Doughnuts in Your Socks!

It is Christmas week and many of our readers are waiting on Santa Claus! Do you put up a stocking or receive gifts under a Christmas tree? Or do you have other traditions for giving gifts in the winter months? There are many holidays Iowans celebrate in December where people give gifts.

a home in the wilderness

Did kids a long time ago wait for Santa? In the 1840s, many Iowa kids were pioneers. They lived with their families in log houses in the country away from town. Most of these children did not put up a Christmas tree in their house. But a lot of them did hang their stockings on the end of their bed for presents on Christmas night. Stockings are long wool socks. In 2015, we sometimes make fancy stockings to put up for Santa. In 1840, Christmas stockings were the same socks kids wore on their feet everyday!

kids stockings 1870

Some of these pioneer kids wrote in their diaries about how their family celebrated Christmas. Mary Miller lived in Clinton, Iowa in 1842. She remembered, “We all hung up our stockings. Next morning we were gleeful at finding in each stocking a nice fat, brown doughnut and some pieces of gaily colored calico. I was happy because I knew that my elder sister would make and dress a rag doll for me, just like the one with which she played.” Would these gifts make you happy today? Can you imagine finding a sticky doughnut in your sock?


Doughnuts were a favorite treat for holidays. When pioneers made doughnuts, it didn’t take up a lot of sugar, but it tasted really sweet! You and your family can make these doughnuts too. Pioneers would fry the doughnuts in a kettle over a fire. With an adult’s help, you can fry your doughnuts on top of your stove.

Cooking fire at the 1850 Pioneer Log House

Here is a Pioneer style recipe for this sweet treat. Kids can do the mixing, cutting, and finishing. An adult should do the frying. Always be careful when working around any kind of stove and hot oil!

¼ cup butter

1 cup sugar

4 cups flour

½ tsp salt

4 tsp baking powder

1 tsp cinnamon

½ tsp nutmeg

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup buttermilk

Vegetable oil to fry

Cinnamon, powdered sugar to finish

Cream (that means mix together really well) butter and sugar. Mix in two eggs and vanilla, set these wet ingredients to one side. In a different bowl, sift together flour, salt, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg. Mix half of these dry ingredients into the butter/sugar, then add a bit of the buttermilk. Then add the other half of the dry ingredients, then the rest of the buttermilk. Mix together until you have a dough. (Chill this dough for a good half hour, if possible.) Roll dough out on a floured table or counter. Roll the dough out 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Cut the doughnut shapes using a biscuit or doughnut cutter—the end of a glass works well too. An adult should preheat a heavy pot with vegetable oil in it. Have an adult fry the doughnuts in the hot oil (approximately 375 degrees) until golden brown on both sides. Place on a towel to cool. Sprinkle with either cinnamon or powdered sugar.

We wish all of our readers a very happy holiday season!


What’s for lunch? Squash!

pumpkinsHave you ever been to a pumpkin patch? Do you visit one in October to grab a jack-o-lantern pumpkin? Maybe someone in your family has a great recipe for homemade pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving? Visiting a pumpkin patch has become a special trip for us now. But in the past, Iowa farmers grew lots and lots of pumpkins in their fields. Iowa’s first farmers, the Ioway Indians, grew pumpkins as one of their three most important crops. Pumpkins and squash were easy to grow and they could grow to large sizes.

Lots of kids today have never tried pumpkins as a food. Many people have never tried squash at all! Pumpkins can be very tasty when cooked just right – even the seeds can make a great snack! In the 1700s, Ioway kids would have pumpkin or squash on their plates (actually, in their bowls) almost every day. And the kids would have to help grow the pumpkins their family ate.Ioway Garden

If you could see the Ioway’s fields, you would see tall stalks of corn with skinny vines wrapped around them. These vines had beans growing on them, climbing up the corn to get some sunlight. All around the ground, colorful pumpkins and squash grew, hiding under their big fat leaves.

Moms were the farmers of the family. But Mom had lots of help from aunts, grandmothers, and especially kids! After the older women had prepared and planted the gardens in the spring, the kids would help to take care of the plants and make sure that the crops were safe from weeds and animals. Of all the crops, pumpkins and squash really came in handy for the kids, because they helped keep animals away and kept the soil from drying out.  plants

Since pumpkins have big leaves, they kept the soil shady. This kept the soil from drying out as quickly. That meant the kids didn’t have to water the plants all the time! Squash vines are also very prickly. Have you felt one of the vines at a pumpkin patch? This helps to keep out small animals that might want to eat the corn and the beans. Can you imagine working very hard every day to have good food to eat, and then waking up to find out animals have snuck in to eat your crops? The pumpkins and squash help to make sure that doesn’t happen.pumpkins

When summer was over, Ioway kids would see that their squash had grown up into all sorts of different shapes, sizes, and colors.

Some of the squash would be cooked and eaten soon after it came off the vine. But most of it would be saved for eating in the wintertime, when no crops could grow.


The Ioway cut their squash and pumpkins into rings. The rings were hung on big drying racks. The sun and the winds dried the rings out, taking away moisture. The rings became dry, thin, and crispy. Families stored them in a cache pit – like an underground pantry – near the family’s home. When the family wanted to eat their dried squash during the winter, they would put it into soups and stews! cooking

Mom would put the dried squash rings into some boiling water, along with dried corn, dried beans, and whatever meat had been gathered by the father. The Ioway family might have soup and stew all winter, until they could start growing some fresh food again. If you wanted to live like the Ioway, you’d need to like soups and stews! Those were the main dishes that the Ioway had to eat in the wintertime. And hopefully, you’d like pumpkins and squash too, because those were some of the main ingredients in their stews.


The Ioway had to grow all of their own food for hundreds of years. Today some families still grow food in gardens, but we also have grocery stores to help out. And we can buy pumpkin and squash whole or in cans. Next time you go to the store, see if you can find any squash – it is still very tasty after all these years!


Parents and caregivers: The Ioway ate pumpkin and squash in stews, but there are many ways to introduce squash to kids. You can find kid-friendly recipes for squash here!

Christmas Cake

Christmas foodsMost families have special food traditions for their December holidays. Is there a recipe that you cook at your house only at this time of year? Do you have a favorite food to eat during holiday times? Today, we think of candy canes, or egg nog, or sugar cookies and gingerbread as some of the foods enjoyed during the Christmas season. One favorite holiday recipe for Iowans in 1875 was a special Christmas cake.

Today we like our birthday cakes and wedding cakes to be light and fluffy. Most of us like lots of frosting on our cake and a lot of people love chocolate cake the best. What is your favorite kind of cake? Do you put frosting on it? How about sprinkles?

FruitcakesultanasChristmas cake in 1875 was a bit different. Instead of light and fluffy, Christmas cake was heavy, spongy and thick. Inside the cake, there were dried pieces of fruit or candied fruit peel for extra flavor. Can you think of a dried fruit that you enjoy today? If you guessed raisins, you are right! Raisins, which are dried grapes, were also very popular in the Victorian era because they were a fruit that could last a long time. Some raisins had fancy names like sultanas–golden raisins or currants–a tiny, dried variety of grape called the Black Corinth.

Christmas cakes were a type of fruitcake. candied orange peelDark fruitcakes were made with brown sugar, molasses, and spices like cinnamon, clove and allspice. These are some of the same spices we put in gingerbread cookies. There were also light fruitcakes flavored with vanilla. They both would include nuts, like walnuts or almonds, and lots of dried fruits like raisins. Some recipes call for the peels of lemons or oranges. The peels were boiled in sugar syrup to make them sweeter. This was an extra special ingredient because lemons and oranges were expensive in 1875. Christmas fruit cake was special because it used these fancy ingredients that parents might only buy as a treat at Christmas time.

Here is a recipe for a Christmas cake from a cookbook called Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management, which was written over 150 years ago!

Book of Household ManagementSome things about the recipe are different from what you might read today. Instead of using cups and teaspoons, cooks measured things by weighing them out on a scale. (For example, half a pound of butter is one cup or two sticks.) You can still make this recipe at home though! If you don’t have a kitchen scale, you can find lists of how much flour and sugar weigh in cookbooks or on the Internet –here or here.

Mrs. Beeton’s Christmas Cake

½ lb. of butter, softened
½ lb. of castor sugar (powdered sugar)
½ lb. of sultanas (golden raisins)
½ lb. of dried currants
6 oz. mixed candied lemon or orange peel
1 lb. of flour
¼ oz. baking powder
4 eggs

Sift together the flour and baking powder then add the dried fruit and candied peel. In a separate bowl, cream butter and sugar, and add eggs one at a time, beating well after the addition of each egg. Add flour and fruit mixture, then enough milk to make the consistency of a batter. Bake in greased round pans or loaf pans in a 350 degree oven for 3-4 hours or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. May be frosted or decorated once it has been cooled.

FruitcakeToday, we sometimes make fun of fruitcakes. People don’t make them at home very often and sometimes the store-bought cakes are too sweet or sticky. The Christmas Cake was such a tradition in the 1880s that people made fun of them then too! In the 1880s, music was published in several places for a tune making fun of an Irish young lady’s Christmas Cake.

Sometimes the song is called Miss Hoolihan’s Christmas Cake and sometimes Miss Fogarty’s Christmas cake. You can hear a famous Irish band called The Irish Rover’s sing this song here. You can also see the words and music here at the Library of Congress website. The words to the song go like this:

Miss Fogarty’s Christmas Cake by C. Frank Horn and William Fogarty sheet musicShaw, 1883.

Verse: As I sat in my window last evening, The letterman brought it to me A little gilt-edged invitation sayin’ “Gilhooley come over to tea” I knew that the Fogarties sent it. So I went just for old friendships sake. The first thing they gave me to tackle Was a slice of Miss Fogarty’s cake.

Chorus: There were plums and prunes and cherries, There were citrons and raisins and cinnamon, too There was nutmeg, cloves and berries And a crust that was nailed on with glue There were caraway seeds in abundance Such that work up a fine stomach ache That could kill a man twice after eating a slice Of Miss Fogarty’s Christmas cake.

Verse: Miss Mulligan wanted to try it, But really it wasn’t no use For we worked in it over an hour And we couldn’t get none of it loose Till Murphy came in with a hatchet And Kelly came in with a saw That cake was enough by the powers above For to paralyze any man’s jaws

Verse: Miss Fogarty proud as a peacock, Kept smiling and blinking away Till she tripped over Flanagans brogans And she spilt the whole brewing of tea “Aye Gilhooley,” she says, “you’re not eatin, Try a little bit more for me sake.” “And no Miss Fogarty,” says I, “For I’ve had quite enough of your cake.”

Verse: Maloney was took with the colic, O’Donald’s a pain in his head Mc’Naughton lay down on the sofa, And he swore that he wished he was dead Miss Bailey went into hysterics And there she did wriggle and shake And everyone swore they were poisoned Just from eating Miss Fogarty’s cake.fruitcake

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy ThanksgivingThis Thursday is a special day in Iowa. Many people will celebrate Thanksgiving. It is a time when lots of people have a big dinner with their family and friends. They eat together and say “Thank You” for the special people and things in their life. Having a day to say “Thank You” is an old idea. At Living History Farms, we like to remember how people in Iowa have said thank you in the fall every year.venisonIn the year 1700, the Ioway people held big meals together in the fall. They had a party to be happy for a good garden and plenty of food for the winter. Their harvest dinners might have pumpkin, corn, beans, deer, and buffalo!

1850 mealBy the year 1850, new settlers had moved to Iowa. Many of these people had moved here from states in the east, like Massachusetts. They had grown up having a fall party called Thanksgiving. In 1844, John Chambers—he was a territorial governor for Iowa and an important guy—decided to have Thanksgiving as a holiday in Iowa, too. He said in the Iowa City newspaper, “We believe this is the first Thanksgiving Proclamation ever issued in Iowa; we are glad to welcome the good old Pilgrim custom to our midst . . .” Many settlers were still living in log houses in the country. They did not have a lot of money to spend on fancy foods. Their meal was still pumpkin, corn and potatoes. They might roast deer and wild turkeys. This Thanksgiving meal might be for friends and neighbors and just the people who lived right there. People could not travel very far. Remember they did not have cars or planes!

1875 mealtangen cake

Later in 1875, people who lived in towns like Walnut Hill also had Thanksgiving parties. Having family visit and eating a special meal were pretty important by then. A man in Iowa named Thomas Terrill wrote in his diary in 1871, “Thanksgiving Day . . . Folks here for dinner. Had a turkey roast.” In 1880, Thomas wrote, “Took our Thanksgiving dinner at home consisting of a stuffed hen and other good things. Were thankful that we had so much.” Trains could bring fancy foods to Iowa stores from faraway places. A fancy restaurant in Des Moines in 1870 let guests choose from oysters, trout, turkey, chicken, duck, goose, buffalo, and deer. All kinds of cake, nuts and fruit were for dessert. Trains would have brought most of these foods to Des Moines for the cooks at the restaurant.

1900 Farm mealIowa farmers did grow many foods right here to eat at Thanksgiving. An Iowa farm lady near Iowa City, Iowa wrote about raising turkeys on her farm and selling them every year for people to have at Thanksgiving. Miranda Cline wrote in her diary in 1895, “I sold Turkeys at 5 cents per pound, brought home 8 dollars.” In 1900, farm wives might have cooked turkey, and mashed potatoes, squash, chicken pie, pumpkin and apple pie, and might have even served ice cream at dessert to be fancy. One 1887 cookbook did suggest just serving “cold roast turkey” for supper that night. Even then there were leftovers!

Happy Thanksgiving from Living History Farms!All of these foods and parties became something people had every year. Doing something over and over the way our parents and grand-parents did is called a tradition. What traditions do you have for Thanksgiving at your house? Do you eat a big meal? Do you watch football? Or a parade? Whatever your family’s tradition is for this holiday, everyone here at Living History Farms hopes you have a wonderful day! Happy Thanksgiving!

Pumpkin Season!

pumpkins and squash

Pumpkins are everywhere in November! Pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, pumpkin bars, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin cake! Many people just have to have a pumpkin pie with their Thanksgiving meal. Here at the museum, our historic sites grow lots of pumpkin. Did you know that pumpkins have been around a very long time? The pumpkin was first grown thousands of years ago in Mexico. All the way back to 7,000 B.C! That’s a really long time ago! The historic guides at our museum like to grow pumpkins and cook the types of pumpkin recipes people in Iowa would have had in the past. That doesn’t mean they make pumpkin spice coffee and cake, though! The sweet pumpkin muffins and cake we love aren’t very old at all. They only show up in recipe books starting in the 1940s. That’s only about 75 years ago! And that pumpkin coffee that everyone loves was first made in 2003. That’s only 11 years ago! So if people in the long ago past weren’t making cake and cookies out of it, how did they eat their pumpkins?

pumpkinspumpkin on the vine

At the 1700 era Ioway farm, museum guides grow many kinds of pumpkins. The Ioway word for squash is wádwan. Pumpkins belong to the squash family. You might think of big, round, orange pumpkins, but pumpkins come in lots of shapes, sizes, and colors. They can be green and yellow, white, red, or even striped! We are not sure exactly which kinds the Ioway grew, but we know they planted their pumpkins in the garden next to the corn and beans. The Ioway called pumpkin one of the three sisters of life. Pumpkins grow on vines with prickly stems and big leaves. The vines help keep weeds from growing around the base of the corn and bean plants.

The Ioway people ate a lot of pumpkin and squash all year long. In the summer, the Ioway would pick the squash flowers off of the vines and eat them in stews. The Ioway also ate fresh pumpkin in late summer. They roasted the pumpkins whole in their cooking fires. In fall, the Ioway women would pick the pumpkins, cut them into slices and hang the slices on wooden stands to dry out in the sun. The dried rings of pumpkin wouldn’t spoil during the winter. The Ioway could eat them like jerky, or cut them up in soup and stew all winter long. Pumpkin, corn, and bean stew would be a winter treat!

pumpkin dryingpumpkin stew

Before explorers from Europe crossed the oceans, pumpkins did not grow in Europe. Native American peoples taught European settlers how to first cook pumpkins. The Pilgrims in Massachusetts wouldn’t have eaten pumpkin pie at those first Thanksgiving dinners! They would have stewed or baked their pumpkins like their Wampanoag native neighbors had taught them. The Pilgrims did find ways to use pumpkins in some of their own favorite recipes. They learned to bake a creamy pudding made of milk, eggs, and spices inside the pumpkin. They also added corn meal to stewed pumpkin and made bread out of it. Later, European settlers did start to make sweet puddings and pies with pumpkin.

pumpkins 1850At Living History Farms, the 1850 era Pioneer Farm grows lots of pumpkins in the field with the corn. Many of Iowa’s pioneers grew pumpkins and squash to eat during the winter. They could have cut some of the pumpkins into rings and dried them out for eating in stew, just like the Ioway.

pumpkin slicespumpkin rings

They also stored whole pumpkins in the cabin attic or in a root cellar for winter.  pumpkins 1850

These pumpkins could be stewed or roasted and then mashed. Pioneers could add spices to the pumpkin—and sugar and cream if they had some!

pumpkin baking 1850A pioneer woman in a log cabin could eat this mashed pumpkin like a pudding or she could pour it into a pie crust and bake it in a bake kettle in the fireplace.

Farm families in Iowa also made a sweet spread for bread using pumpkins. At our 1900 era Farm, museum guides grow pumpkins and make pumpkin spreads on the wood burning stove. The cooks stew or roast the pumpkin until is very soft.  Then they mash the pumpkin and mix it with sugar and spices. The cook puts the mix in a pot over the wood burning stove and lets the pumpkin heat for a long time. The mixture gets very thick and very sweet. This is called pumpkin butter! This very sweet spread would have been stored in crocks or glass jars in the year 1900 for use all winter long.

jars 1900

You can still make pumpkin butter at home today. With an adult, mix 8 cups of mashed pumpkin with 4 cups of sugar in a bowl. Add 1 Tablespoon of cinnamon, 1 teaspoon of ginger, and 1 teaspoon of ground cloves. Now you need to cook the mixture. You can pour it into a heavy pot and let it simmer on top of a stove until it gets very, very thick. Cook it on low and stir it every so often. Or you can put the mixture into a heavy pan in the oven and let it bake it for several hours at 300 degrees. In 2014, we can even put the mixture in a slow cooker and let it heat four or five hours until it gets very thick. After you have made your pumpkin butter, you can put it into the refrigerator for several weeks or you can freeze it to eat later this winter!

pumpkin butter

Pumpkin Butter

8 c. mashed pumpkin      4 c. sugar

1 T. cinnamon                 1 t. ginger

1 t. ground cloves

Combine all ingredients; simmer over low heat until very thick. Stir occasionally.

Fancy Feasting and Dinner Manners

Historic Dinner in Flynn MansionIt’s November! That’s the month of great food and family dinners! Sometimes those dinners are fun and easy. Sometimes those dinners are fun and FANCY! There might be fancy plates and extra forks and knives. Or a fancy flower vase in the center of the table. For these special times, families might eat in their fancier dining room, instead of at the kitchen counter or table. Do you know how to act at a fancy table? Those fancy meals can mean kids need to know good dinner etiquette! What is Etiquette? Think of it as practicing good manners.

Flynn Dining Room

Queen Victoria

The Flynn Mansion at Living History Farms has a very fancy dining room. The house was built 144 years ago during the Victorian period. What does it mean to be Victorian? Victorian means things and people who were around during the time that Queen Victoria was the queen in England, from 1837-1901. Victoria was very fancy and proper. She wanted people around her to use very good manners. Victoria was a popular queen. People liked to do the same things she did; even here in America! That fancy dining room in the Flynn Mansion was a good place for these Victorians to use their manners.

The owners of the Flynn Mansion, Mr. and Mrs. Flynn, had ten children—five boys and five girls. What would it be like to live in the Flynn Mansion with nine other brothers and sisters? All of those children had to learn good etiquette or dining room manners for special dinners. Today, we are going to learn how you would behave at that fancy dining room table if you lived 140 years ago. That would be about the year 1875! Would you know how to eat a fancy meal? Most kids had to be at least 13 years old to eat in the dining room when company came to dinner. Younger kids ate most of their dinners in the kitchen with their brothers and sisters. For a simple dinner in the kitchen, your table would look like this: 

kitchen table

For the Flynn kids at this table, dinner might be soup and then meat, vegetables, bread, and maybe a dessert like pie or cake. The kitchen table was a good place to learn manners and practice what to do. And, there were a lot of manners to practice.

A meal in the Flynn dining room on a special occasion would be even more complicated. Younger children had to be invited to have dinner there and needed to have practiced that dining “etiquette”. Let’s pretend we are going in to dinner in that fancy dining room. Dinner at Flynn Mansion

Go in quietly. Find your place at the table. There might be a little card with your name on it next to the plate. Pull the chair out and sit down. An adult might have help you scoot the chair up to the table. Be careful to sit up straight and keep your feet still.

Napkins on the Flynn table
Now you can pull out your napkin. In 1875, it would be made of cloth and it would have been pretty big! It might even be folded in a pretty shape. Place your napkin across your lap.

So now we can bring out all the food, right? Well, no. It would come out a little bit at a time. The Victorians liked to eat very fancy meals in courses.  This means the food wouldn’t come out all at once, but one dish at a time. Maybe even between 5 to 12 separate times! Soup would be separate from salads and separate from meat and vegetables!

place setting

In front of you, there would be many pieces of silverware. Each piece of silverware was meant for a very specific food course. It was good etiquette to know which food was eaten with which piece of silverware. You would have to learn to eat fish with a fish fork and soup with a soup spoon! Luckily for you, for the most part you could start on the outside and work your way in. Like any proper Victorian child you should continue to sit up straight, with your feet on the ground through the entire dinner. You also would not speak unless someone spoke to you. You would definitely not leave the table unless you were excused. And under no circumstances would you chew with your mouth open.dinner at Flynn Mansion

The positive side of all this fuss is that you would be served a lot of delicious food. How does this meal sound to you? Every fancy dinner started with an appetizer like oysters or fried cheese puffs. Oysters might be served in their shells on a special oyster shaped dish.

oyster serverThen you could have a soup like turtle soup or mushroom or carrot soup. Next, you might have a bit of baked fish and potatoes.


food at Flynn Mansion

Then you could have ham and green beans or roast beef with carrots or macaroni dressed in cheese. Another course might be duck meat and peas.


Then maybe a cabbage salad, cheese and pickles. Some very fancy dinners ended in three or four courses of desserts, like frozen fruit ice, cakes, ice creams, fruit and chocolates.

Chocolate Charlottefrozen fruit ice

That’s a lot of food to eat! It could take two hours to eat all those courses! That’s another reason kids often ate in the kitchen instead. Two hours of sitting very still with their best manners was a very long time. But for ice cream and cake, it might be worth it!

Do you like to have fancy meals? What is your favorite food at a fancy meal? Do you like steak and baked potatoes? Or turkey and dressing? What is your favorite fancy dessert? Do you like birthday cake best? Or how about a fancy chocolate pudding or pumpkin pie?

Parents and Caregivers: During the winter season, Living History Farms offers meals by reservation at our 1900 Farm house, the Tangen Victorian Home, and at the Flynn Mansion. Many people ask us if children are welcome at our Historic Dinner programs. Children are welcome to attend, but there are several things to consider to ensure your children will have a fun experience:

1900 Farm Historic Dinner

  • Sitting Down Time. The 1900 Farm dinner and Tangen Home dinner are both child friendly, if children can sit at the dinner table for 45 minutes at a stretch. Guests do have a chance to get up and move around the houses during these two programs. Guests spend about 20 minutes in the parlor at the beginning of the evening, then are seated for 45 minutes to an hour at the dinner table eating the main meal. Guests then spend 30 minutes exploring the house/taking a barn tour at the 1900 Farm or playing parlor games/taking a house tour at the Tangen House. At the end of the program, guests are seated at the table for about 30 minutes to eat dessert and talk about recipes. Both of these dinner programs last about two and a half to three hours overall.
  • Food choices and reservation costs. The 1900 Farm and Tangen Victorian Home historic dinner programs are served family style. Meat, vegetables and breads are presented in serving bowls and platters; this allows kids to choose which items they would like on their plate. However, the menu is set ahead of time and it is not a la carte. Reservation prices for the meals are set and do not include a children’s rate or menu. Historic Dinner
  • We do find that kids like the turkey and stuffing menu at the 1900 Farm and macaroni and cheese side dish at the Tangen House. Menu details can be found on the Living History Farms website.
  • Time of Day and Activity. The evening seatings at Tangen Victorian Dinner and the 1900 Farm dinner begin at 6:15 pm and last until around 9 pm. On Saturdays, the 1900 Farm also seats guests at 1:15 pm in the afternoon. Sometimes this afternoon seating is easier for children. If a family is booking the entire program seating (10 people or more), the Tangen dinner can sometimes be offered at 1:15 in the afternoon by advance reservation. The 1900 Farm dinner program offers a chance for children to meet the farm animals, especially during the afternoon seating. The Tangen program offers a chance to play parlor games and explore the toys in the house sitting room.
  • Less Formal programs for Flynn. The Flynn Mansion offers a tea program on weekends in the month of April. This program serves tea sandwiches, tea, and pastries. Program time is around 2 hours. This is a good fit for children’s attention time and taste palate. The Flynn Mansion dinner program in March is much more formal. Guests are seated at the dining table for over two hours at a stretch and are served oysters, duck and other unusual foods. For a fancy Victorian kids’ experience, we highly recommend the Flynn tea program for children under age 12, rather than a full Flynn dinner.

We have had many positive experiences hosting families with children at our 1900 Farm and Tangen Victorian dinners and the Flynn tea programs. If you have more questions about menu or program content, please call 515-278-5286 ext. 158 to speak with our reservation coordinator. You can also visit our website to find out more about our Historic Dinners >

Cooking Out–Ioway Style

Summer is coming to a close. Over the past weeks, many people have been grilling food for picnics and barbeques to celebrate the last of the great weather. Even our 1700 Ioway historical guides were cooking outdoors to celebrate the nice weather. What were they making at the Ioway Farm? Fish! Do you like to eat fish? The Ioway word for fish is hó.

WalleyeWhen the Ioway Indian people lived here 300 years ago, they would get fish from the rivers near their homes. In the larger rivers of Iowa like the Mississippi, Missouri, and Des Moines, the Ioway people could find up to 20 types of perch (like the walleye in the picture on the left), 12 types of sunfish, 10 types of catfish, 3 types of pike, 2 types of bass, and 1 type of trout (like the brook trout seen below). Learn more about the different types of fish native to Iowa here.brook trout

The Ioway would use woven nets or bone fish hooks to catch the fish. Once a fish was caught, there were many ways that it could be cooked. One cooking style involved leaving the fish whole, scales and all! After cleaning out the inside organs, the whole fish would be covered in clay that was gathered from the river banks. In the example below, you can see a whole fish, head and scales included, covered in wet clay!

Cover fish with clay

The clay-covered fish would be placed on top of hot coals from the fire and then covered with more hot coals.

Place on hot coalscover with hot coals

As the clay heated and dried, it would cook the fish inside. When the clay began to crack, the fish was done cooking.cook until clay cracks

The clay would then be cracked open and the meat could be removed. The fish’s scales would be left stuck in the clay.scales come off with clay

The bones could easily be removed from the meat and the fish would be ready to eat!