Food News

The Newport Historical Society Dives Into Our Culinary Past

Find out what Rhode Islanders ate in the 18th century with the new Newport Eats initiative

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There always seems to be a new food trend: sliders, deconstructed desserts, cake pops, ramen, food as art. But what about the trends that have passed? The ones that perhaps have informed how we currently eat. What happened to those? The Newport Historical Society has taken on exploring these long forgotten trends with their Newport Eats initiative. Through public lectures, exhibits and other programming, Newport Eats jumps headfirst into Newport’s culinary past.

On February 18 from 10am-1pm, they’re hosting Colonial Food For Thought: A Newport Eats Living History Event. During the event, costumed interpreters will describe the struggles colonists faced in 1777 during the British blockade of Newport. The town, used to sophisticated goods from around the world, was forced to eat local, and they had to be creative given the harsh winter and war-torn atmosphere.

They will talk about tea and pickled items, soldiers’ rations and spices, chocolate and oysters. As for other items colonists would have eaten, “Roast chicken would have been popular,” says Manager of Public Outreach and Living History Elizabeth Sulock. “Ham, greens, corn, apples, pear and pudding, too. Pudding to them is different from what we consider pudding. This would have been heavier, with more meat.” Any bread that was made at the time contained no preservatives, so when it became dry and stale they would turn it into breadcrumbs for puddings. Pies were also very common, like a mincemeat pie. “A special occasion food, which we have documentation of, was turtle. They would make turtle soup out of it,” she explains. “These turtles would have been imported from the West Indies. A sea captain might have brought one back with him and shared it with everyone. The party that ensued was a Turtle Frolic.”

Elizabeth is hoping that anyone who comes to the event gets a better understanding of how colonists lived in Newport. “They say that history is a foreign speaking country,” she explains. Through hands on lectures and exhibits of the culture at that time, the hope is that folks will take away little pieces of information to bridge the language gap. Colony House, Washington Square, Newport. 401-846-0813