Housewifery skills at Riversdale

Last Saturday I attended an event at Riversdale House Museum, Maryland, where historians taught us the skills of the Georgian-Federal era housekeeper. Kate Dolan, who was our guest last Thursday, was also there–here she is with an apron full of herbs.

The house boasts a beautiful garden where herbs, flowers, and vegetables are grown, often sharing the same space, and most of my pics were of the garden. If you’d like to see some really good photos of the costumed participants, go here.

After a short presentation on herbs we gathered them to make our own herb vinegars in the kitchen of the dependency (behind Kate)–it’s a mid nineteenth century building outside the house which is now used for open hearth cooking demonstrations.

We had a delicious lunch we prepared that featured produce from the garden, using some American eighteenth century recipes and a couple from Mrs. Beeton. Joyce White, the Foodways expert on staff at Riversdale, emphasized the importance of setting the table correctly and making sure that each dish (served a la francaise) was beautiful in appearance, garnished with flowers, herbs, and asparagus fronds from the garden.

Here are some pics of the garden. The right one shows the house and the monster asparagus plants on the right.

In addition we experimented with authentic cleaning substances and techniques for brass and mahogany–guess what, they worked!

We were very lucky to have Katy Cannon, an expert in historical cosmetics giving a demonstration. Check out her website at AgelessArtifice.com. She burned some pastills for us, which were thought to perfume the air and therefore prevent infections, and we learned that our ancestors enjoyed making pastills embedded with gunpowder for innocent fun in the parlor. I bought some of her products, and here is my loot from the event:

From left to right:
Cologne
A Ball to take out Stains (and it does. In use. It’s soap, lemon, and alum.)
Bags for preffe or clothes, that no Moth may breed therein. Snappy name! From a 1653 recipe, juniper wood, cloves, rosemary, wormwood. It smells delicious!
My very own rosemary and thyme vinegar.
In front, it looks like jam but it’s mahogany polish.

Tell us if you’ve tried any historic recipes or cleaning methods. Did they work?

Also if you’re in the greater Washington DC area, please come to Riversdale’s Battle of Bladensburg Encampment on August 13. It’s free, with house tours, kids’ activities, food, music, uniformed historical reenactors, and loud explosions. More details here.

And in the Blatant Self Promotion department, here are two places where you can comment to enter a contest for a copy of my erotic contemporary TELL ME MORE: Snap, Crackle, and Popping Blog and Write About.

This entry was posted in Jane Austen and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Housewifery skills at Riversdale

Comments are closed.