I was back at Old Sturbridge Village recently – not for recipes, mind you. I learned my lesson about those after the gingersnap debacle. No, this time I was showing my mother-in-law around, and if you visit, we’ll probably take you there too. It’s one of my favorite places to go. I’d move there if I could.
As usual, the interpreters were out and about, doing authentic 19th century tasks. The blacksmith was working with his new sharpening stone, the women in the Bixby House were making an herb pie (something like a quiche), and the ladies in the Deacon’s House were making cookies. Yes, cookies. And their cookies looked nothing like my gingersnaps.
“How much sugar are in those?” I asked suspiciously, because their cookies actually looked tasty.
“Oh, I’m not sure,” the young woman with the rolling pin answered. “Two thirds of a cup, I think?” She had rolled the dough out on a farm table and was now cutting the dough into little disks with a tin cutter (made at the tinsmith’s shop – just around the corner). Her assistant opened the tin reflector oven in front of the fire and showed me more cookies baking. They looked perfect. I was mildly annoyed.
It’s one thing to fail to reproduce something from a past century. You don’t feel so bad. You can tell yourself that those skills have vanished from the collective conscience and that, anyway, you know how to drive a car and that’s something no one in the 1830’s could do. But to walk into an authentic 1830’s kitchen and see a girl younger than you – a girl dressed head to toe in period garb – producing perfect cookies from an 1830’s recipe using only a tin cookie cutter and a reflective oven – well, that shoots down your whole collective conscience argument in one quick blast. And, oh, by the way, that same girl probably drove to the Village that morning, so there goes your “I can drive a car,” boast. It’s all rather humbling.
But the worst part came when her assistant said, “You should see her hair.” Meaning the girl with the rolling pin. Her hair.
I looked at her head. I didn’t see anything remarkable. All of her hair was tucked up under a cloth cap. What hair? What did her assistant mean?
And then the young woman blushed a little and took off her cap. And there on her head was the most perfect massing of braids I’ve ever seen. Her hair was was a lovely pale red color too. “Blast!” I thought.
“Is that all your own hair?” I asked, hoping it wasn’t.
She blushed again and nodded.
“It reaches about to here,” she explained, indicating her upper thigh.
“Can I take a picture?” I asked.
Again, she nodded.
I asked her if she’d done the braiding herself.
“Yes,” she replied, looking embarrassed.
Blast, blast, blast!
“It takes about thirty minutes,” she added.
Aha! I had her there! My hair had only taken me five minutes that morning.
At last, a reason to feel superior!
I will point out, though, that no one at Sturbridge Village that day asked to photograph my hair. I’m presuming that was because my hair looked as though it had only taken five minutes to do. Enough said.
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