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June 17, 2009

"Foodways in the 18th Century" symposium gives guests a taste of what it was like to dine in the colonial capital

Learn about the very best of fine dining in early Virginia during Colonial Williamsburg’s first Foodways in the 18th Century conference from Nov. 8-10 at the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum. The conference features the culinary arts and dining customs of the colony’s most prestigious households.

On Sunday, Nov. 8, Ivan Day, British and European culinary historian, will give the keynote address, “Elegant Dining in the 18th Century.”

The program on Monday, Nov. 9, will focus on planning and cooking an 18th-century dinner: selecting recipes, gathering ingredients and preparing dishes. Presenters for the morning program include: Frank Clark, Colonial Williamsburg supervisor of Historic Foodways, “Governor Botetourt’s Inventory”; Dennis Cotner, Colonial Williamsburg Historic Foodways specialist, “William Sparrow’s Accounts”; Joanne Bowen, Colonial Williamsburg zooarchaeological curator, “A Zooarchaeological Perspective on Williamsburg’s Market”; Wesley Greene, Colonial Williamsburg garden historian, “John Randolph’s Treatise: A Gentleman’s Account of Virginia’s Gardening”; and Frank Clark, “The Dinner Menu.”

At 11 a.m., Clark and members of this Historic Foodways staff will give a multimedia presentation on the preparation of an 18th-century meal. Afterward, lunch comprised of 18th-century dishes will be served at a Historic Area tavern.

On Tuesday, Nov. 10, the program turns to dining itself. Presenters for the morning include: Robert Leath, chief curator and vice president, collections and research, Old Salem Museums and Gardens, Winston-Salem, N.C., “The 18th-century Dining Room Experience: A Curatorial Perspective”; Suzanne Findlen Hood, Colonial Williamsburg’s associate curator of ceramics and glass, and Kimberly Smith Ivey, associate curator of textiles and historic interiors, “Set for Success: The 18th-century Table”; and Cathy Hellier, Colonial Williamsburg historian, and Historic Trades milliners and mantua-makers, “Cleanse not your teeth with the Table Cloth”: Dressing, Dining, and Etiquette at the Gentry Table.”
Program options offered at 2:30-3:30 p.m. and 4-5 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday include:

  • “A Tour of the Dining Room and Kitchen at the Peyton Randolph House.” Curators will discuss how the Randolphs’ dining room furnishings, kitchen utensils and tools were researched; how original and reproduction items were obtained; and the procedures used to set up these exhibition and working spaces.
  • “Sipping and Supping in 18th-century Style,” DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum. Enjoy a guided tour of the museum’s collection of 18th-century ceramic and silver dining accoutrements.
  • “The Urban Garden in 18th-century Williamsburg.” This tour describes the plants, tools, and techniques of the gentleman gardener and provides garden tips for the modern gardener.
  • “Making 18th-century Chocolate,” Governor’s Palace Kitchen. Learn how raw cocoa beans are processed into chocolate and were used in 18th-century cooking.
  • “Making 18th-century Beer,” Governor’s Palace Scullery. This program demonstrates the process of brewing beer as it was practiced in the 18th century.
  • “Making 18th-century Ice Cream,” Wythe House Laundry.
  • “The Archaeological Record and the Butcher’s Block: Cutting Meat in the 18th Century,” Wythe House Kitchen.
  • “Presumption and Consumption: Archaeological Evidence of Drinking and Dining at Charlton’s Coffeehouse,” Department of Archaeological Research. Learn what archaeological material culture reveals about diet and consumption at a 1760s Williamsburg coffeehouse.
  • “Livestock in 18th-century Williamsburg.” This walking tour examines Colonial Williamsburg’s rare breeds program and promotes several types of livestock that were well known in the 18th century, supplying Historic Foodways with eggs, meat and dairy products.

    At 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 10, guests are treated to a banquet interpreting 18th-century food for the 21st century. Rhys Lewis, executive chef, Colonial Williamsburg presents program, “Garden to Hearth: An 18th-century-inspired Menu,” at the Williamsburg Lodge. Thomas Jefferson, portrayed by Colonial Williamsburg interpreter Bill Barker, discusses “Virginia Food and Wine – Garden to Hearth in Early Virginia.”

    On Wednesday, Nov. 11, two optional workshops will be held:

  • “Cookery Books in Special Collections.” The Rockefeller Library’s collection includes the first book of cookery published in the British colonies—Eliza Smith’s The Compleat housewife (1742)—as well as the first book of southern regional cookery—Mary Randolph’s The Virginia house-wife (1824). See these important sources of research for Colonial Williamsburg’s foodways program. John D. Rockefeller Jr. Library.
  • “Down Hearth Cooking Workshop.” Cook with the Colonial Williamsburg Historic Foodways staff in the Peyton Randolph Kitchen. This workshop is designed to give participants a chance to try their hand at down hearth cooking in a Historic Area kitchen. Class attendees will prepare a variety of 18th-century recipes using period equipment and learn firsthand the work involved in cooking for the 18th-century gentry. The workshop culminates with a sampling of the dishes prepared during the class.

    Registration is $295 per person and includes the opening reception, four coffee breaks, a tavern lunch, reception and dinner, presentations proposed in the program and a Colonial Williamsburg admission pass good for the duration of the conference. A 50 percent discount is offered to museum professionals.

    Preregistration and payment in full are required. Payment can be made in the form of check, or charged to American Express, Discover, Visa and MasterCard.

    There are four easy ways to register for the Historic Foodways conference:

  • 1. Online:
  • 2. Phone: 1-800-603-0948, Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. until 5 p.m.
  • 3. Fax: (757) 565-8921
  • 4. Mail: The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Conferences, Forums and Workshops, P.O. Box 1776, Williamsburg, Va. 23187-1776.

    Special hotel rates are available at The Resort Collection of Colonial Williamsburg for registrants. Hotel rates are for single or double occupancy, per night and do not include applicable taxes. For room reservations call 1-800-261-9530, Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. (ET).

    Distinctive dining options are offered throughout the Colonial Williamsburg Resort Collection and in the Historic Area. From a classically elegant setting to a more casual atmosphere to signature tavern dining experiences, each of Colonial Williamsburg’s restaurants and taverns is within steps of the conference facilities. Dining reservations can be made by calling 1-800-261-9530, Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. until 5 p.m.

    The Spa of Colonial Williamsburg offers a full menu of services. A team of world-renowned experts have collaborated to create a spa that exudes Southern charm, harmonizes with its historical surroundings, reflects its colonial heritage, and honors traditions of health and wellness throughout American culture. To make your reservation, please call 1-800-688-6479.

    Established in 1926, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is the not-for-profit educational institution that preserves and operates the restored 18th-century Revolutionary capital of Virginia as a town-sized living history museum, telling the inspirational stories of our nation’s founding men and women. Within the restored and reconstructed buildings, historic interpreters, attired as colonial men and women from slaves to shopkeepers to soldiers, relate stories of colonial Virginia society and culture – stories of our journey to become Americans – while historic trades people research, demonstrate and preserve the 18th-century world of work and industry. As Colonial Williamsburg interprets life in the time of the American Revolution guests interact with history through “Revolutionary City®” – a dramatic live street theater presentation.

    Williamsburg is located in Virginia’s Tidewater region, 20 minutes from Newport News, within an hour’s drive of Richmond and Norfolk, and 150 miles south of Washington, D.C., off Interstate 64. For more information about Colonial Williamsburg, call 1-800-HISTORY or visit Colonial Williamsburg’s Web site at

    Media Contact:
    Penna Rogers
    (757) 220-7121

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