By Lauren Wanko
The year is 1836 which means this turkey isn’t headed for your grandmother’s oven — it’s being prepared to roast on the hearth.
“I guess you could say I enjoy living in the past,” said Diane Lingsch, a volunteer at the Historic Village at Allaire.
Lingsch likes stepping back in time at the village. In the 1830s it was known as the Howell Iron Works Company where owner James P. Allaire built a village for his employees. These cooks are preparing a turkey, roasted vegetables and pies in Mr. Allaire’s manager’s home.
“It is our day when we give thanks, it’s more of a religious experience for the people that lived here in the 1830s it would have been there would be a church service, they would go to services and then they would come home and celebrate pretty much like the pilgrims did,” said Lingsch.
With the right conditions this 15 pound turkey will take three to four hours to cook.
“Everything revolves around the wood, the fire and the coals, if the wood is wet it takes forever to cook,” said volunteer Flo Sprinazzola.
“We’re cooking in a tin kitchen, or a reflector oven as it’s called, and they started using those in the 1750s and they’re very efficient because they’re made of tin and it reflects the heat from the fire,” Lingsch said. “It will take a few hours, just as would at home in a modern oven but it usually comes out very well because a skewer is iron and it actually brings the heat into the core of turkey and heats it from within.”
As the turkey roasts the dutch oven is filled with a tasty pie. Coals from the fire are shoveled above and below the pot.
“And then it’s like you’re oven at home it gets heat from 2 sources so it works very well for baking,” said Lingsch.
These 19th century cooks don’t enjoy modern day electricity. They slice and dice under dim candlelight.
“You could cook anything we’re cooking here at home and it will not be the same,” Sprinazzola said.
“The cast-iron, everything adds its own flavor, plus we cook it with love,” she said.
Next door in the bakery. The smell of mincemeat pie fills the air.
Volunteers here say village workers lived in row homes. They didn’t have ovens so anytime they needed to bake something it was done here. This oven would be fired up two or three times a week. Typically a little boy would crawl towards the back of it to set and light the fires.
“The villagers would bring their loaves of bread,” said another volunteer, Abigail Murphy. “Whatever they needed to be baked, they would come here, pay the baker a couple pennies and then the baker would put it in the oven.”
These volunteers ultimately enjoy the meal after hours of work. Visitors like Sherri West are invited to watch the preparations.
“It is pretty interesting because you loose sight of just how difficult things were,” West said. “Its a reminder of who we are, how much we’ve done and how important it is to revere that.”
This Thanksgiving these cooks are grateful they can reflect on the past.