I had so much fun learning to cook at Louisa County’s Open Hearth Cooking class in 2012, I made sure to look for it in 2013! My students gained a great deal from it as well. Even students who didn’t go ended up with some great insights after the young ladies who went reported back to the class. My favorite thought that came out of the class discussion was that people spent so much more time interacting with family because of the enormous amount of time spent cooking in tiny spaces.
So I began to organize another trip. This time, the class in March fit better in my schedule. Sophia wanted to go- and her sister, Bridgette, who had been in my class previously. Adam, also in US II that semester, who is a baker went as well. Our fourth was Browning from my Civil War class.
Because it was spring, the menu was somewhat different from my previous experience. We were going to do the pork loin again, but along with it we were going to make Martha Washington’s recipe for chicken fricassee. We also did apple pie and biscuits again, but the veggies changed. We boiled potatoes, maybe with onion? We had a salad of early spring greens. The salad dressing was from the 19th century cookbook of the woman who lived just across the field from the house where we were cooking.
I had experience cooking in general and had helped with the cooking on the previous occasion, so this time my goal was to work and observe more of the fire management. Elaine also showed us how to use flint and steel to create sparks. We all took turns and it is harder than you might think! I found it took kind of a flick of the wrist rather than an even stroke. We used the sparks from the flint and steel to light something called charcloth. Charcloth is small bit of cotton that have been carbonized by putting them in a tin canister with a hole in it and throwing it in a fire. The cloth doesn’t burn up, but it goes black and flaky. The sparks catch on the charcloth and you slowly coax it to flame by breathing on it. Then it could be used to start the fire.
Unlike my first experience, the weather was warm and sunny. That first occasion, we had pulled up chairs and squished a bit, but ate together in the warm kitchen on that cold day. This time, however, we pulled the benches out back and ate on our laps in the sunshine. While it was lovely, I did miss the feeling of camaraderie that we had around the table.
With this second class, I began to feel more confident that I could do some of this kind of cooking on my own and I began to plan how I might share that with my students and others.