Would you rather listen than read? Click on the audio file below.
This building was constructed in the 1970s and offers our best guess about what the colonial kitchen looked like. Archaeological investigations and documentary evidence helped us decide where to place the reproduction building.
This space gives us an idea of how cooking took place at Gunston Hall and what life was like for the enslaved people who did the work of preparing the meals for the residents of the mansion. Notice the large fireplace. Cooks put down piles of burning coals from the fire onto the hearth and used them to heat iron pots and pans on the hearth, like burners on a stove. Lifting heavy metal cookware, constantly bending over and leaning into the fireplace was hot, hard work. Plus, it could be dangerous. People in the kitchen had to take care around the fire, and they had to watch out for food cooking on the floor.
Look around the room. You probably see bottles, crocks, buckets, and kettles. Do you recognize anything else? Cooks at Gunston Hall learned how to use many kinds of tools and many kinds of techniques in order to prepare the variety of dishes that the Mason family expected. It took many years to become a skilled cook.
We do not know if the Gunston Hall cook was a woman or a man. We do know that there was too much work for just one person; the cook had a lot of help. Imagine this space filled with people. Some people are doing dishes; others are kneading bread. Children are hauling water or washing and peeling vegetables. Someone is adding wood to the fire, and another person is getting meat ready to roast. Delicious smells are coming out of the space. Aprons have soot and burn marks on them. Sweat mingles with ash and the aroma of delicious food.