dinner bell signaled that it was time to head out to the barn to feast upon venison pie, roasted goose, turkey and chine of pork with all the trimmings, including a potage of cabbage, leeks and onions, a variety of vegetables and Marlborough and plum puddings—a modern take on Miss Smith’s original menu (created by the late local food historian Paul Courchaine and prepared by Ascot Caterers) that would’ve made her proud.

      Make reservations early before seats are filled.  May the bounty of the season fill your heart and home.

      Tickets are $85 per person, and include the wine and hors d’oeuvres reception, 18th-century music and a tour of the three historic homes following the event. For reservations, call (860) 529-0612, ext. 12. For further information, visit webb-deane-stevens.org.

      The museum will also offer guided Thanksgiving tours weekends Nov. 2-29, Sat. 10 to 4 p.m. & Sun. 1 to 4 p.m. Admission $10; seniors over 60, AAA member and active military $9, students & children 5-18 $5, families (2 adults + children) $25.

 

Enjoy an Authentic Colonial Thanksgiving Dinner in Old Wethersfield

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