Activity #1: Colonial Cooking
These simple recipes are traditional colonial fare. They can be prepared in school or at home. Both recipes need an oven.
New England: Johnny-Cake
The Little House Cookbook
by Barbara M. Walker)
Johnny cake was a traditional New England food and a diet staple. The students will be aware of this dish because it is mentioned in
My Brother Sam Is Dead
For six servings you will need:
(Triple or quadruple this recipe to feed an average class of students.)
Cornmeal, 2 cups stoneground white or yellow
Salt, 1 teaspoon
Baking soda, 1 teaspoon
Drippings, 2 tablespoons
Molasses, 2 tablespoons
Cultured buttermilk, 1 cup
Bowl, 2-quart; baking sheet
In the bowl mix well the cornmeal, salt, and baking soda. Place the drippings in the center. Stir molasses into 1/2 cup boiling water, and pour the mixture on the drippings. Stir until the drippings are melted and meal mixture becomes a paste. Stir in the buttermilk and mix well. Grease the baking sheet and pour the batter onto it, spreading it evenly by tilting the sheet or by pressing with a wet hand.
Preheat oven to 400°F. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until dough surface is cracked and the edges are browned. Remove from the pan before it cools.
Cut or break into squares. Serve warm with honey, molasses, baked beans, or boiled cabbage and meat.
The South: Williamsburg Jumbals
(from Cobblestone magazine, February 1990: “The People of Williamsburg,” pg. 10—from
The Williamsburg Art of Cookery
, adapted from Mrs. E. Smith’s recipe of 1742.)
These cookies have a spicy taste and a crisp, light texture.
one-third cup of butter
one-third cup of fine sugar
one well-beaten egg
three-fourths cup of flour
one-fourth teaspoon salt
one teaspoon of powdered mace**
**Cinnamon or nutmeg may be substituted for mace.
buttered tin or cookie sheet
Mix together one-third of a cup of butter and the same of fine sugar. Add one well-beaten egg. Sift in three-fourths cup of flour with one-fourth teaspoon of salt and one teaspoon of powdered mace. Drop by spoonfuls far apart on a buttered tin, spread thin, and bake in a moderate oven (350°F) about ten minutes.
Activity #2: Quilting
The students should first become familiar with the art of quilting. An excellent article to share with them is “A Quilt Is Something Human” from
The Foxfire Book
. There are also two articles in Cobblestone magazine, July 1983 “Folklore: Stories and More”—pg. 27 29, “Sewing Up a Story” by Mary W. Roe and in August 1991 “America’s Folk Art”—pgs. 20 & 21, “Patchwork Art” by Mary Morton Cowan.
I also plan to read to the students a picture book about the art of quilting that I think will help this craft take on a deeper meaning for them. The book is a Reading Rainbow selection called
The Patchwork Quilt
by Valerie Flourney. It is the story of a little girl who loves to watch her grandmother quilt using patches of old fabric. When the grandmother is taken ill the little girl surprises her by leading the family in finishing this memory quilt. It is a book steeped in the importance of keeping a sense of your past and your family heritage.
The quilting activity described here is very simple and does not require any sewing. It can easily be made more difficult by using fabric and thread though.
squares of colored paper
a large sheet or roll of paper to serve as the background
scraps of colored paper, tissue, yarn, ribbon, wrapping
paper, sequins, buttons, or any “found” materials
Each student is given a similar size piece of colored paper. This is the quilt block. Using the scraps and “found” materials each child creates his own “quilt” square. A traditional pattern can be used or each square can be unique as in a crazy quilt. Students may choose to follow the African-American tradition of making a picture or story quilt. The teacher, with student assistance, then mounts each square onto the background. The class will have created its own quilt. This quilt should be proudly and prominently displayed.
Activity #3: Dyeing Fabric With Household Fruits and Vegetables
The colonists had to weave their own fabric as well as make most of their own clothes. The most common dyes available to them were the colors found in nature. By using the plants and vegetables found in their own gardens and in the wilds around them they could make natural dyes that produced clear, though somewhat muted color.
Each student will be given a solid block of 100% cotton fabric as well as some scrap pieces. Only natural fabrics such as cotton and wool will truly take the color found in these natural dyes. Manmade fabrics such as nylon, polyester, or blends will not take or hold the color. Students should understand that these dyes will not be as bright as the colors they are used to seeing today in our clothing and household goods. These natural colors will be softer and muted in their shades. Every dye lot will be different as well depending on such variables as how long the fabric sits in the dye bath or how the dye is mixed with water.
After dyeing his or her fabric pieces each student will decide whether he or she wants to make a sewn quilt square or a small braided mat. The mat can be made just like a braided rug. Three strips of fabric are sewn together at the top and then braided. The braids are coiled together and stitched to make a mini-rug or mat. These braided mats are an excellent use of scrap fabrics and a way to recycle clean, old clothing. Both products are simple to make and the type of craft that the colonial housewife produced on a regular basis.
Natural Dye Recipes
(Sources are my own recipes with additional ideas being inspired by
Let’s Be Early Settlers With Daniel Boone
by Peggy Parish.)
Suggested Tips For Successful Dyeing
Use a bowl or pan large enough to hold the dye and the fabric.
Always wet the fabric thoroughly before dyeing.
Stir the fabric in the dye to see that the color sets evenly.
Wring the fabric thoroughly of the dye when finished. You may set the dye by rinsing the fabric in cold water.
Hang the fabric in a clear area. Do not use it until it is completely dried. Darker colors made need to be in the dye bath two or three times until the desired color is achieved. The color will always appear darker when it is wet.
Use the dry skins of yellow onions. Pour hot water over the skins and let them soak overnight. Strain off the liquid. Throw away the skins.
Make a very strong solution of tea using several tea bags and boiling water. Let the mixture cool. Throw away the tea bags.
Take a quart of very ripe strawberries or raspberries. Soak them overnight in hot water. Strain the liquid from the berries. Throw away the berries.
Follow the recipe above using blueberries or purple grapes such as concord grapes. Experiment with different fruits to make your own colors. Just think of what naturally stains your clothing. Ha! Ha!
You can achieve a light shade of green by grinding spinach in a food processor and straining the liquid through a piece of cheesecloth. Mix this liquid with hot water. The more water you use in ratio to the spinach liquid the lighter the dye will be.
Grate a beet and strain the pulp through a piece of cheesecloth. You can mix this liquid with some hot water to achieve a light red.