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Cookbook Presents Recipes from 19th-Century Farm Turned Battlefield

FullTextImage/img/@altPublication of this collection of 19th-century recipes coincided with the 150th anniversary of the Battle of New Market.

NEW MARKET, Va., July 3, 2014 – Visitors to both the New Market Battlefield State Historical Park and the VMI museum shop this summer will find a new offering – a collection of 19th-century recipes with a special tie to the Bushong family, owners of the land on which the Battle of New Market was fought on May 15, 1864. The battlefield park, home of the Virginia Museum of the Civil War, is owned by VMI.

The book, Mother Bushong’s Sponge Cake, is the brainchild of Stacey Nadeau, supervisor of historical interpretation at the battlefield park. The volume was published earlier this year by the VMI Museum System, in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Battle of New Market.

The book is a compilation of recipes that Nadeau discovered in the VMI archives in 2004. The recipes, some of which were doubtless original to 19th-century farm wife Sarah Bushong – the “mother” of the cookbook’s title – were written down early in the 20th century by Sarah Bushong’s granddaughter, Mattie Bushong Good, and her daughter, Evla Good.

Over the past year and a half, Nadeau worked with a group of test cooks and bakers to adapt the recipes for use in a modern kitchen using the standard measurement sizes of today. It is her hope that modern cooks will be able to step into the past via Mother Bushong’s Sponge Cake.

Inside the pages of Mother Bushong’s Sponge Cake, readers will find recipes for many traditional desserts still popular today, such as pound cake and sugar cookies, along with several main dishes that might have been enjoyed by the 19th-century Bushong family, such as venison steaks and pork chops. Other dishes, such as sauerbraten, reflect the Bushong family’s German roots.

Also going on display recently at the Virginia Museum of the Civil War, which is part of the state historical park, is a rare piece of Civil War body armor, cut off a dead Union soldier at the Battle of Port Republic, near Harrisonburg, on June 9, 1862. The museum tells the story of the Civil War through exhibits, artifacts, and dioramas, with a special emphasis on the war in Virginia. A recent addition to the offerings there is the Emmy award-winning documentary film, Field of Lost Shoes, an account of the VMI cadets who fought at the Battle of New Market on May 15, 1864. Visitors to the park are also encouraged to explore the 19th-century Bushong farmhouse and outbuildings.

The New Market Battlefield State Historical Park is open every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. except for New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, and Christmas day. Admission is $10 for adults ages 13-64; $9 for ages 65 and older; and $6 for children ages 6-12. Admission is free for children ages 5 and under. Admission is also free for VMI cadets, parents, and alumni.

 -VMI-