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DELAWARE COUNTY, Pa. (CBS) – In Delaware County, Meisha Johnson sees what it took to make a meal in the 18th century at the Barns-Brinton House.
“This is so reminiscent of those olden day houses-slash-cabins,” said Meisha Johnson.
“We are in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, and we’re in the 1714 Barns-Brinton House,” said Michael Connolly of the Chadds Ford Historical Society, which helps preserve this piece of the past just off Route 1.
“We’re a little over 300 years old,” Michael said. “This house was built as a tavern, so it served people that were traveling between Maryland and Philadelphia, so people could stop in for a drink, stay the night, get some food and stable their horses.”
At the Barns-Brinton House, the kitchen still works, and Sandy Johnson steps in as the hearth cook, in full colonial gear.
“I love your outfit so much!” Meisha said. “You look so great.”
“White linen covered our bodies. They didn’t bathe very much,” Sandy said. “I have a shift, petticoat, jacket, multiple hats. And then I have my kerchief and my apron, and I have my pocket under here for all my little goodies,” she said as she lifted her apron to show the fabric bag underneath.
Sandy showed us how the kitchen worked back then. “It is so easy in a modern kitchen. You don’t see a spigot, a faucet, there’s no sink here.”
But Sandy is going to cook a simple and familiar dish discovered in an 18th-century cookbook. “We’re using a recipe from John Farley’s book and it’s called ‘Maccaroni.'”
Once the pasta is cooked, it’s time to add John Farley’s ingredients.
“We have cream, which would be very common in the 18th century, and we have butter, which would be rolled and then floured, so it would give a little bit more consistency to the mac.”
“That’s interesting!” Meisha said.
“And then we have Parmesan cheese.”
There’s no broiler, so Sandy uses a salamander, or sometimes even a hearth shovel, to toast the top. “You leave that in the fire. It gets red hot. You hold that over the macaroni, and it sort of gets the cheese bubbly.”
Once the dish was done, Sandy offered Meisha a colonial-era fork.
“Oh my gosh, it’s the real deal,” Meisha said. “This is the real fork.”
Sandy notes that the pasta “picks up that mesquite smoky taste.”
“Yes,” Meisha said. “I definitely tasted that when I tried a bite.”
You can take a tour of the Barns-Brinton House on Saturdays starting Memorial Day weekend until Labor Day, and you’ll appreciate just how much easier life is today.
The Chadds Ford Historical Society runs the Barns-Brinton House at 630 Baltimore Pike, Chadds Ford, PA 19317. You can find out more about it and the Historical Society’s other properties at http://www.chaddsfordhistory.org/history/our-houses/barns-brinton-house/.
The recipe for “Maccaroni,” as the book spelled it, takes a little deciphering, since units of measure were different then. For example, the recipe calls for “a gill of cream,” roughly half a cup. The recipe lists butter and Parmesan but not how much.
“Having boiled four ounces of maccaroni till it be quite tender, lay it on a sieve to drain, and then put it into a tossing-pan, with about a gill of cream, and a piece of butter rolled in flour. Boil it five minutes, pour it on a plate, lay Parmesan cheese toasted all over it, and, as it soon grows cold, send it up on a water-plate.”