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Making The Tenement Museum's Faux Foods

A 19th-Century Beer Saloon Luncheon Spread

Tenement Museum

Photos: Tenement Museum & HistoricFauxFoods.com

New York's Lower East Side Tenement Museum at 97 Orchard Street commemorates the experiences of immigrants who settled in the city from the time of the Civil War until the Great Depression. The museum is currently restoring the beer saloon that occupied the lower level when the building originally opened in 1863. HistoricFauxFoods was commissioned to make typical foods of the 19th-century establishment that served a vibrant German neighborhood. See New York Times story.

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This faux food project began as food blogger, historic gastronomist and educator at the Tenement Museum Sarah Lohman prepared real versions of the foods that would have been served in the 1860's German saloon. For instance, pigs feet, above left. These were passed on to Sandy Levins at HistoricFauxFoods, who began making latex molds (above, right) of all the individual pieces of pigs feet.
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After 18 layers of latex, the finished molds were peeled off the real food items and filled with plaster to cast inorganic replicas. Those highly-detailed plaster casts were removed from the molds, dried, cleaned up with sandpaper, then painted and shaded to resemble the original pigs feet.
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With bones and flesh accurately colored, the pieces look real, even when viewed up close. When the beer saloon, now being restored, opens, the pigs feet will be displayed in a period-appropriate bowl as part of the larger display of lunch time foods.
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One of the most unusual items in the beer saloon display will be a coal scuttle filled with faux garbage, including bones, apple cores, egg shells and other authentic looking waste from a 19th-century kitchen. Also featured is a bloodwurst sausage, above, right.
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Pickles were a staple of Germanic restaurant fare; these faux versions are in a period crock, submerged in faux brine with floating mustard seeds. Above, right, are faux sliced onions.
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Hearty black bread was another staple of German beer saloon food. On a lighter, sweeter note was the gingerbread-like like Lebkuchen (above, right), a favorite of the holidays.
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Popular finger foods of the period were almonds, eaten by the handful and raisins, eaten off the stem where they were dried.
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Pickled sour cabbage or sauerkraut (above, left) was a favorite of German immigrants and their saloon proprietors. Aside from being a comforting taste of the home country, it had a long shelf life. Also awaiting the tenement lunch crowd will be an iron kettle of sauerbraten, the traditional German pot roast marinated in mix of vinegar, seasoning and spices.
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The German "brezel," which became better known in the U.S. as "pretzel" was arguably a beer saloon's most popular snack, above, left. Then, as now, it was often smeared with a bit of mustard (above, right) to add some tang. Not shown but also included in this faux food display are two different kinds of long sausages, a pot of "heaven and earth" -- a mix of apples and mashed potatoes, platters of limberger and swiss cheese, a pitcher of cream, and butter in the block and bowl.

All Rights Reserved © 2013, HistoricFauxFoods.com

Sandy@HistoricFauxFoods.com

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