Wednesday, 26 October 2016

HAVE A CUP OF TEA: VOLUNTEERING AT FORT YORK NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE

A MUSE BOUCHE

BY: ERIKA ROBERTSON

Welcome to the fourth installment of A Muse Bouche, where I trace the many relationships between museums and food. After a wonderful summer of travel, I’m back in Toronto for my second year of Museum Studies. The Toronto cultural sector has amazing resources, especially experienced, knowledgeable, and passionate people. 

In September, I had the pleasure working in the kitchen at Fort York National Historic Site to help with the Farm to Fork On Common Ground festival. Fort York interprets dishes that have been served in the officers’ mess in the early 1800s. 

Bridget Wranich (right) and Melissa Beynon have mastered the art of teaching while cooking.
Photo by the author. 
My role for the day was assisting with the Heritage Apple Tart Making Workshop. Bridget Wranich, Program Officer, and Melissa Beynon provided visitors with a lesson on historic foodways through a short cooking class. We learned useful facts, like the difference between pies and tarts. It’s simple: tarts don’t have a crust on top. I found my biggest takeaways outside the workshop. I’ll share my top two and wrap up with a simple, historic Fall recipe.

White and blue porcelain teapot on a black background.
Never too busy for a cup of tea. Photo by the author.

Lesson 1: Hospitality first. 

As soon as I stepped back into the commercial kitchen, Bridget insisted that I make myself at home with a proper cup of black tea. Throughout the afternoon, staff and volunteers stepped into the kitchen for a warm-up and a chat. The simple ritual immediately made me feel like a member of the family. The people at Fort York know how to welcome volunteers and visitors alike.

Warning: It’s about to get very British in here. Source.

Lesson 2: Food doesn’t have to be complicated to be delicious. 

After the workshop, I followed the tantalizing smells over to the historic kitchen, where Emily Cooper was handing out samples of blackcaps. When she said the name, it sounded like some sort of mushroom dish to me. Nope!

A woman in early 19th century period dress serves slicees of baked apples from a piepan.
Definitely not mushrooms! Photo of historic interpreter Emily Cooper by the author.
Emily took whole apples, cored them, cut them in half, and placed them cut-side-down in a pie pan with lemon zest, lemon juice, orange flower water, and sugar. They baked in the bread oven until the skin crisped and the middle soaked up the aromatic citrus flavors. If you want to try baking blackcaps at home, follow the timeless wisdom of Hannah Glasse from The Art of Cookery Make Plain and Easy. Her best-selling cookbook in the 18th century have become favourites for historic cooks today. 

“Cut twelve large apples into Halves, and take out the Cores, place them on a thin Patty-pan, or Mazarine, as close together as they can lye, with the flat Side downwards, squeeze Lemon in, two spoonfuls of Orange-flower water, and pour over them; shred some Lemon-peel fine and throw over them, and grate fine Sugar all over; set them in a quick [hot] Oven, and Half an Hour will do them.  When you send them to Table throw fine sugar all over the dish.”
 
A warm thank you to everyone at the Fort, especially Bridget, for your hospitality! Everyone should volunteer at their local museum--you never know what you could learn. Halloween will find me back at the Fort for a spooky Lantern Tour. Hope to see some of you there.
Apples on cutting board
Autumn is definitely the best season for food... except for all the others. Photo by the author. 

Work cited:

Glasse, H. (1748). To make Black Caps. P. 168. In The art of cookery, made plain and easy; which far exceeds any thing of the kind ever yet published. 3rd ed. Gale. University of Toronto Libraries. Retrieved from: find.galegroup.com.myaccess.library.utoronto.ca/ecco/infomark.do?&source=gale&prodId=ECCO&userGroupName=utoronto_main&tabID=T001&docId=CW108061039&type=multipage&contentSet=ECCOArticles&version=1.0&docLevel=FASCIMILE

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