Seagrove, NC - On Saturday, November 11, Westmoore Pottery will present "Stepping Back in Time:  Hearth Cookery."  This year experienced hearth cooks Karen Becker of Staunton, Virginia and Carolyn Dilda of the Catawba Valley area of North Carolina will visit for the day and together prepare historical dishes in the large fireplace at Westmoore Pottery, located near Seagrove, NC.

"I’m excited to have both Karen and Carolyn coming to cook." says potter Mary Farrell. "The two of them possess a wealth of information about 17th, 18th, and 19th-century foodways and between them have explored food cultures as varied as Scotch-Irish, British-American, and West African.”

Karen Becker spent many years in the living history field, working at two different sites in South Carolina and at Old Salem in Winston-Salem, NC before moving to the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia to work as Costumer/Interpreter at the Frontier Culture Museum in Staunton. Now retired, she still enjoys hearth cooking and a variety of domestic skills and is especially fond of dairying activities.  With her varied background and interests, Karen is definitely one who understands food culture from the field or the animal all the way to the table!

Carolyn Dilda is one of the founding members of the very active Historical Cooking Guild of the Catawba Valley, a group which can often be found cooking at the James K. Polk State Historic Site in Pineville, North Carolina.  An interest in educating others about early foodways has led Carolyn and the rest of the guild to hold events for everyone from elementary school children to workshops for other seasoned and accomplished hearth cooks.

Both Karen and Carolyn are active members of The Association for Living History, Farm and Agriculture Museums (ALHFAM) and through ALHFAM continue to do workshops and share their considerable skills and knowledge with others.

In keeping with the year 2017 being Westmoore Pottery's 40th Anniversary, Karen decided that rather than working with a particular culture’s food receipts (the old term for recipes), she and Carolyn would instead highlight their favorite historical dishes to cook using pottery from Westmoore Pottery!  This will result in a real mix of foods from various cultures and from various historical time periods!

 So far their ambitious menu, all cooked in the fireplace, includes Egg and Bacon Pie, Cup Cakes, Gumbis (or Gumbistopfel), Tomato Catsup, Jelly, Pound Cake, Thatched House Pie, and maybe a tart or a pudding.  All use receipts (recipes) from the 18th and 19th centuries.

Mary Farrell of Westmoore Pottery is well known for making replica historical pottery. Westmoore’s work has been used to furnish numerous historic buildings including kitchens of Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia, a dairy at Royall House and Slave Quarters in Massachusetts, the kitchen of Tryon Palace at New Bern, and many more historic sites. 

“Most often I am called on to make pottery that would have been used in 18th-century kitchens and dairies,” explains Mary Farrell “since those are the rooms with hands-on use of pottery.”

 Karen Becker and Carolyn Dilda will use Westmoore’s wares in cooking, to demonstrate how various pottery pieces were used in the 18th and early 19th centuries.  Pots used will range from the more common bowls, pans, and plates to the lesser known pottery pipkins, skillets, and cake forms. 

 To add to the day, Mill Creek Forge, located next door to Westmoore Pottery, will also be “stepping back in time” with craftspeople demonstrating blacksmithing, weaving, spinning, natural dyeing of wool, woodworking, and candle making.  Blacksmith Jerry Darnell of Mill Creek Forge will have several visiting blacksmiths along with himself.  Jerry is especially excited that his old wooden loom, now set up in a room just for weaving, will be used that day by several area weavers.

 The Hearth Cookery programs are always among Westmoore Pottery’s most popular special events, and attract a wide and varied audience who learn about a part of history that people sometimes forget about -- the history of foods, cooking skills, and the daily tasks of those who lived long ago.  Food and its preparation is a vehicle through which we can learn much about the lives of our ancestors.  These programs interest many different types of people – history buffs, cooks, pottery enthusiasts, teachers, re-enactors, and lifetime learners.

 Westmoore Pottery will be open from 9 am to 5 pm for the cooking program on Saturday, and Karen and Carolyn will be cooking from 10 am to 1 pm and from 2 pm to 5 pm.  Visitors may come at any point during the day, and come back as often as they like to see the various foods being cooked.  No admission fee will be charged and all visitors are welcome.  As the foods are cooked, visitors can sample the finished results.

 “We sometimes have people who stay the whole day to watch, ask questions, and learn,” says Mary, “though people are welcome to just come and go as they like. You’ll enjoy meeting both these cooks!”

Westmoore Pottery is located at 4622 Busbee Road, just off Highway 705 halfway between the small towns of Seagrove and Robbins, in North Carolina.