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Joshua Thomas
Chef Aaron Katovitch presents a speech about foods consumed by the Palatine Germans.

Joshua Thomas
Chef Aaron Katovitch, of The Table at Fort Plain, unveils a selection of authentic historical dishes.

Joshua Thomas
Historical dishes served following Monday's presentation included pickled items, pease porridge hot and cold and gumbis.

Joshua Thomas
Gumbis is a dish made with layered pork, cabbage, apples, onions, bacon and veal sausage.


Katovitch serves food of the Palatine Germans

Thursday, July 31, 2014 - Updated: 1:05 AM


C-S-E Editor

FORT PLAIN -- On Monday evening, The Fort Plain Library presented a program by Aaron Katovitch, chef at The Table at Fort Plain, in his restaurant, wherein a couple dozen locals were treated to a variety of dishes that would've been served by the local area's settling Palatine Germans.

Katovitch's nearly-two-hour presentation began with a summary of how the land was settled, preparing the crowd for the culinary portion of the event, which involved the chef not only giving a detailed speech about the history of food in the local area, but unveiling numerous dishes for attendees to try.

When moving into the food-based portion of Monday's speech, Katovitch joked, "let's get on to the meat of this -- lets talk about food".

"Not a lot of people are writing about the food of the common people," he said, explaining, "it's just not a glamourous, adventurous thing to write about." Sources for the information Katovitch imparted included log books and diaries, examining food via a two-fold approach — first figuring out what would've been available, and then examining what means were available for food preparation.

Women at the time, Katovitch mentioned, would've kept kitchen gardens at settlements. Because gardens would've varied, many recipes called for "potters", which meant to add whatever green items you had available at the time.

"We don't know how these base foods were transformed into meals -- we had to make our guesses," Katovitch said. One thing that was known, was that men planted fields around where they lived, as some of their work was documented by those monitoring the harvest.

Barrels of flour were often marked incorrectly when sent from Albany, as until 1720 when Schoharie got its first mill, area people counted on receiving flour solely from our capital. The flour was incorrectly marked, said Katovitch, so that shortages would be caused. 

Similar shortages of meat transported upstate from New York City butchers, often packed in salt, were complained about by the workers who fed on it, referred to as "of poor quality," with Katovitch stating that one quote he came across referred to the packages as "more salt than meat".

Because of the diary of London's Samuel Pepys, which was kept from 1660-1670, who Katovitch referred to as "a big foodie," he said, "we know workers in England subsisted on pease porridge for most of their meals."

People of the day, he also said, pickled much of their food, including vegetables, herbs, meats and "things kept from the kitchen garden."

Katovitch explained that corn was a huge crop in Schoharie, helping settlers make it through their first winter there. Early crops included wheat, rye, oats, buckwheat and barley, with corn remaining a huge part of the diet through colonial times, with locals transforming it into corn mush.

Following Katovitch's speech, which was accompanied by maps and illustrations projected onto a white surface at the front of the dining room, those in attendance had the opportunity to try a variety of the foods mentioned, including pease porridge hot and cold, pickled items and gumbis, a layered ham, cabbage and onion dish.

Joshua Thomas - Pease porridge cold is a dish made with peas and bacon, with a variety of vegetables.

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