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Stuhr prepares for Thanksgiving early with 19th century foods

Historical interpreters came in to the Stuhr Railroad town at 9 a.m. to get the old fashion...
Historical interpreters came in to the Stuhr Railroad town at 9 a.m. to get the old fashion wood-burning stoves warmed up as they started preparing a variety of foods.(Hailey Mach, KSNB)
Published: Nov. 13, 2021 at 9:53 PM CST
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GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (KSNB) - The Stuhr Museum staff invited the community out to celebrate Thanksgiving a bit earlier than the actual holiday this year. Historical interpreters lured in the guests with tasty smells from their traditional holiday foods. This was the inaugural year of cooking Thanksgiving meals during an event in their Railroad Town.

The interpreters came in at 9 a.m. to get the old fashion wood-burning stoves warmed up as they started preparing a variety of foods. The museum Director of Interpreter Resources, Kay Synova, said some of the foods they were making, people wouldn’t typically consider part of a Thanksgiving meal during modern times.

“We’re taking a look, kind of a deep look at Thanksgiving foods in the 19th century, anywhere between the mid to late 19th century,” Synova said. “We’re using sources such as newspapers of the period, ladies magazine at the time and also cookbooks.”

Staff prepared a sweet potato casserole, German-style porkchops filled with stuffing and, of course, desserts such as plum pudding. Guests were able to come in and enjoy the aroma of the foods cooking.

Derlys Gaster and her family came to the museum from out of town to check out the Thanksgiving event Saturday.

“We were looking at activities to do with the kids and my husband saw online that we had this here in Grand Island, we are from McCook, and we decided to visit the museum to show the kids how people lived back in the day,” Gaster said.

Inside one of the Railroad Town homes that Gaster had visited, Debbie Butler, Stuhr historical interpreter, was preparing a few side dishes. Butler said they were preparing things a little differently than people would nowadays.

“We’re grating the spices, where most people buy them in the stores, we’re cooking on the wood stove, everything is from scratch,” Butler said.

Though the purpose of the event was for fun and entertainment, Butler said it’s important and educational for people to see how much work went into preparing a Thanksgiving meal from an entire family.

The cooking methods may have been a bit more complex in the 19th century, but Gaster looked at this event as a lesson to teach her kids the simple meanings behind life.

“It’s really good to remember how people used to live in a few simple way and in humble way and my husband and I, we always like that our kids will be impressed and excited for even simple things so, that’s why we love to visit museums and, you know, get excited,” she said.

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