Many of you may be familiar with Fort Greene Park’s remarkable place in American history. Formerly a strategic outpost in the American Revolution and War of 1812, our park played a critical role in the founding of our nation. On February 20th—with the help of the NYC Parks and Boy Scout Troop 237—Fort Greene Park was transformed once again into an early American stronghold, regalia and all.
Colonial Day in Fort Greene brought 18th century culinary demonstrations, spit-roasted pork loin, colonial games, replica officers’ quarters, and more to the Fort Putnam Program Area (affectionately known as the Reboubt). While the middle of February feels pretty far away after a week of sixty degree weather, I can’t help but reflect on what truly was a magical day of community in Fort Greene Park. Below, I share some of my favorite snapshots from the day. And so that you can relive the day, we're sharing the menu here.
Early Signs of Embers
The fire in the Redoubt’s hearth was started long before any visitors arrived, even before I got to the park at 8:00am. As I entered the park, wafts of woodsmoke and an impressive assortment of flags gave the early impression of the fun to come. Keeping a smile off my face was difficult, to say the least.
The crew running the show started the cooking early in the morning, first baking a number of loaves of bread they had prepared in advance. This tantalizing still life was not to remain so orderly for much longer, as food prep began almost immediately upon our staff arrival. The menu items for the day included Sally Lunn Bread, journey cakes, hoe cakes, clam chowder, spit-roasted pork, beef pot roast, crab cakes, apple cobbler, fried chicken, sausage, and spider sautéed vegetables.
Wagonwheels and All
This Wagon was undoubtedly a hit among Colonial Day’s wide-reaching array of replica equipment. Kids climbed in, families took pictures, and memories were immortalized in picture moments I’m sure many will later look fondly on.
Piece of Cake
Apparently, garden hoes were frequently used as cooking implements in the good old days. Our chef explains that hoe cakes are small cornmeal rounds cooked on a skillet over open coals. And that the implement in hand had never been used in the park.
Great Things Stewing
A closer look at the cooking operation behind the counter. Left to right: roast fowl, spit roasted pork, what I believe are the beginnings of clam chowder, pot roast (in this case, cauldron roast). All dishes were cooked over open flame, and the heat of the hearth—itself constructed as an Eagle Scout project for a scout in Troop 237—could be felt many, many feet away from the fire.
In the Officers’ Quarters, visitors were able to experiment with time-tested writing methods. Children wrote letters with quill and inkwell, and interacted with an impressive array of antiques.
A Culinary Marathon
After all was said and done, our chef cooked for an utterly impressive six hours—many of which were accompanied by technical explanation, historic interpretation, and a small bit of stand-up comedy. Over the course of the day, hundreds of neighbors passed through the Redoubt, many of them finding an unexpected meal. I happened to find many, all of which were spectacular.
A Setting Sun on The New Republic
At the end of the day, we were treated to a spectacular sunset in the park with warm temperatures and clear skies, the monument commemorating the sacrifice of thousands drenched in early twilight. We thank the Parks Department and the Scouts of Troop 237 for the amazing revival of the Continentals’ living, and offering up (several) spectacular tastes of a time when our park served the public in another way.