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Civil War-era Thanksgiving feast re-created

Joanne Graves, in period dress, cuts up a

Joanne Graves, in period dress, cuts up a freshly roasted turkey in the Williams House. Old Bethpage Village Restoration hosted reenactments of a 19th century Thanksgiving dinner. (Nov. 26, 2011) Credit: Steve Pfost

Turkey and biscuits were on the menu, succotash and rissole, too.

The dessert: cherry pie -- made with cranberries and raisins, since cherries wouldn't have been in season.

All over Old Bethpage Village Restoration Saturday, workers and volunteers busied themselves cooking up Thanksgiving dinner, 19th century style.

The feast being re-created was true to the year it became a national holiday, organizers said.

"We're demonstrating how Thanksgiving was celebrated in 1863 on Long Island," said James McKenna, director of the living museum.

The holiday weekend event has been a village tradition since 1970, with the public having one last chance to see the vintage dinner preparations today from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

"I hope people get an understanding of how difficult it was to make dinner back then -- to appreciate the past and to learn for the future," McKenna said.

For the uninitiated, succotash is corn and lima beans. The rissole served up Saturday were fried balls of mashed potatoes.

Joanne Graves and Mary Donohue cooked the turkey, tying pieces of salted pork onto the 13-pound bird and impaling it on skewers.

They put the turkey in an old reflector oven that used the heat from a nearby wood fire. Every 20 minutes, they rotated the bird by hand. Estimated cooking time: four hours and 20 minutes.

"Back in the 19th century, everyone had to work together to pull a meal together," said Graves, 58, of Farmingdale. "I've learned to appreciate history; appreciate what people went through . . . making the most of what they had."

She and Donohue, 47, of Massapequa Park, wore colorful ankle-length dresses from the era.

Visitors Saturday also got to see a beehive oven in action, boiling cast-iron pots and a medley of historic recipes brought to life.

Michelle Raio, of Bellmore, and her husband Matthew, 63, toured the homes with grandchildren Hailey, 7, and Logan, 2.

"The first thing she said was, 'There's no microwave,' " Michelle Raio said of Hailey's reaction to a Civil War-era kitchen.

After watching wood being loaded into a stove, Kristine Agostino, a 27-year-old social worker from Franklin Square, couldn't help but be impressed.

"We take for granted how much work our ancestors did," she said.

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