Masuk grad bakes old-school for Colonial museum
Masuk graduate Tani Mauriello shows off the 17th Century-style oven that she uses to bake authentic bread at the historic Plimouth Plantation.
When former Monroe resident Tani Mauriello was asked to provide plenty of Colonial-style bread, based on centuries-old recipes, for the Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum’s authentic Colonial Thanksgiving Dinner, Mauriello said she could easily rise to the occasion.
Mauriello, a Masuk High School graduate, had parlayed her long-standing love of history into a degree in Victorian studies from Vassar College, and followed that with advanced degrees in 19th Century food from Oxford. In the midst of all that studying, she baked, both professionally and casually. These days, Mauriello is a master baker and runs the historic Plimoth Bread Company atPlimoth Plantation, in Plymouth, Mass.
Mauriello will handcraft loaves of “thirded” and molasses pumpernickel bread for the museum’s Colonial Thanksgiving Dinner on Sunday, Nov. 15, and bake the rustic loaves in a 17th-Century style wood-fired oven at Plimoth Plantation.
That same bread will then be transported to the museum by Priscilla Alden, who was a prominent guest at the first Thanksgiving in 1621. Alden will be portrayed by Kathy Rudder, a Colonial-foodways artisan and manager of historical crafts, trades, and domestic skills at Plimoth Plantation. Similar to Mauriello’s, Rudder’s expertise encompasses the intersection of food in culture, traditions and history.
Rudder will introduce each of the authentic dishes as they are brought out to the rustic family-style tables, explaining what guests are dining on and why, including the bread created by Mauriello.
As the Colonial Thanksgiving Dinner guests have their dessert, Rudder will share her wit, wisdom and vast knowledge of the Pilgrims’ Thanksgiving feast in 1621, which she describes as a “three-day blowout” that likely included dancing, singing, military exercises, and games. She’ll bring some extras to the museum, too, including “real” cornbread, made at Plimoth Plantation from an age-old recipe using the sort of dried, colorful Indian corn now considered strictly ornamental. This same cornbread was a staple of the Plymouth Pilgrim diet.
Mauriello notes that she doesn’t make the Indian corn bread, and wouldn’t recommend it with dinner.
“It’s like hardtack,” she said. “It’s basically a hard disc of ground, dried corn that early settlers put in the bottom of a dish to sop up any juices.”
Mauriello said much of her personal and professional life has been spent in the kitchen, making her transition to the 17th Century bakery relatively easy. While at Oxford, she supported herself by making celebration cakes for a local bakery.
Returning to the United States in 2008, she worked in a Connecticut bakery for a year before teaching a special-education program incorporating kitchen-related life skills and job training. Having tried to enter the museum field since her days at Oxford, Mauriello said, she was thrilled to be selected for the prestigious, brand-new bakery position at Plimoth Plantation in 2014.
“It’s really nice to get to do everything, from research to writing to hands-on creation, instead of having to choose one or the other,” she said. “That is the beauty of putting your research into practice.”
Charles Lyle, executive director and the Wethersfield-based museum and Colonial Thanksgiving Dinner’s main coordinator and menu planner, had several loaves of Mauriello’s bread shipped to the museum several weeks ago for sampling during a meeting.
“It’s absolutely delicious, everyone raved about it,” he said. “We’re really excited about adding another really authentic element to the menu of an already classic Colonial Thanksgiving feast.”
The foundational menu for the WDS Colonial Thanksgiving Dinner was designed by a food historian, and based on centuries-old New England recipes. The 2015 bill of fare will include classics and some new additions, including roast goose and turkey, roast chine of pork, venison pie, a pottage of cabbage, leek and onion, succotash, butternut squash, creamed onions, and cucumber salad. Ale from a Connecticut brewer has been added for both the reception and dinner, as have French and Spanish wines, which is what would have been largely available in the New World in the 1600s. The noon reception will be in a heated tent adjacent to the historic Webb Barn. As in years past, Mr. and Mrs. Silas Deane will attend the historical event dressed in period clothing.
Tickets for the Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum Colonial Thanksgiving Dinner are $100 per person, and include the reception, dinner, and an optional tour of the museum’s three historic homes after dinner.
To purchase tickets, visit webb-deane-stevens.org/thanksgiving-tickets or call 860-529-0612. For more information visit webb-deane-stevens.org or facebook.com/WDSMUSEUM.