Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Dining with Lewis and Clark

Monday night we continued a five-year tradition of attending one of the Cock and Bull Restaurant's Evenings in the Colonial Kitchen series. In 2012 we dined with John and Abigail Adams, and in 2011 it was Oney Judge and Betsy Ross. The year before we celebrated Don's birthday by dining with Ben Franklin and John Hancock. The first year we dined with artists Sarah Miriam Peale, and her uncle Charles Wilson Peale. The first person re-enactors are each member of The American Historical Theatre in Philadelphia.

The Colonial Kitchen series runs on twelve consecutive Monday nights from January through March -- during the slow season for restaurants. From what I gather, the program started around the nation's bicentennial (1976), and has continued ever since. Prices went up about a dollar this year, which I only noticed because last year I made note of the price in this blog. The four-course meal is still quite a deal at $22.95 for adults, and $12.50 for children 10 and under. 

It is a challenge to find the right evening to go. Normally it falls off our radar, only to remember when there are only a couple of weeks to go. We find earlier in the season is better because the restaurant is much quieter and the actors have more time to spend with each table. This was certainly the case this year. A quick note: Lewis and Clark will be returning on March 18, so if you read this and wish you could meet them in person, you still have a chance this year.

Ashley is taking a class at Princeton University's Cotsen Children's Library called Cotsen Critix. The group meets every other Friday to learn about something literary related (a great idea for a future blog). Ashley has an assignment due this week for the class where she is to write a 3-page historical fiction story. She chose to write about Lewis and Clark's expedition from the perspective of Sacajawea's baby, Jean-Baptiste, otherwise known as "Pompey" by the expedition. Pompey was a  couple of months old when the voyage began, and about a year and a half when it ended. There really is not a lot written about his feelings on the voyage.

We used the dinner as an opportunity for her to do some research. That counts as first-person research, right?

Driving to Peddler's Village we talked through some questions: 

  • What was the baby like?
  • What did he eat?
  • Was he a good baby?
  • What was the most exciting part of the trip for you?
  • What do you think the baby liked?
And so on. 

We had no idea what Lewis and Clark would "remember" about their expedition -- after all it did take place over 200 years ago in 1805.

Meriwether Lewis came to our table first. He had the most distinct way of pronouncing Sacajawea's name and the word in-DIE-an. It was charming listening to him. Turns out Lewis was the first person Jean-Baptiste saw since he delivered the baby. Pompeys Pillar in Montana is named after the boy.

After dessert, William Clark came to our table. He told us a lot about Jean-Baptiste's life. Clark educated Jean-Baptiste in St. Louis from the time he was four. Some highlights include Jean Baptiste met a German prince, with whom he traveled all over Europe and Northern Africa--places I have not been to even though travelling is much easier 200 years later. He went to California during the Gold Rush and eventually ended up in the Oregon Territory (the only member of the expedition to do so). There he died from pneumonia at the age of 61. Visit the Lewis and Clark Trail website for more details

I was most impressed just how knowledgeable they are about the life of the baby that was part of their expedition. Based on the snippets I heard of other conversations, they are both extremely knowledgeable about the lives of the men they were portraying. They each spent a lot of time at each table. Clark often sat down at tables to talk at great lengths with guests who wanted to pick his brain.

Ashley left with more than enough information with which to write her story.

Each week at the restaurant Tuckers Tales is on hand to sing songs, play tunes and entertain the diners. This year we had the pleasure of being seated near them. Even though we only see them once a year here, and on occasion someplace else, they remember us and catch us up on the news. A few years earlier we learned that Marianne Tucker shares Don's birthday, so we surprised her by wishing her a happy birthday. It is always a lot of fun hearing them perform. The love they have for each other really comes through, too.

The food is very good, and the entertainment top-notch. Now I'm wondering if we should return for another Colonial Dinner this year before Ashley ages up to the adult price. We still have a lot of people we would like to meet.

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