Culture Connect Featured Event
Authentic 18th-Century Thanksgiving Dinner at Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum
Ticket Price: $75 per person
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Connecticut residents can be thankful that one of their forebears, a Miss Juliana Smith of Sharon, Connecticut, penned a letter in late 1779 describing in great detail the sumptuous Thanksgiving dinner enjoyed that year by her extended family, friends and neighbors. Smith’s letter was part of the research that led to the creation of an equally lavish bill of fare for the upcoming second 18th-Century Thanksgiving Dinner at the Webb-Deane-Stevens (WDS) Museum, in Wethersfield, designed by culinary historian Paul Courchaine and WDS Executive Director Charles Lyle.
On Sunday, November 11, 2012, from 12 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., Mr. and Mrs. Silas Deane will host an authentic Thanksgiving feast for up to 140 delighted guests, commencing with a wine and hors d'oeuvres reception and 18th-century music (One of the wines served will be Madeira, considered a patriotic drink during the Revolutionary War as it wasn’t subject to British taxation and wouldn’t help fill England’s coffers). Guests can explore the Silas Deane House and engage the Deane family and their servants as they prepare for dinner.
At 1 p.m. a servant will ring the dinner bell and invite the guests to join their hosts in the Webb Barn for the feast. The authentic 18th-century menu, based on Juliana Smith’s 1779 letter, will include venison pie, roasted goose and turkey, chine of pork, pottage of cabbage, leeks and onions, Marlborough puddings and several vegetables. During dessert Courchaine will discuss details of the Smith’s Thanksgiving menu and the choices made for this year’s bill of fare.
In her fascinating letter from 1779, available courtesy of the Centerbrook Historical Society, Juliana Smith noted the sacrifices made by all during the American fight for independence and said of her Thanksgiving repast, “Of course we could have no roast beef. None of us have tasted beef this three years back as it all must go to the army, & too little they get, poor fellows.”
In her rare and articulate account, Smith further explained how state residents’ “resistance to an unjust Authority” had brought about suffering in Colonial Connecticut. She noted ruefully, “Neither love nor money could buy raisins,” but conceded that “our good red cherries, dried without pits, did almost as well.” Venison, a rarity on the Colonial table, was provided for the Smiths by hunters sent out by the sachem Naquittymaw, who according to food historian Paul Courchaine, was likely one of the leaders of the Wappinger Confederacy, a collection of several Algonquin-speaking people in western Connecticut and the Hudson River valley.
Tickets for the 18th-Century Thanksgiving Dinner are $75 per person, and include a wine and hors d’oeuvres reception, 18th-century music and an optional tour of the three historic homes at the museum following the event. Reservations are required and available by calling (860) 529-0612, ext. 12.