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Sturbridge is Stayin' Alive!

Time to take a break
As I sit here contemplating what to write, I am aroused by the sound of cattle in the corner of my mind. These tough customers were ready to eat and were making everyone aware of it. Thanks to that trusty time machine that I built a few dispathes back I have landed in the 19th century in a little villiage in Massachusetts near Oxford called Sturbridge Village. Amid the tall luscious trees and cool crisp air stands a testament to the early America.

Teddy what are you doing here?
Rise and shine! If you want to get anything done in Sturbridge Village, you must beat the earliest bird to her worm. Life here was pretty simple. Most people in the town were able to sustain themselves on the plots of land on which their families lived. While many of us are scrambling to check our email, men and young boys were out tending to the fields, and women were involved in domestic chores, like making bread or sewing clothes. All worked towards making the house run smoothly. Today I helped the head of the family I have become acquainted with on this trip put the yoke on a cow. I held the cow down while my new friend got him ready to plow the bean fields. These cows have quite an odor! But, I can't say that too loud because I think the cow can tell what I am talking about. Those horns on his head look very dangerous.

After my narrow escape from the clutches of the suspicious cows, I headed over to the Tin Shop. These gentlemen worked for a private company that makes tin for sale. They make coffee jugs, eating utensils and even some tools. I had to be careful not to disturb the process, as it is a sensitive one. Bookmaking is the same story. Sarah, a young girl that I met in the print shop, works very hard every day to produce as many books as she can. This is one of the jobs she is allowed to do with the boys, because the two sexes are separated as much as possible before they are of marrying age. She works long hours, and is paid about a dollar for every book that she produces. Individual books take around 3 hours, and are bound over a period of about a week. It seems like such a boring job, but when I asked her if she liked it, she told me it was much better than her previous job of shoveling poop all day!

The printer is mightier than the sword!
Most of this life did not consist of such modern activities, printing presses still could not compete with pressing nuts. New England was the most densly populated region in America at this time, and life was good. No one in this region ever went hungry for plenty of food existed. New Englanders were big meat eaters. I got a taste of a cookie recipe more than a hundred years old! I snapped a bag of date cookies. Mmmm....so soft, warm and chewy. Now where is that cow? I need some milk. My sweet tooth must have been working over-time because I soon wandered upon the Freeman Farm where the lady of the house was in the middle of her baking process.

Toss the cornmeal to test the temperture!
The oven was the true master of the kitchen. The lady of the house was at the beck and call of the oven, because the changing temperatures determined exactly when to put in the different foods. In order to test the temperature, a handful of cornmeal was thrown in to see what happens.

Women usually baked twice a week, and those days were set aside specifically for this activity. I even learned a thing or two about baking. I found this in a book called The Frugal Housewife, For Those Not Ashamed of Economy. Right from the kitchen table, I was able to browse recipes such as Egg Gruel.

For stomach problems this would do the trick. You would quickly recover by drinking half of it while warm and the other half in 2 hours. Would you all like to try some Calf's Foot Jelly? Ask you parents first, but I don't think I have to worry about you trying this one at home. Boil four feet (calf feet, not human) in a gallon of water, strain and cool, skim off the fat and YOUR PARENTS should add to the jelly (also known as fat) 1pt. of wine, then 1/2 lb. of sugar, six egg whites, the juice of 4 lemons, boil 10 minutes and strain into the glasses. You can line the glasses with the lemon peels if you wish. I won't even tell you all about the pudding made with a cow's stomach!

So what of you are meat lovers? Well, Madame gave me a short recipe that I believe I will try at home. The villagers were big fans of roasts. Her family's favorite was a roast made with Jamaica pepper, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. I thought to myself, where does one get Jamaica pepper in New England?

Sturbridge was actually the recipient of many goods, such as tea sent from China by way of Boston Harbor. Yet they were able to grow many of their own smaller more valuable crops right in the village. Herbs for instance, proved invaluable to the people of Sturbridge. In nineteenth century Sturbridge there were no big hospitals, so they relied on the earth to be their mother and healer. Oh, from such humble beginnings this country did spring forth (at least in this sense). Is it not strange just how much we abuse our mother earth in these days and times, when it is this mother that provided for this country when it could not provide for itself? Sturbridge Village reminds you of that time. A time far away, but never to be forgotten.


Please email me at: kevin1@ustrek.org


Links to Other Dispatches

Irene - I sing Walt Whitman, the poet electric
Nick - Sold into hell
Irene - Harpooning, blubbering and having a whale of a time
Neda - Shake your contra thing
Making a Difference - A death row plea for color-blind justice
Kevin - Face to face with racism
Nick - The road to Harpers Ferry
Kevin - James Fenimore Cooper was writing wrongs