The sleigh had tipped and the horse had bolted, and our band of weary travelers was left standing by the side of the road. Luckily, as we huddled just outside the little town of Wheatfield, our plight was discovered by local dairy farmer Jacob Meredith, who sent his wife, Hannah, to fetch us, feed us, and amuse us while he saw to our sleigh.
At least that was the setup for an evening of hearty fare and entertainment circa 1848 at Hale Farm & Village's Farmhouse Supper program. This is the third year the living history museum in the Cuyahoga Valley has served up massive portions of food and fun for hungry, historically minded guests, and the three-hour interactive event couldn't be more memorable.
A lantern-guided trudge across frosty fields took us to the Meredith house, where daughter Margaret was hard at work in the candle-lit kitchen. Our group pitched in with the chores, churning butter and mashing spuds before heading to the front parlor, where a long, damask-covered table waited before a flickering fire. The rustic, family-style meal included Scotch barley soup, roasted beef, fricasseed chicken, corn pudding, creamed peas, mashed potatoes, pickled beets, hard-boiled eggs, and thick slices of warm Worcester loaf (a dense, egg-enriched bread, baked in a decorative Turk's-head mold) that we topped with spoonfuls of fragrant apple butter. Meantime, conversation covered everything from 19th-century housekeeping to the problems of runaway slaves. After dinner, Mrs. Meredith took us upstairs for a peek into her unheated bedchambers, where our breath formed icy clouds. Then, back to the table for hot coffee, cranberry-apple pie, and ginger-and-rosewater-scented cookies, followed by hilarious parlor games. The evening ended far too soon, when we were told our horse had been found and our sleigh repaired, and we were free to continue our journey. A 10-minute walk took us back to the Visitors Center and the 21st century, but the illusion of having spent an evening in the 1800s stayed with us for days.
Food historian Amy Halsey, who oversees the Farmhouse Suppers while portraying the fictional Mrs. Meredith, says the program is a vehicle for exploring the history of the Western Reserve. We say history, schmistory. This is fun, pure and simple.
The program continues Friday and Saturday nights, through March 30, beginning at 6 p.m. Admission is $50 per person; reservations and full payment are required in advance by calling 330-666-3711.