The romance of the past – infused with a strong dose of reality – comes to life, this summer, at the Wyckoff Farmhouse Museum.
Four evenings of open-hearth cooking – done by Carolina Capehart the way it was done in the 1820s – are highlights of the historic house’s Summer Thursday Evenings, which are designed to provide area residents with an interesting and informative peek into history, free of charge.
Capehart, who hails from Indiana, got her training in open hearth cooking at that state’s Conner Prairie living history museum. “Before I got there,” she noted, “my microwave was my best friend. I had never made a pie from scratch. I learned to cook at Conner Prairie, done 1836 style.”
Her efforts at the Wyckoff House focus on the period beginning about 1820, and she insists on using only ingredients that would have been available at that time, with era-appropriate equipment.
“My goal is to do things as historically as possible,” explained Capehart. “Some ingredients are no longer available, and to use a piece of equipment that didn’t exist till 100 years later doesn’t make any sense.”
The cooking events aren’t simply demonstrations, Capehart added. “They are participatory. You don’t come and watch me cook. I put you to work, and you do interesting things,”using such implements as a bentwood whisk or a nutmeg grater, or wielding a mortar and pestle to crack peppercorns. “When you participate, you can appreciate what you’re eating more because, hey, I’ve helped make this,” she stressed.
Learning about hearth cooking not only gives visitors a taste of the past, but also lets them reflect on the “cyclical” nature of food preferences, said Capehart.
“Everybody has to eat, whether now or two centuries ago,” she remarked. “They made use of what was available. There was stuff available to them that no longer is available, and tastes change. In the name of progress, things move in different directions.”
Now, with the interest in locally grown food and slow food, Capehart added, “In some ways, they are trying to go back 200 years, but 200 years ago, they were more interested in progress, how to make things better, so it’s almost impossible to have a non-altered item, no matter what it is.”
This is the second year Capehart has been demonstrating hearth cooking at the Wyckoff House. “It was so successful last year,” she noted, “that they asked me to come back.”
The evenings of open hearth cooking are only part of the Thursday evening fun, this summer.
The Summer Thursdays begin on July 3rd with a Cellar-to-Attic tour that starts at 5:30 p.m.
On July 10th, there will be the first of four Fireside Feasts, featuring Dodgers ‘n Johnny Cakes, with cooking beginning at 5 p.m.
The museum will be open on Thursday evening, July 17th, with an event to be announced.
On July 24th, there will be a garden workshop, starting at 5 p.m.
Then, on July 31st, there will be the second Fireside Feast, entitled A Pudding or Two, with cooking commencing at 5 p.m.
The third Fireside Feast will be held on August 7th, and will focus on Garden Goodies, starting at 5 p.m.
On August 14th, beginning at 5 p.m., the New York Stickball League will conduct an exhibition game and show visitors how to play this old Brooklyn favorite street sport.
Then, on August 21st, there will be the final Fireside Feast, Gone Fishin’, with cooking commencing at 5 p.m.
Finishing up the series will be a second Cellar-to-Attic Tour on August 28th, beginning at 5:30 p.m.
Said Maryann Feeney, the executive director of the museum, at 5816 Clarendon Road, “We want people to come in and enjoy themselves on a nice summer evening.”
In particular, she noted, given high gas prices and the general state of the economy, the Wyckoff Farmhouse Museum is encouraging people to visit as part of a Brooklyn “stay-cation,” whether they come on Thursday evenings, when entrance to the museum is free, or during the daytime hours, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday, from May to October.
During the regular daytime hours, the regular entrance fee is $5 for adults, $3 for seniors and students, and free for children 10 and under.
“It’s a perfect opportunity for children to come in and play with colonial games,” Feeney remarked. “In these hard economic times, families can come here, bring lunch, and for less than $15, be able to participate in the entire park.”
For further information, call 718-629-5400 or log onto www. wyckoffass