TRENTON, N.J. - Before the invention of the wood-burning stove, food in America was prepared over a blazing fire in an open hearth. Rather than kitchen timers and temperature gauges, cooks had to rely on their sense of smell and the feel of the fire's heat to gauge their recipes.
On November 9, from noon to 4 p.m., Howell Living History Farm will commemorate this important aspect of early American history when it hosts its first ever Open Hearth Cooking Program.
The cooking program will be held in the 1700s kitchen of the historic John Phillips House, located adjacent to the farm, where the open hearth and chimney underwent a renovation project just completed in October. Visitors will get the chance to help prepare winter squash pudding and candied pumpkin, among other traditional recipes, as well as sample the results.
Historical interpreter Susan McLellan Plaisted will lead the session. She will use recipes based on those in "American Cookery," the first cookbook ever published in the United States, dating to 1796.
"You have to have a keen sense of smell," McLellan Plaisted said of mastering the art of open hearth cooking. "Forget the measuring cups. Forget 300 degrees. Forget time. It's all based on senses."
The program is among the first conducted by Howell Farm, which takes visitors outside the boundaries of the farm's 1890-1910 interpretive period. Other new programs focus on the gristmill, sawmill, blacksmith shop and schoolhouse that shaped the surrounding rural community, known as Pleasant Valley.
"As we increase our programming at Howell Living History Farm, we've been able to delve into such a wide variety of topics, and I'm pleased to introduce this latest Open Hearth Cooking activity at the Historic John Phillips House,'' said County Executive Brian M. Hughes.
Transportation to the John Phillips house will leave the Howell Farm barnyard at 12:30 p.m. 1:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m.
Howell Farm is a facility of the Mercer County Park Commission. It is located on Valley Rd., just off Rt. 29 two miles south of Lambertville. Parking and admission is free.
For more information, call the farm at 609-737-3299 or visit www.howellfarm.org.