It’s said that George Washington had a taste for hazelnuts and corn cakes – and, yes, even cherries.  Thomas Jefferson wrote the first American recipe for ice cream.  Abigail Adams was fond of veal and cauliflower, while Andrew Jackson favored wild goose and fried apple pies.

Now Slippery Rock University’s Old Stone House offers an opportunity to have a first-hand encounter with the history of American food and culture with “Early American Hearth Cooking”, a six-session course in which students prepare and eat savory and sweet dishes of the past under the guidance of our experienced open-hearth cooks.

Students will practice a variety of cookery techniques, from stewing and roasting to baking breads and desserts.  Instructors also lead discussions on how food preparation and methods of preservation have changed over time, and how seasonal variations and the availability of local and imported foods influenced the American diet in the past.

Tavern chef Bill McGary works alongside students as they prepare historic recipes

Tavern chef Bill McGary works alongside students as they prepare historic recipes

The course meets over six Saturdays, from February 8 through March 15, 10:00 am – 2:00 pm each day.  Classes are taught in the tavern room of the Stone House, using the open hearth originally built in 1822.  The final class meeting is devoted to preparing and enjoying a full dinner of historic cuisine served in the house’s dining parlor on period-authentic tableware.  No previous experience or cooking expertise is necessary.

“Food is a very tangible way of connecting to the past,” commented Dr. Aaron Cowan, assistant professor of history and curator of the Old Stone House, “While so many things have changed since the days of our ancestors, basic human needs and tastes remain.  The foods and dining customs of early Americans tell us a lot about their culture, their passions, their way of interacting with the world.  We’ve been offering single-session ‘Taste of History’ cooking classes for several years, and those have been so successful that it made sense to offer people a chance to explore the topic in more depth.  This course is a great way to do that.”

The class tuition fee of $150 includes all materials and supplies, as well as a hearthside cooking recipe book. Classes are limited to 8 people. For registration or more information, call 724-738-4964 or email

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