Before modern appliances and technology came along preparing, preserving and harvesting food was an arduous process.  With clay pots and iron kettles used over hot coals, and preservation methods like smoking, salt curing and pickling, colonialists did their best to make use of the conditions before them.  This Thanksgiving, learn about the 17th and 18th century food practices during Foods & Feasts of Colonial Virginia, a three-day event at Jamestown Settlement and the Yorktown Victory Center taking place November 27-29, 2014.

Special programs at Jamestown Settlement explore how food was gathered, stored, and cooked during the 17th and 18th centuries.  In the re-created Powhatan Indian village, you can see venison, turkey and other game roast over an open fire, while stews of corn, beans and squash cook in clay pots.  During your visit, learn about the importance of corn to the Powhatan Indians and how they used stone and hone to make tools to obtain and prepare food.   

Make your way to the ships’ pier to discover a day in the life of a sailor.  Try your hand at hauling cargo aboard ship, then see if you can whip up the sailor’s most common food item – a ship’s biscuit.  Find out how the colony was provisioned, as well as explore typical sailors’ fare of salted fish, biscuit and dried foods.

To get a demonstration of open-hearth cooking, including bread, pies, pudding, and pottage, visit the recreated early 17th century fort.  Historical interpreters create all of the dishes with recipes based on those published by Elinore Fettiplace in 1604 and Robert May in 1660. On Thursday and Friday, an entire pig will be processed into hams and bacon, followed by salting for preservation.   You can also witness several military demonstrations, including the firing of a swivel gun, near the fort. 

Venture over to Yorktown Victory Center to experience life as a solider and how they turned meager rations of dried beans, salted meat and hard bread into nourishing soups and stews. There will be daily artillery drills at the re-created Continental Army encampment as well as a special program illustrating the consequences of plunder and theft of food.  At the farm kitchen and variety of dishes will be prepared each day using  18th-century open-hearth cooking techniques and recipes.   On Thursday and Friday only an entire pig will be turned into hams and bacon and salted for preservation.  Plus, historical interpreters will demonstrate methods of preserving fruit and vegetables.

If all the food demonstrations work  up your appetite, the Jamestown Settlement Cafe will be having a traditional Thanksgiving dinner from 11am-4pm on November 27.

Reserve America’s Historic Triangle Combo Pass to gain access to both of these historical sites, as well as Historic Jamestowne, Colonial Williamsburg and Yorktown Battlefield.  If you would like to visit Yorktown Victory Center and Jamestown Settlement only, the History is Fun for the Holidays combo ticket is the way to go.  Available for purchase online only, the ticket offers seven days of unlimited admission to both museums at $20.50 for adults and $10.25 for ages 6 through 12.

Find out more about visiting Jamestown Settlement »
Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting Williamsburg to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.