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Open hearth days offer taste of the past

September 27, 1999|By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

BOONSBORO - If 19th-century potter John Bowman traveled through time to Boonsboro every fourth Sunday from March to October, he might not recognize much, but at least the food would be familiar.

Each month historians Denny and Shawen Warrenfeltz plan and prepare historically accurate meals at the late potter's North Main Street log home, which has been turned into a museum.

The couple provided a demonstration of traditional dishes such as sausages fried in apple cider, baked yams, acorn squash and apple fritters cooked over an open hearth last weekend.

Members of the 5th Virginia Regiment of the Stonewall Brigade, a Civil War re-enacting unit were on hand Sunday to discuss the life of Confederate soldiers and provided a display of artifacts.

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Using some old family recipes, some found in books and others he has devised, Denny Warrenfeltz creates a different menu for each Sunday's demonstration.

"It allows me to combine all of my interests," said Warrenfeltz ,who said he enjoys authentic food, crafts and pottery of that period.

Most of the ingredients come from the Warrenfeltz's garden at the rear of the property. There, he grows spices, watermelon, broccoli, artichokes and other fruits and vegetables. A few tobacco plants are also present, since residents in the 1800s would likely have been able to grow their own in Washington County, he said.

The authentic German-style raised garden uses a method of building up planting beds about 6 inches off the ground for ease in tilling and harvesting.

The meals are prepared throughout the day in the museum's small kitchen. After starting a fire in the fireplace, Warrenfeltz uses the coals to create a "Dutch oven."

Using a small shovel, he drags the glowing embers out to the hearth from under the metal grate that holds the burning logs. The food is then covered with the coals.

Most of the dishes take about 45 minutes to an hour to cook, said Warrenfeltz, who said he does all his cooking at the museum and not at home.

The smells of the food and ash fill the tiny kitchen, which can become uncomfortably hot from the fire. Warrenfeltz appears oblivious to the heat and becomes animated when talking about the preparation of each item.

He acquired his open-hearth culinary skills during a four-day course in 1998 at Landis Valley Museum near Lancaster, Pa., he said.

A Civil War enthusiast, Terry Solomos of Boonsboro, brought her daughters, Stephanie, 7, and Rachel, 11, to the museum Sunday to sample some of Warrenfeltz's cooking and to soak up some culture.

"We love it. It's very informative and a great way to spend an afternoon," she said.

On a previous visit, the family got a chance to try some lemon cakes, she said.

"I like the food, and it's a fun way to learn," said Rachel.

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