(Editors Note: This was the first of hopefully many collaborations between Creative Salem and the Salem Historical Society. Creativity has always been an important part of Salem and it was wonderful to see the handiwork of past architects, painters, artists, designers and of course celebrate the culinary arts along the way with an organization that knows SO much about Salem's past.)
If I had to pick the thing I love most in the world, it would probably be food. But Colonial American history doesn’t trail far behind on the list. So when I received an invitation to an event called “A Taste of Seventeenth-Century Salem,” I knew it was something that I was absolutely not going to miss.
A collaboration between Salem Food Tours, Historic New England’s Gedney House, the Pickering House, and the Witch House, “A Taste of Seventeenth-Century Salem” was an opportunity to tour three 17th century homes while sampling some of the foods that the original inhabitants would have eaten. We started at Gedney House, where we gathered out front before being warmly welcomed by Karen Scalia of Salem Food Tours. After reviewing some 17th century table manners (purely for our edification and amusement of course!), we learned a bit about the house’s background from the site’s passionate and knowledgable manager, Julie Arrison.
All three of the historic houses that served as stops on the tour are what is known in New England architectural parlance as “First Period,” meaning they are some of the earliest homes that exist in America today. The Gedney House was built in 1665, and its interpretation (or rather, lack of interpretation) make it one of the coolest Early American house museums you’ll ever visit. The interior of the structure was stripped in the mid-twentieth century and when the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities (known today as Historic New England) acquired it in 1967, they left it just as it was. Today you can tour the Gedney House to see the bare bones of a First Period structure and to really examine how all of the pieces fit together. It’s skeletal and stark and truly incredible.
At Gedney House we were treated to fresh oysters from Turner’s Seafood, three different kinds of cider from Far From The Tree, and a special bonus of salted rosemary popcorn (not strictly speaking a 17th century food, but historic in it’s own right, as corn has been cultivated in New England for thousands of years). I had never eaten a raw oyster before that night, and I was equal parts intrigued and terrified. But being the adventurous sort, I squeezed on some lemon and spooned on the cocktail sauce and threw it back. Only the oyster did not detach from the shell. It took a few more attempts before I actually consumed oyster, but I kind of liked it. It tasted like the ocean. (The next night at Sea Level on Pickering Wharf, my suspicions of oyster deliciousness were confirmed when I ate one successfully on the first try.)
Our next stop was the ancient Pickering House, built in 1660. Docent Jeff Swartz led the way there and immediately began sharing his vast knowledge of the house and the Pickering family, who’s most famous member, Colonel Timothy, fought in the Revolutionary War and served as Secretary of State under George Washington. Inhabited by the same family for over three and a half centuries, the Pickering House is known as America’s oldest “home.” Even today in it’s iteration as a historic house museum, Pickering feels like home, and Executive Director Linda Jenkins and her husband Tim always welcome you as if you were a member of the family. At this stop, the group enjoyed clam chowder from Red’s Sandwich Shop, bread from A&J King (the world’s best bakery, not that I’m biased or anything...), and three different kinds of mead, a historic fermented beverage that has recently made a comeback. After relaxing in the beautiful, big backyard, it was time to move on to the Witch House.
On the way over to Essex Street, we stopped to appreciate Salem’s grand boulevard (to be read in a French accent), historic Chestnut Street, the first planned street in America. Then, just past the Ropes Mansion and the First Church, we approached the Witch House, also named the Corwin House after it’s first and by far it’s most (in)famous resident, Salem Witch Trials Judge Jonathan Corwin. Built c.1675, in addition to being the home of a judge, the Corwin House was the setting of some of the pretrial examinations of suspected witches in 1692. It is the only structure in Salem with direct ties to the trials. The house museum’s dynamic director Elizabeth Peterson met us outside, where we were also introduced to historic interpreter Kristin Harris, who took us in and gave us an engaging and informative tour. Not to play favorites or anything, but I’m totally about to play favorites because food-wise, this was my favorite stop. That’s because what was on the menu here was the sweet, 17th century ambrosia that is syllabub. Yes, it sounds a lot like “syllabus,” and no, I’m not sure why, but it’s positively delicious. Syllabub is a light, fluffy, refreshing dessert made up solely of ingredients you might give up for Lent (cream, sugar, and white wine), all whipped into airy perfection. Elizabeth made it herself, garnished it with a bit of mint, and served it with colonial cookies called Shrewsbury cakes. It was divine.
And so, my foray into historical food did not disappoint. “A Taste of Seventeenth-Century Salem” was a delightful and delicious evening of old stories and old recipes. What felt new and particularly exciting was the level of proactive collaboration between one of Salem’s most beloved tours, three of its historic sites, and several of its outstanding food and beverage establishments. It’s got me thinking that in such a rich city with so many great things to offer, and so many talented and dedicated people to offer them, the possibilities for these types of enjoyable and enlightening experiences are truly endless.
To learn more about the Salem Historical Society visit them on Facebook!
City to light blue emergency lights on April 2nd to promote autism awareness
Salem, MA – On Thursday, April 2nd, the City of Salem will observe World Autism Awareness Day by participating in the City’s fourth annual ‘Light It Up Blue’ campaign and lighting up the City’s blue emergency lights located at intersections throughout the community. Residents should take note that there is no actual snow emergency in effect on Thursday.
The campaign is sponsored by Autism Speaks, the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization, and encourages buildings and landmarks across the world to turn their lights blue on April 2nd to promote autism awareness. Partnering in the Salem effort is the City’s No Place for Hate Committee and Parents United of Salem. The Tabernacle Church on Washington Street will also have blue exterior lighting in celebration of the day.
“Autism affects 1 in every 68 children in the U.S. and is the fastest-growing serious developmental disability in our country,” said Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll. “Salem is proud to help raise awareness of this increasingly prevalent disorder by participating in the ‘Light It Up Blue’ campaign."
“The Salem No Place for Hate Committee is happy to once again be a sponsor of Salem’s ‘Light It Up Blue’ campaign to promote World Autism Awareness Day,” said committee member Jean Rockett. “This campaign highlights our City’s diversity and reflects our continued support for those with disabilities across Salem.”
Parents United of Salem, a local non-profit parents organization that helps facilitate community service, enrichment and education, will also host the ‘Light It Up Blue’ Autism Awareness Walk on Salem Common on Thursday, April 2nd at 6:30 p.m.
“It’s amazing to see our community grow stronger every year,” said Parents United co-president Melissa Wilson. “The amount of participation in this event has been growing annually, which means we are making a difference. This is what community is: coming together for the greater good.”
For more information on the walk, please contact Melissa Wilson at (978) 968-4888 or by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Information is also available on their website at http://parentsunitedofsalem.org The walk will be held at the Salem YMCA in the event of inclement weather conditions.
Autism Speaks has a special website, http://liub.autismspeaks.org to highlight the campaign. The “Light It Up Blue” website provides unique and fun ideas about how people can get involved in their local community, from hosting autism-themed gatherings to viewings of autism-themed films and TV programs. The site also accepts donations to fund autism awareness and research efforts.
Happiness. Simple as a glass of chocolate or tortuous as the heart. Bitter. Sweet. Alive. - Joanne Harris
Salem's So Sweet is a week long celebration of love, sweets, ice sculptures, special savings, events, surprises and more!
To make sorting through the list of goings-on that much simpler, we’ve compiled a list of our favorite festival happenings.
But don’t just take our word for it, check out the Salem So Sweet 2015 Brochure for complete listings of tastings, events, and special offers.
1. Nothing Beats Chocolatey Sweets
Truly, what would a festival in February be without an endless supply of chocolate? Salem So Sweet provides festival-goers with countless ways to satisfy their inner chocoholic. Wander down Essex Street and stop into Turtle Alley Chocolates for Valentiney-themed decadence, or pop into Pamplemousse for complementary chocolate tastings from 2-4 PM on Saturday February 7 and Sunday February 8.
Don’t worry, the magic isn’t reserved for Essex Street alone. Maria’s Sweet Somethings on Front Street has crafted an extravagant chocolate fountain to accompany their standard confectionary wizardry. Artemisia Botanicals is also whipping up something special with chocolate tea samplings on February 7, 8, and 14, and Harbor Sweets on Leavitt Street is offering 15% off your total purchase if you show them your brochure.
If you’re in the market for something a bit more substantial, but equally naughty, Victoria Station is offering a complimentary Ghirardelli Mousse with the purchase of an entrée. All you have to do is mention “Salem So Sweet” to your server to collect the goods.
2. Isn’t it nice? Artwork in Ice - Saturday, February 7
Work off that all that ganache with a mid-morning stroll through a Salem So Sweet showstopper, the ice sculpture exhibition. Various Salem business have sponsored local ice artists to create these frozen monuments. Themes this year include a mermaid, ruby slippers, and characters from Frozen. The artists will start crafting these masterpieces opening night, and they’ll be on display as long as weather permits.
In years past, the Salem Trolley has taken festival goers on an ice-sculpture tour, but the mountains of snow have made this opportunity impossible in 2015. Check your brochure map for sculpture locations, most of which will be conveniently placed along Essex Street.
3. So Much to Do, and Dinner for Two
Still have room for a meal after all those chocolatey delights? Salem So Sweet has made sure to include plenty of dinner options for anyone craving something a bit different. Those still looking for something sweet will love the 20% off deal at Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt on Lafayette Street, which offers countless ways to make your frozen treat a perfect feast. Caffe Graziani is offering an all-inclusive five course wine dinner for only $75, but reservations are limited, so be sure to call and make reservations as soon as possible! And what better way to end a perfect meal than with a delicious dessert? Both the Adriatic Restaurant and 62 Restaurant & Wine Bar are offering a free dessert with the purchase of an entrée.
4. Money a Bit Tight? Wonderful Deals in Sight
What better way to compliment a nice dinner than a night on the town? Salem is filled with history and unique stores, so it can be really hard to pinpoint where to go and what to see. Fortunately, So Sweet Salem is offering a wide range of discounts that make exploring this city even easier. Tickets at the Historic New England Phillips House will be two for the price of one, and the Peabody Essex Museum will be offering free treats to all visitors. Remember Salem & Wynott's Wands will be hosting a craft fair from 12-5pm on the 14th while offering 20% store wide, and a Golden Ticket will save you up to 30% off at the Salem Witch Museum
Besides the sights, many local stores will have sales that are too good to be missed. Coon's Card & Gift Shop will be offering 25% off of your purchase, and RJ Coins and Jewelry will offer 20% off their wide range of diamond jewelry just in time for Valentines Day. And, don't worry, your fuzzy friends get to have fun too! The New England Dog Biscuit Company's 14oz bags of dog biscuits will be buy one, get one half off.
5. Tired of Clichés? See These Parodies
In addition to a whirlwind of tastes and sights, the fest will play host to an assortment of quirky events and activities. Mud Puddle Toys, Salem’s own whimsical toy store, will have make-your-own Valentines on Saturday February 7 and 14 from 1-3 PM, plus live music on Valentine’s Day. Exciting paint nights at Hawthorne Hotel and at Finz Seafood and a special night of comedy rounds out the offerings.
Looking for some more grown-up entertainment? Look no further than Passion Parties by Pam. They’re hooking up with Opus Underground and Cinema Salem for a Shades of Passion Movie Night Friday February 13 from 5:30-7:30, followed by a screening of the movie. Raffle entry and goodie bag are included with tickets. Also in the "Adult" category is Salem Theatre's presentation of Crime and Punishment with a buy one and get one free package.
Also, don’t forget to pick up your Golden Ticket, for use at participating locations, and for a chance to win the Salem So Sweet Gift Basket!
Creative Salem is having a hashtag competition with a grand prize Salem gift pack worth over $200! Click here for details
For those of you less inclined to the sweet and lovey dovey nature of this celebration the folks that run the Monday Night concert series at Opus, It's Gonna Get Weird are having one heck of a concert/burlesques/sideshow extravaganza called Everyone I Love is Dead