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Cookbook aims to preserve Plainfield’s heirloom recipes

  • A bedroom in the Shaw Hudson House in Plainfield has been preserved as it was at the end of the 18th century. A town-recipe cookbook project now under way seeks to raise funds to maintain the historic house.<br/>LAURA RODLEY

    A bedroom in the Shaw Hudson House in Plainfield has been preserved as it was at the end of the 18th century. A town-recipe cookbook project now under way seeks to raise funds to maintain the historic house.
    LAURA RODLEY Purchase photo reprints »

  • A doll house bedroom is one of many period items on display at the Shaw Hudson House on Main Street in Plainfield.<br/>LAURA RODLEY

    A doll house bedroom is one of many period items on display at the Shaw Hudson House on Main Street in Plainfield.
    LAURA RODLEY Purchase photo reprints »

  • An antique baby carriage, one of the many items on display at the Shaw Hudson House.<br/>LAURA RODLEY

    An antique baby carriage, one of the many items on display at the Shaw Hudson House.
    LAURA RODLEY Purchase photo reprints »

  • A bedroom in the Shaw Hudson House in Plainfield has been preserved as it was at the end of the 18th century. A town-recipe cookbook project now under way seeks to raise funds to maintain the historic house.<br/>LAURA RODLEY
  • A doll house bedroom is one of many period items on display at the Shaw Hudson House on Main Street in Plainfield.<br/>LAURA RODLEY
  • An antique baby carriage, one of the many items on display at the Shaw Hudson House.<br/>LAURA RODLEY

Three generations ago, rhubarb was used for more than pie filling. It was made into a tincture, mixed with paregoric, peppermint and bicarbonate of soda and kept in a jar on hand to be mixed with water to settle upset stomachs. In Plainfield, this remedy was called Aunt Christina’s Cordial and, in years past, administered by the late Dorothy Rice to her husband, Ralph Rice, to settle his stomach.

This is just one recipe that the Rices’ granddaughter, Mary Collins, a former Plainfield resident who now lives in Hebron, Conn., has received during her appeal for residents’ recipes. Collins is gathering the recipes, both cooking and medicinal, for a cookbook that will be sold as a fundraiser for the upkeep of the Shaw Hudson House on Main Street, which served as offices in the 1880s for the town’s doctor, Dr. Samuel Shaw, and has been preserved close to its original condition.

“She is a perfect example of a person who really cares about this resource and wants to help maintain it and promote it,” said resident Judith Williams, talking recently about Collins’ cookbook project. Williams is president of the town’s Historical Society and a member of the Ladies Benevolent Society, a church organization which uses the house.

The “primary focus is on old recipes, 1960s or back, the older the better,” said Collins. “I’m trying to save the old town recipes,” she said, many of which were passed down from generation to generation, but not written down.

Since leaving home after graduating from Mohawk Trail Regional High School in 1979, Collins has kept close ties to the town. She comes to Plainfield regularly to visit her mother, Anna Hathaway, who is a member of the Ladies Benevolent Society.

“When I grew up in Plainfield, there was a population of 240,” said Collins. “Now there’s 600.”

She’s accepting pre-1960 recipes from all residents, including newcomers who may have brought their own family recipes when they moved to town. She envisions two volumes that will include the recipes she collects from residents, town lore, old advertisements, three cookbooks uncovered in Dr. Shaw’s office, and the Society’s own “Mother Goose Cookbook,” published in 1905. The cookbook contains recipes for baked beans, suet pudding, cracker pie and spiced huckleberry, a kind of pickle, made with huckleberries, cinnamon, vinegar, sugar and cloves.

“It was interesting, reading the language and such of the era,” said Collins. Recipes called for native plants, such as fiddlehead ferns and dandelions.

As the project has progressed, Collins has had many surprises.

“There were more recipes for oranges, pineapple and lemons than I expected. I was thinking fruit like that was not readily available. It changed my thinking,” she said.

Collins found a reference to a 1920s recipe for sore throat gargle, a mixture of ground-up aspirin and baking soda recommended by Shaw’s successor, Dr. Carpenter, for her Aunt Eunice, who was Eunice Hathaway at the time. She is now 92 and lives in California.

Collins said she received a recipe from Susan Nye of Ashfield that recalled for Collins a friendly rivalry between her grandmother, Dorothy Rice, and Nye’s great aunt, Mildred Nye, over who was the best baker in town. Nye’s family recipe claimed that Nye’s grandmother, Christine Bryne Crowell, and her great aunt were “the queen of breads and rolls in Plainfield.”

“It was my grandmother who was the queen of breads and rolls,” said Collins.

Depending on how many recipes she gets, Collins said she may expand the book to cover a larger region. If someone, for example, has an old recipe that once won at the Cummington Fair, Collins will gladly accept it. Email recipes to AGardenSpirit61@yahoo.com, with “Plainfield recipes” in the subject line, or mail them to Mary Collins, 13 Basket Shop Road, Hebron CT 06248.

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Ski lessons

Want to ski? Notchview Reservations in Windsor will hold weekend group lessons to teach the basics or finer points of Nordic skiing this weekend, weather permitting. Beginner lessons will take place Saturday from 1 to 2 p.m.; intermediates on Sunday, from 1 to 2 p.m. The cost is $20 for Trustees of Reservations members and $20 for nonmembers. Individual lessons are available by appointment at $65 for members and $75 for nonmembers. Call 684-0148 to register.

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Winter concerts

The Paul Arslanian and Jessica Freeman Duo will be perform original compositions and jazz standards at the Meekins Library in Williamsburg as part of the free Hilltown Winter Concert Series on Sunday at 2 p.m. Arslanian runs the Northampton Jazz Workshop on Tuesday nights at the Clarion Hotel and has been a lecturer at University of Massachusetts Amherst in the Department of Music and Dance since 1999. Singer Freeman teaches voice and has worked with musicians Charles Neville, and Roger Salloom and the Stragglers. Donations to support the library will be accepted.

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Friday night cafe

Cummington musician Josh Wachtel, whose band is called Radio Free Earth, returns for a solo performance this Friday at 7 p.m. at the Friday Night Café, at the Village Congregational Church on Main Street. Refreshments are provided; food offerings are welcome. On March 22, the church will host a Community Potluck. To arrange for a ride to the event, call Pat Keith at 634-5084 or John at 634-5320.

Laura Rodley can be reached at lrodley.gazette@gmail.com.

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