Wow, did I have a great experience on Saturday! My husband and I visited "The Landing" an 1897 restored village on the banks of the Minnesota River. It was living history day and every home and business had costumed actors living as folks did back then. The recreated town of Eagle Creek was authentic in every detail - no reproductions here ( I might add that Eagle Creek is the setting of my next book "The Secret Society of Sugar and Spice"out in March 2013!).
You will recall that last time we talked about how cooking was anything but simple in the nineteenth century. Well, I had the pleasure of watching the women of Eagle Creek in action at their cookstoves. It was eighty-five degrees outside and humid. Inside those kitchens it had to have been approaching ninety-five. All of the cookstoves had wood fires blazing away. One lady was making a yellow cake in the oven. A cream filling was cooling on the counter covered with cheesecloth to keep out the flies (no screens). A heavy cast iron skillet simmered on another ladie's stove. When she lifted the lid, the delicious aroma of hot German potato salad filled the air: links of ring bologna, potatoes, onions, saurkraut. Mouthwatering!
In this picture I took you will see two bricks on the floor. These were used to create a shelf in the oven so two pans could be in there at once. Notice also on the floor opposite the bricks is an iron for ironing clothes. These were heated on the stove before being hefted onto the ironing board. Those suckers were heavy! Behind the stove you will see the cast iron skillets - also very heavy. Housewives in the nineteenth century had muscles - no need to go to the gym (as if there was such a thing for ladies back then). The whole experience was so real, I almost felt I could see the heroine of "Big Stone Heart", Carrie Smith at work in the orphanage kitchen. Truly - I had goosebumps!