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1900s-era meals unique experience

By Staff | Dec 10, 2010

An unidentified Living History Farms volunteer prepares to serve pie and cake dessert at one of the farm’s old-fashioned meals.

URBANDALE – Imagine if you could go back to the days of yesteryear and enjoy an old-fashioned meal, served with all of the fixings, in a slow and easy old-fashioned way.

Living History Farms in Urbandale allows visitors to do just that through its historic dinners offered in two period homes, each with a distinct experience.

The 1875 Tangen Home features a stroll along a lamp-lit boardwalk in the fictional town of Walnut Hill, along with the food and entertainment offered in a Victorian home of that period, said Jennie Deerr, marketing director for Living History Farms. “The Tangen family wasn’t exactly upper class, but they entertain as if they’re on their way up,” Deerr said.

After supper, guests participate in parlor games. “It’s a little bit more of an interactive experience,” Deerr said.

The 1900 Farm Dinner features a more traditional farm home experience that begins with a horse-drawn wagon ride into the 1900 farm house, where guests are greeted by the smell of fresh-baked rolls and warmed by a wood-burning stove.

“It is all prepared using authentic recipes,” Deerr said. As much as possible is prepared in the period-era kitchens. The rolls, for example, are homemade yeast rolls baked in a wood burning stove.

What sets the Living History Farms dining experience apart is the experience itself.

“You can go to dinner at all kinds of places, but there is nothing like that in Des Moines,”?said Dennis Hogan of West Des Moines. “I’m a member at several fancy clubs but nothing can touch that experience.

“It’s just an old-fashioned Christmas. It’s like motherhood and apple pie.”

Hogan said he has reserved a dinner for 12 guests at the 1900 Farm for 20 years, including an outing last week.

Hogan said he grew up as a “city kid” but his parents and grandparents grew up on a farm.

“Quite a few of the people I bring lived on the farm and it brings back a ton of memories for them. It’s just nostalgic,” he said.

Hogan enjoys all aspects of the dinner, from the wagon ride, to the delicious meal and even the tour of the farm. Everything is done as authentic as possible, from cooking with lard and butter “that make everything taste great,” to the outhouse for bathroom facilities, which always surprises a few guests.

After dinner, a tour of the farm is available, complete with feeding the leftovers to the pigs and shucking the corn in the corn crib.

Each of the dinners offered at Living History Farms gives guests a choice of a few menus and guests can expect to stay about 2.5 to 3 hours.

Living History Farms is now accepting reservations for dinners from Jan. 2 through March 13.

Tangen Home dinners are offered Friday through Sunday and 1900 Farm dinners are offered Tuesday through Saturday.

Cost is $50 per person for either dining experience and includes all food and entertainment. Gratuity is not included, but appreciated.

To reserve a dinner, contact (515) 278-5286, Monday through Friday.

The first party to make a reservation selects the main entre for all guests at that dinner. Guests may make reservations from one to 12 guests.

All guests will be seated together and served family style.

For more information, visit www.lhf.org.

Contact Dave DeValois at dwdevalois@yahoo.com.

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