Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Vermont Reform School Thanksgiving Dinner of 1867.

Yesterday I gave you details of a grand Thanksgiving dinner menu from 1863. Today we stay in the same decade, but find out about how an entirely different class of society celebrated the occasion.

The Vermont Reform School (later the Vermont Industrial School) was set up in 1866 to aid in the reformation of juvenile offenders. An extract from the journal of the Superintendent describes the events of the day:

November 28,1867—Thanksgiving.—Until twelve o'clock, work and school as usual. At twelve the work was arrested. The boys had till one o'clock to play ball in the yard. At one they were taken to the washroom, to prepare for dinner. For dinner we had: First course, chicken pie — side dishes, turnip and potatoes; second course, mince pie; dessert, raisins and apples. The table was common—the officers, their families, and the boys all eating together. Forty-one boys, members of the school, three former pupils returned as guests, forty-four boys in all; officers and their families, eleven; total at the table, fifty-five. The officers were seated at convenient distances among the boys, to serve the various dishes, and to see that every boy was well helped. Entire freedom of conversation was allowed, only the observance of good manners required. No larger or happier Thanksgiving board, I venture to say, was spread in the State on that day. The behavior of the boys was excellent, and every one seemed to enjoy himself. Time spent at the table, just one hour. Besides the eating, we had of “the feast of reason and flow of soul,” as much as we could muster. The boys were too bashful and unaccustomed to public dinners to furnish much in that way, and the officers more used to hearing speeches than making them. At two and one-half, the boys went into the yard to crack butternuts for half an hour. At three they went outside to play ball, and so continued till four and one-half; then to the school-room. On account of the late and sumptuous dinner, no supper. At six and one-half, prayers; at seven, to bed. Thus ended the happiest day yet enjoyed in the institution.

As the recipe for the day, I give you the instructions for Chicken Pie from an American cookery book of the same era as the menu above.
Chicken Pie.
Cut off the legs and vent, cut a slit and take out the entrails; cut off the hips, and cut it in two at the legjoint, cut off the wings with as much flesh attached as possible ; split the body up the sides, cut the back in two and flatten the bone; cut the small bone from the upper part of the breast, with some of the meat, rinse in cold water, and unless the chickens are very young, put them in a stew-pan with water to cover them ; add a large teaspoonful of salt, or half a pound of corned pork, cut in thin slices ; add a saltspoonful of pepper; cover the stew-pan and let them boil slowly, until tender; skim it clear.
Make a paste crust, or as directed for pot-pie; rub butter over the sides of a pudding-pan or tin basin, and line it with the paste, rolled to quarter of an inch thickness ; put in the pieces of chicken, and pork, if it is used; put in butter the size of a small egg ; cut it small. If pork is not used, take twice as much butter; dredge flour over until it is white; then put in water from the stew-pan ; if there is not enough to fill nearly to the top of the pie, add more water; roll out a paste or puff paste crust; cut a slit in the centre; make three or four small incisions on either side of it; lay skewers across the pie ; lay the crust over ; trim off the edges and bake for three quarters of an hour in a moderately hot oven ; ten or fifteen minutes before it is done, brush the top of the pie with the yolk of egg beaten with a little milk, and finish baking. Serve mashed potatoes and pickles, with meat or chicken pies.
The edge of the pie may be ornamented with leaves cut with a tin cutter, from sheets of paste; put them on twenty minutes before it is done baking. One full grown chicken will make two, two quart basin pies.
The American System of Cookery: Comprising Every Variety of Information for Ordinary and Holiday Occasions, Mrs. T.J. Crowen (1864)

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