Radio Field Trip: Hearthside Cooking in Tamworth Village

Nov 21, 2018

For this week’s Radio Field Trip, we’re prepping for the Thanksgiving holiday by visiting the Remick Country Doctor Museum & Farm for a cooking class.

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(Editor's note: we highly recommend listening to this story.)

Fall has left early this year in Tamworth Village. As I look outside the window of the farmhouse at the Remick museum, I see a blanket of snow covering the fields. So I inch a little closer to the fireplace.

But this roaring fire isn’t just for warmth. A handful of children and their parents have gathered here today to prepare a traditional meal using the floor of the fireplace – or the hearth. It’s the same way families would make their food back in the mid-1800s.

Dawn Evans is the program manager here at the Remick museum and farm.

“So they get to cook with fire and coals, which is a little bit different for most of them,” Dawn says. “And they get to get dirty. So you know, you get to play with your food a little bit.”

Dawn holds these hearthside cooking classes for homeschooled children every month, and also leads classes for adults.

It’s a chance to learn how people cooked and lived over 150 years ago.

“A lot of the tools that they would be using are the same as they would have used back then, and a lot of the ingredients were the same as well,” she says.

Today’s meal includes biscuits, traditional New England soup, roast chicken and fruit crisp.

The room is filled with so many delightful smells – the wood from the fire, sweet apples, and spicy garlic.

Eight-year-old Maggie Fixler from Epsom is tasked with making rosemary roasted potatoes. She mixes the ingredients together in a large pot.

“It’s really fun because I like being in the kitchen making things, and this is really fun doing it,” she says.

Maggie’s mother Amber Fixler says she likes to take her to the Remick museum and farm throughout the year so she can experience how people used to live first hand.

“We love homeschooling our kids, and we love giving them an opportunity to learn something they might not be able to learn otherwise,” Amber says. “And I particularly have a personal affection for the old fashioned way of doing things.”

The old country homestead that makes up the museum and farm belonged to the Remick family for about 200 years. Now, it serves as both a working farm and a place where people can come to learn about rural New England history.

It’s time for Maggie’s pot of potatoes to go in the hearth for cooking. Dawn Evans teaches her how to make a burner by piling coals in front of the fire.

Maggie carefully shovels some coals out of the fire and makes a heap on the fireplace floor.

“This is really hard,” Maggie says.

“It is hot and heavy. It’s hard work,” Dawn says.

The pot of potatoes is now cooking away on Maggie’s burner.

June O’Donal, another museum educator, gathers the children around a large table to teach them how to make butter the old fashioned way.

They take turns churning the heavy cream.

Nine-year-old Anna Smith has come from Wolfeboro for today’s class. She says this kind of cooking is lots of hard work.

“Imagine doing this every day your entire life,” Anna says. “I’d get tired.”

I ask what goes into making great butter.

“Good, heavy cream and lots of work, right?” June says.

“And love,” Anna says. “That’s the most important ingredient.”

And after all that hard work, the children will get to sit together and enjoy their meal.