January 9, 2014
We here in Historic Foodways would like to wish all of you a great new year! Because the New Year is a time of new beginnings, we’d like to tell you about some changes we’ll be making to our blog to better meet the interests of our audience: You!
We will continue to post new recipes, and keep the old ones available to you. In addition, we plan to include more discussions on the history of food and drinks, as well as more photos and other visuals about our ongoing projects and programs in Historic Foodways.
Watch our video on the new History is Served blog.
Here’s where we need your help: We’d like to hear from you about the topics you’d like to see us tackle and any other suggestions you have for the blog. What are you curious about? What are you interested in? Please use the comment section here to tell us your thoughts and suggestions for topics.
The best way to learn about History Foodways, of course, is to come and visit us in the kitchens. But we hope the new blog will be the next best thing to being there.
November 25, 2013
Listen to this week’s podcast as host Harmony Hunter talks with Barbara Scherer, journeyman cook in Historic Foodways. Scherer details the foods that would have been found on all of Williamsburg’s tables — from the wealthiest smorgasbord to the humblest one-pot meal.
October 30, 2013
This week we are blanching the last of the Cos lettuce planted for the fall season. This upright form of lettuce is probably named for the isle of Kos in the Aegean Sea, between Greece and Turkey and is the most ancient form of lettuce.
Lettuce has been known and cultivated for at least 4,000 years and was likely first used as a sedative rather than as a salad ingredient. The lettuce genus, Lactuca, derives from the Latin lac, or milk, in reference to the milky sap called Lactucarium contained in the stems of wild lettuce. This compound is often known as lettuce opium and has long been used for its hypnotic and sleep-inducing properties.
By the first century CE varieties of lettuce that contained much less lactucarium and were much less bitter were available. Pliny the Elder described these lettuces as “possessed of cooling and refreshing properties” and recommended using them for “promoting the appetite.”
Lettuce was likely introduced to northern Europe and England by the Romans from whence it received the name of Roman or Romaine lettuce. Cos tends to be somewhat coarse with a slight bitterness, a holdover from its ancient ancestors. This can be remedied through whiting or blanching. The method we use was first explained by the Italian refugee Giacomo Castelvetro in 1614: “Our ingenious gardeners tie [the lettuce] tightly together round a cane, so that the insides blanch as white as snow and become wonderfully crisp.”
In a fortnight, or two weeks, the lettuce will head handsomely and the inner leaves will turn a creamy whitish color, which vastly improves the flavor and produces what the modern shopper would recognize as hearts of Romaine.
September 19, 2013
September 5, 2013