A taste of the Civil War

The Greater Monessen Historical Society got on board the trend of 100th anniversary Titanic dinners with its "Titanic Experience." Now, it's planning to serve up even older historically accurate recipes for cocktails and food at its upcoming "The Civil War Experience," which will present a Monessen-flavored take on those times.

You can step back into the 1860s from 5 to 9 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 22, at the Monessen Fire Department Social Hall at 15 Eastgate Ave.

The menu is to include dishes popular on both sides, including a (Northern) Chicken Fricassee and (Southern) Corn Bread, and Rum and Fruit Cups. Desserts will include gingerbread, which was a favorite of President Lincoln's. Libations will include the punch served at receptions by Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

Chef John Usher of 2 Fine Caterers in Speers, which also did the society's Titanic first-class menu, says he's trying to be as accurate as possible, while sticking to his budget, and making it all taste good. That's why he won't be serving, say, hard tack.

"We're not going to put anyone through that for the sake of history," says the chef, who, in keeping with those refrigeration-free days, will keep his menu seasonal. Other dishes he's considering include roasted vegetables, a Tomato Bisque and Chicken-Fried Steak and Gravy.

Tickets are $40 per person and include cocktails, hors d'oeuvres, dinner, live period music by the Acoustic Shadows of the Blue and Gray, and a presentation by the Redstone Living Historians. Historic dress is optional but encouraged.

"There will be a lot of fascinating things for people to see," says volunteer Janet Imbrescia, describing some of the memorabilia the historical society will display at the hall that evening, including copies of The Valley News Echo from Oct. 1859 to April 1865. "We have many photos, letters from soldiers, and personal items that have been donated to our museum," including clothing and other period paraphernalia.

All proceeds go to the historical society and, as Ms. Imbrescia puts it, "We need all the help we can get." For tickets and more information, call 724-684-8460 or visit monessenhistoricalsociety.org.

Bob Batz Jr.: bbatz@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1930.


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