One of the most satisfying things about reenacting is that you get to make things. Not just can make things, but must.
Do you want a gown to wear to an event? Gotta make one.
Want the gown to fit properly? Better make stays.
Everyone in our Regiment makes things, and not just for reenacting: there’s a toy sculptor, a machinist, a gunsmith, a diorama and replica maker, a photographer among the ranks.
There are two things I most enjoy about reenacting: one is making the clothing. As a refugee from art school (I escaped with a Master’s degree and no teaching prospects), I need to make things. If I wasn’t sewing, I’d be painting, and Robert Gamblin paints and good quality canvas aren’t cheap.
The other thing I enjoy is cooking, and being able to cook for a crowd, with limitations. When I plan for a party or family celebration, anything goes. Thai, Indian, English, Swedish, anything. For reenacting, the food needs to be both period- and class- appropriate as well as seasonally appropriate. And sometimes the best results come from limiting yourself.
One of the favorite recipes I’ve made for the Second Helping Regiment is a Gingerbread Cake recorded by a local family in a 1928 family cookbook. The family has been in Rhode Island since 1637, and were ardent patriots in the American Revolution. I have no qualms about using their 1928 recipe, since that is only the year in which it was written down—we don’t know how long they’d been making this.
¼ cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup boiling water
[last two ingredients: pour over butter and stir]
To the above mixture add ¾ cup molasses
Sift into the liquid mixture:
1 ½ cup flour
½ tsp ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt
Drop in one unbeaten egg. Beat whole with eggbeater and bake in slow over for about half an hour.
I use an 8 x 11.5 x 2 inch glass pan and bake at 350 for a little more than 30 minutes; my oven is always a little slow, being a cheap landlord-installed electric affair.