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Jan. 24, 2014
CONTACT: K.E. Schwab

SRU's Old Stone House offers Early American Hearth Cooking

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Slippery Rock University's Old Stone House is offering the opportunity to have a first-hand encounter with the history of American food and culture as part of its six-session "Early American Hearth Cooking" beginning Feb. 8.

The sessions will allow participants to prepare and eat savory and sweet dishes of the past under the guidance of experienced open-hearth cooks, according to Aaron Cowan, assistant professor of history at SRU and curator for the University-owned facility.

"It's said that George Washington had a taste for hazelnuts and corn cakes - and, yes, even cherries," Cowan said. "Thomas Jefferson wrote the first American recipe for ice cream. Abigail Adams was fond of veal and cauliflower, while Andrew Jackson favored wild goose and fried apple pies."

Students will practice a variety of cookery techniques, from stewing and roasting to baking breads and desserts. The will use the Tavern Room at the facility, including its open hearth built in 1822. Instructors will lead discussions on how food preparation and methods of preservation have changed over time and how seasonal variations, and the availability of local and imported foods, influenced the American diet.

Classes will meet from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., each Saturday, Feb. 8-March 15, at the facility, one of Butler County's most recognized landmarks. The Old Stone House is located at the intersection of routes 8, 528 and 173, just south of Slippery Rock.

The final class will involve preparing and enjoying a full dinner of historic cuisine served in the house's dining parlor on period-authentic tableware.

No previous experience or cooking expertise is necessary.

"Food is a very tangible way of connecting to the past," Cowan said. "While so many things have changed since the days of our ancestors, basic human needs and tastes remain. The foods and dining customs of early Americans tell us a lot about their culture, their passions, their way of interacting with the world. We've been offering single-session 'Taste of History' cooking classes for several years, and those have been so successful that it made sense to offer people a chance to explore the topic in more depth. This course is a great way to do that."

Tuition is $150, including all materials and supplies, as well as a hearthside cooking recipe book. Classes are limited to eight. For registration or more information, call 724-738-4964 or email

Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.