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How Sweet It Is

This Exhibit Contains 24 Items


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Item 12307

Spice tin, ca. 1895

Spice tin, ca. 1895 / Pejepscot Historical Society

Spices are just some of the ingredients used in a variety of desserts. Generations have scraped and ground the expensive delicacies to add flavor.

Martha Skolfield of Brunswick bought this spice tin around 1885. Between 1885 and 1888 the Skolfield family enlarged and redecorated their home. Martha probably bought the spice set for her new kitchen, which remained unchanged for 110 years.

Her home is now called the Skolfield-Whittier House. Inside the tin box are six small tin cylinders, labeled for their contents: ginger, cinnamon, mace, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves.

 

Item 12329

Martha Skolfield (1836-1904)

Martha Skolfield (1836-1904) / Pejepscot Historical Society

Ingredients tell us what to cook; instructions tell us how. Look closely at recipes from one place or time and you'll learn more about people and food.

Printed words assume the cook can read. Exotic or imported ingredients assume enough household income for little luxuries like desserts. Cookbooks mostly inform us about educated, middle-class women, such as Martha Skolfield.

Martha collected numerous cookbooks, which can still be found in the Skolfield-Whittier House in Brunswick. She kept a notebook in which she copied recipes from friends or newspapers.

 

Item 12301

Pudding Mold

Pudding Mold / Pejepscot Historical Society

This pudding mold, from the kitchen of Martha Skolfield, is in the shape of an ear of corn. Pudding was a common dessert for generations.

Molds such as this one made the shapeless dessert more interesting. A family often owned several pudding molds in various shapes: cones, fruit, or animals.

 

Item 12308

Butter Dish

Butter Dish / Pejepscot Historical Society

This butter dish is part of a baking set. It belonged to Martha Skolfield of Brunswick, a sea captain's wife.

Before refrigeration, butter had to be kept in a cool, dry place in containers such as this one. It would last only a short time, so had to be used quickly in various recipes, such as desserts.

 

Item 12309

Rolling Pin, grooved

Rolling Pin, grooved / Pejepscot Historical Society

The Stover family in South Harpswell used this rolling pin in the 1840s to make gingerbread for militia musters held on the Mall (the public common on Maine Street in Brunswick).

Musters were annual events with parades and prizes that sometimes turned rowdy, perhaps because of the rum served with the gingerbread!

 

Item 12303

Kitchen Scale

Kitchen Scale / Pejepscot Historical Society

Beginning a century ago, cooks became more attentive to nutrition, kitchens more like laboratories, and recipes more precise. Cookbooks turned dessert making into domestic science: the best use of time, money, and ingredients.

Through "home economy," even the Great Depression and rationing during two world wars did not end daily desserts for most Americans.

The introduction of scales such as this one into the home kitchen brought recipes that were more specific. Martha Skolfield purchased this scale for her kitchen.

 

Item 12302

Mortar and Pestle, c. 1800

Mortar and Pestle, c. 1800 / Pejepscot Historical Society

This wooden mortar and pestle set was taken from Harpswell to Brunswick in 1808 by Hannah Merryman. It belonged to her mother.

Mortars and pestles were used to grind spices. Commonly listed in dessert recipes for added flavor, spices could be purchased only in their whole form.

Today we can purchase the same spices at the supermarket already ground and ready to use.

 

Item 12305

Cookie Cutter

Cookie Cutter / Pejepscot Historical Society

This rolling cookie cutter from the late 1800s can be used in a number of ways. The scalloped ring at one end rolls along flattened dough to cut into whatever shape the cook desires. The other end is flat, but ridged, to be pressed into cookie dough for decoration.

 

Item 12346

Cookie cutter, Brunswick, ca. 1910

Cookie cutter, Brunswick, ca. 1910 / Pejepscot Historical Society

The leaf shaped cookie cutter from the Skolfield-Whittier House is more standardized. Unlike the earlier, rolling cookie cutter, it can only cut one specific shape. It guarantees a more perfect form.

 

Item 12306

Electric Mixer

Electric Mixer / Pejepscot Historical Society

Electricity was common in many Maine homes by 1925. It transformed kitchens, changing iceboxes, wood-burning stoves, and hand-held whisks into refrigerators, toasters, and electric mixers.

Electricity permitted more control over cooking temperature. Recipes accordingly became more specific about baking times. This electric mixer demonstrates the vast improvement technology brought to the kitchen.

Cultural expectations kept pace with the new appliances. Since technology made the task of creating the dessert easier, it was naturally expected more often!

 

Item 12334

Chocolate Menu, Brunswick, ca. 1870

Chocolate Menu, Brunswick, ca. 1870 / Pejepscot Historical Society

Here is a menu listing various foods, with an emphasis on chocolate items, for a "Chocolate Dinner" at St. Paul's Church in Brunswick. The event used special desserts to raise money for the church.

It reads: "The Chocolate Menu
Oyster Cream Chocolate
White Chocolate and Sandwiches
Pressed Chicken
Chocolate Cake
Chocolate Cream
Chocolate Chocolates
St. Paul's Rectory
Oct. 11th"

 

Item 12328

Johnson wedding, Brunswick, 1945

Johnson wedding, Brunswick, 1945 / Pejepscot Historical Society

What is a birthday without cake or Thanksgiving without pies? The best desserts are often saved for audiences. Guests give dessert makers a chance to show their regard for the company as well as to impress. The finer the maker's skill, the finer the dessert.

Cookbooks inspire and instruct those facing special occasions, but they also set high standards. The "wedding cake" is a dessert associated with ceremony.

Here, Mary Johnson and her new husband cut their wedding cake as guests look on.

 

Item 12331

Mr. & Mrs. Joseph Labbe, Brunswick, ca. 1950

Mr. & Mrs. Joseph Labbe, Brunswick, ca. 1950 / Pejepscot Historical Society

The tradition of a wedding cake was extended to special wedding anniversaries as well. Mr. & Mrs. Joseph Labbe celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in the early 1950s, posed behind their wedding cake and gifts.

 

Item 12333

Mr. & Mrs. Cyrus Purinton's 50th Anniversary Invitation

Mr. & Mrs. Cyrus Purinton's 50th Anniversary Invitation / Pejepscot Historical Society

Wedding anniversaries have been celebrated for generations, often in the same way: a party! Sweets were typically served at such celebrations.

This invitation dates back to 1835 and the celebration of Mr. & Mrs. Cyrus Purinton's 50th wedding anniversary.

It reads: "1835. Mr. & Mrs. Cyrus Purinton request the pleasure of your company at the Fiftieth Anniversary of their marriage, From Eight to Eleven P.M. On Monday March 2, 1885. TOPSHAM, MAINE. 1885"

 

Item 12341

Skolfield tea set, Brunswick, ca. 1900

Skolfield tea set, Brunswick, ca. 1900 / Pejepscot Historical Society

Tea was another common social occasion of the 19th and 20th centuries. Tea was served over stimulating discussion, along with desserts.

The hostess was able to demonstrate her culinary skills through the sweets she made and served.

This tea set is from the Skolfield-Whittier House in Brunswick. The Skolfield and Whittier families hosted many such teas for friends, families, and social clubs of which they were members.

 

Item 12343

Tiered plate stand, Brunswick, ca. 1900

Tiered plate stand, Brunswick, ca. 1900 / Pejepscot Historical Society

Small desserts were often served at social functions on two-tiered plates such as this one from the Skolfield-Whittier House of Brunswick. The sweets would compliment the fine tea they accompanied.

 

Item 12304

Toy Stove

Toy Stove / Pejepscot Historical Society

Food expectations were taught to girls at a young age. A girl might help her mother in the kitchen, but become even more familiar with kitchen technology through the toys she played with.

Many children had toy stoves and cooking utensils like this cast iron doll's stove, circa 1890.

It was owned by Alice Pennell Toothaker of Brunswick and copied the wood or coal cookstove her mother probably used in the family's kitchen.

 

Item 12323

Toy Stove

Toy Stove / Pejepscot Historical Society

As soon as changes in technology appeared in the kitchen, they showed up in children's toys. This Prosperity Junior toy stove, ca. 1940, reflects industry's improvements to gas, then electric stoves.

A first step in becoming more familiar with this new technology would be for a young girl to start playing with the new forms as a toy.

The collection even included toy cooking tools, such as a tiny frying pan, pot, and hot pad.

 

Item 12347

Ice cream freezer, Brunswick, ca. 1935

Ice cream freezer, Brunswick, ca. 1935 / Pejepscot Historical Society

Before it was possible to run to the neighborhood store for a carton of ice cream, a family had to make their own.

'The Yukon Freezer' hand crank ice cream machine, allowed the Skolfield and Whittier families to make any flavored ice cream they desired.

Often a child was assigned the duty of churning the ingredients into the delicious, cold dessert he or she could not wait to taste.

 

Item 12322

Dee's Ice Cream Pint, Brunswick, ca. 1950

Dee's Ice Cream Pint, Brunswick, ca. 1950 / Pejepscot Historical Society

We still eat more ice cream in summer than winter, but today it is a year-round treat. Making your own could be a lengthy process, but now we can buy it ready-made, any time of day.

The Dionne family made Dee's Ice Cream at the Crystal Spring Farm in Brunswick from the 1940s to 1970.

Crystal Spring Farm is now owned by the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

 

Item 12324

Dee's Ice Cream sign

Dee's Ice Cream sign / Pejepscot Historical Society

"dee's ice cream - It's dee-li-cious." Dee's Ice Cream was delivered throughout the state of Maine in the company's own ice cream trucks. It came in a variety of flavors and was sold in small grocery stores.

This sign stood at the entrance to Crystal Spring Farm until the company closed in the early 1970s.

 

Item 12325

Dee's Ice Cream cone wrapper, Brunswick, ca. 1955

Dee's Ice Cream cone wrapper, Brunswick, ca. 1955 / Pejepscot Historical Society

Dee's Ice Cream expanded from just the ice cream business to include production of ice cream cones, an essential element to the cool, summer dessert.

The Dionne family made these paper wrappers for the sugar cones: "It's a WHOPPER!"

 

Item 12342

Cake Mix Box

Cake Mix Box / Pejepscot Historical Society

Desserts today reflect our modern lives. We are busy people. We also like instant gratification. Mainers can make strawberry shortcake with fruit from California any time of the year.

Desserts are no longer reserved for special occasions or even the end of meals. Cookbooks encourage this trend but as you can learn in this exhibit, the American sweet tooth has a long history.

Technology is not only tools and power sources. Preservatives made it possible to package ready-to-mix ingredients for long shelf life. As baking became easier, expectations also changed. With so many timesaving devices and mixes, why not make a dessert everyday? In marketing these modern wonders, advertisers were quick to suggest that desserts could be a family's reward even for the busiest homemakers.

 

Item 12340

Spice tin, Brunswick, ca. 1950

Spice tin, Brunswick, ca. 1950 / Pejepscot Historical Society

Even with our changing tastes and expectations of desserts, our memories last a lifetime. We still like the taste of real cinnamon and the smell of cookies baking in the oven.

This circular tin spice box from the 1950s, is not too dissimilar from Martha Skolfield's spice box from the 1890s, seen at the beginning of this exhibit.

The difference in shape, material, and color does not change its use: to hold and organize spices for the purpose of baking. This spice tin holds five smaller cylinder boxes inside. The smaller tins are labeled: Allspice, Cinnamon, Ginger, Mustard, Pepper.

 

 

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