Every year, we have a few thirsty folks wander into Buckman Tavern surprised to find that not only did colonial taverns need a liquor license to operate, but that ours expired in 1813! While we no longer serve food and drink on the regular, we do occasionally open the building for events, and one of our most popular is what we have dubbed “Tavern Night”. Once a year, we’ve opened one of our historic taverns after-hours and invited the public in for a night of history and fun. This year, we are having a talk and tasting of historically inspired beers, made with local plants, led by Emerson Baker of Salem State University and Butch Heilshorn of Earth Eagle Brewings in Portsmouth, NH.
It wouldn't be an 18th century party without food as well. A tavern like the Buckmans' would likely have served soups and stews to their visitors, which could stretch to feed a crowd. It’s hard to walk and eat soup, though, so for our event we are creating a spread of 18th century style appetizers that travel well. Hearty bread and cheese are obvious choices, as are pickled vegetables that would have been available in February in New England, having been jarred during the previous year’s harvest.
To further explore what sorts of foods we could serve at our gathering, I turned to the most popular cookbook of the 18th century: The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy by Hannah Glasse. First published in 1747, this book was in print for one hundred years, and went through several editions, including later versions featuring American recipes like indian pudding and cranberry tarts. As it turns out, Hannah has an entire chapter devoted to pickling! This is not surprising, as it was one of the easiest ways to preserve foods - this would ensure that your family would have plenty of fruits and vegetables to eat over the long New England winter. The 1771 edition I consulted has 32 pickle recipes. In addition to the usual vegetables that we eat today, Glasse has recipes for pickling just about any food you can imagine, including walnuts, peaches, lemons, fennel, oysters, and grapes!
Recently the staff had a tasting of a few varieties of any-century pickled vegetables from the supermarket to see what we’d like to offer for Tavern Night. Surprisingly, pickled asparagus was a huge hit, and the six of us polished off an entire jar over a lunch meeting!
Join us at Tavern Night on February 24th to see what other 18th century foods you might discover - tickets are $50 for members and $60 for nonmembers, and include a history lecture, beer tasting, entertainment, and two drink tickets. Check out our events page for more information.
- Sarah McDonough, Programs Manager
Featuring the voices of Lexington Historical Society permanent staff and occasional guest authors.