This past Saturday, Historic Foodways introduced its newest special event; Sugar, Spice & All Things Nice:Confectionery in Colonial America. The event, developed as part of my apprenticeship requirements, centered on all the great, sweet, culinary creations that would appear as part of a third dessert course amongst the gentry.
Visitors who stopped by to see us in the Palace Kitchen saw interpreters creating candied rose petals, making fruit jams, gelatin, and so much more. In addition, visitors to the Apothecary Shop learned of how medicinal confections were used in the 18th century and could participate in making a scurvy grass cure. At the end of the day, visitors and staff agreed that our first ever Confections Day was a sweet success!
When planning a special event, a lot of thought goes into what content will be included. Once the research is out of the way, we create (and perfect) recipes, and even prepare them in advance to display for visitors for that “ta-da” moment. But in addition to viewing our creations, I wanted to offer our guests something a little special.
That’s why we allowed 20 visitors to sign up to participate in two hands-on classes as part of Confections Day. The first class focused on marzipan and was offered to children. During the class, the young confectioners learned what ingredients made up marzipan, how to manipulate the delicious medium into various shapes, and ways to add color to their designs.
The second class, offered to adults, focused on working with sugar plate. Sugar plate is made up of powdered sugar, gum tragacanth, rose flower water, and regular water. The dough, like marzipan, can be molded into various shapes to dry. In the 18th century, this material was used to make elaborate Grecian temples and castles that would be the highlight of a dessert course.
For this confectioner, who in many ways is just beginning to build her skills, I found that I learned just as much and maybe more than our class participants! Everyone created so many beautiful items. And I look forward to sharing more 18th-century skills with our visitors in the future. Between visits, you can follow our projects us both on our History is Served Blog and on our brand new Historic Trades & Skills Facebook page!
Photo Credit: Darnell Vennie, Nicole Brown, and yours truly!
GUEST BLOGGER: MELISSA BLANK
Originally from St. Louis, MO, Melissa is a graduate of Southwest Missouri State University with a degree in education. She began her career as a Theater and Social Studies teacher in Missouri Public Schools and has worked in the field of Museum Education and Interpretation since 2002. She’s been employed by sites such as Historic Pensacola Village, Missouri State Parks and Historic Sites, and the Daniel Boone Home & Village. In May of 2011, Melissa received her Masters of Education in Historic Site Interpretation from the Department of American Studies at Lindenwood University, St. Charles, MO. After that, she landed in Williamsburg and begin work with the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation as an interpreter, now a part of the Historic Foodways family.