Hearthside cooking adds to star-spangled attraction


January 14, 2001|By Rosalie Falter | Rosalie Falter,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

FERNDALE RESIDENT Sue Latini has brought her hearthside cooking workshops to the Star-Spangled Banner Flag House in Baltimore.

Dressed in period clothing, with a fire properly prepared and blazing behind her, she teaches small groups what it was like to cook in early America. Besides learning what iron pot to use for the chicken with dumplings or how to pile coals on the Dutch oven lid for the fruit cobbler, participants are told about the background of the foods and what was available at the time.

While preparing the dishes, Latini also gives a little history of the building and its famous resident, Mary Pickersgill, who made the huge flag that flew over Fort McHenry during the British bombardment of 1814.

Latini brings in some history as she imagines how Pickersgill and her mother and daughter might have shopped at the nearby wharves for food and brought it back to the kitchen and fireplace that she is using at the historic site.

For 13 years before coming to the Flag House, Latini conducted demonstrations and workshops at the now-closed Baltimore City Life Museums' 1840 House. At the Flag House, she has been giving monthly demonstrations for visitors coming through on tours. The teaching workshops were recently introduced.

Latini said there are some differences between the kitchens of the two museums, but she was able to adapt to them.

"The Flag House does not have as large or deep a fireplace, but it does have a street-level kitchen, which is something I really like. Also, when I was at the 1840 House, there always seemed to be someone around to help build the fire. Now I build it myself and it is really fun. I like knowing all aspects of hearth cooking."

Latini said that she was the first to use the Flag House kitchen since the house became a museum and that she is looking forward to being the first to bake bread in a soon-to-be-reconstructed brick oven in the fireplace.

A food historian and self-taught hearth cook, Latini is well known for her expertise. In 1995, she wrote a book, "At the Hearth - Early American Recipes," in response to many inquiries about her recipes. The book is in its second printing.

Her recipes give hearth as well as modern cooking instructions. She also writes in the book about tin cooking implements, such as the reproduction bird roaster and reflector oven she uses in the workshops. They were made by her husband, Bob Latini, who died last year.

To hone her skills, Latini has attended hearth-cooking classes at the Farmer's Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y., and attends yearly classes at Landis Valley Farm Museum in Lancaster, Pa. She has volunteered at the Old Salem Museum in Winston-Salem, N.C.; the Connors Prairie Museum in Indianapolis; and Shirley Plantation in Virginia.

Workshop participants get to eat what they prepare and are given the recipes to take home.

"People love her programs," said Abby Wicklein-Bayne, assistant director of the Flag House museum. "Lots of times ,visitors will just happen upon them and are pleasantly surprised. They like seeing the authentic cookware, and people are fascinated, especially the children."

There are also programs for schoolchildren conducted mostly during the months of April and May. "They get to see the hearth in action, and they sample biscuits that Sue makes for them," Wicklein-Bayne said.

The public is invited to observe Latini cooking at the hearth. On Feb. 17, in honor of George Washington, Latini will make history come alive by preparing what he might have eaten in a program she calls "Favorite Foods of Mount Vernon."

"Private workshops can be arranged through the Flag House, and we work together to come up with a schedule to satisfy everyone," Latini said.

For information or to schedule a workshop, call the Flag House at 410-837-1793.

PAAL concert at center

The next event in the Performing Arts Association of Linthicum's concert series - featuring the Annapolis Chorale and Annapolis Chamber Orchestra - will take the stage of the new Chesapeake Center for the Creative Arts on Hammonds Lane in Brooklyn Park on Saturday.

The 8 p.m. program, under the direction of J. Ernest Green, will feature a rendition of the complete operetta (not just highlights, as previously announced) of Johann Strauss Jr.'s "Die Fledermaus" (The Bat). The operetta, with a cast of nine, will be sung in English.

In the event of snow, the program will take place at 8 p.m. the next day. Although PAAL tickets are usually sold on a series subscription basis, tickets for just "Die Fledermaus" may be purchased for $10 by calling Irene Newhouse at 410-859-5224.

School basket bingo

The St. Philip Neri Home School Association is sponsoring a basket bingo Saturday at the school hall, 6401 S. Orchard Road.

Doors open at 6 p.m. with games beginning at 7 p.m. There will be 20 games, 2 raffles, 2 specials and door prizes. Food will be available for purchase.

The cost is $12 in advance or $15 at the door. For tickets or information, call the school office at 410-859-1212.

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