Story by Merri Hanjora
Photos by Richard Parrish
Take comfort in slowing down.
Johnny Appleseed Metropolitan Park District’s Harvest Dinner at the Cabin, an event held annually at the Allen County Farm Park Cabin, celebrates a slower lifestyle and emphasizes tradition.
“It’s a family-style dinner and it’s cozy, intimate with candlelight. We don’t use any electricity, so it’s more of a full experience and not necessarily about the food,” said Chris Fetzer, volunteer coordinator for the parks. “We have a lot of people that want to make it a family tradition or with friends. People really enjoy it and want to relive it year after year.”
Tickets for this year’s event are sold out; Make a note to watch for an announcement about ticket sales in 2019.
“We didn’t open it up until September 5 this year, as we wanted to make sure that everybody had a chance. We sold out by the end of the day on day one,” Fetzer said.
The ambiance of the cabin is what draws people to this event, right down to the dishes that the food is served on. Ann Lauer, one of the first park commissioners, donated the china.
Visitors are greeted with a traditional Thanksgiving meal which includes butternut squash soup, turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet corn, pumpkin pie and hickory nut cake. There will be cider cooking on the cookstove to drink. There are canned relishes and pickles, homemade jellies — which include black raspberry and violet — along with homemade bread.
Fetzer prepares the food for the event. During the summer, she cuts the sweet corn off the cob and freezes it to make sure it’s true sweet corn from this area. This year, she added her Aunt Marie’s hickory nut cake to the dessert menu. She harvested hickory nuts for this dish.
“I did a lot of research and tried to find things that they would have used, that they had. You couldn’t run to Walmart back then,” said Fetzer.
Visitors are greeted with a bill of fare, the menu, placed at every setting. A short presentation is given by parks volunteers. These same volunteers help serve and tidy up after dinner.
“We talk about the Civil War, just a little bit, as people are hungry. At the end of the meal, after dessert, we will have a really short presentation of the history of Thanksgiving, starting back before the Pilgrims, and how it has evolved into what we have today,” said Fetzer.
Fetzer feels the biggest change Thanksgiving has gone through over the years is the commercialization.
“Very little food has changed, but now it’s Black Friday biting into Thanksgiving. It’s coming away from the family and the Thanksgiving that we’re giving thanks for our lives and a good harvest. It’s becoming very commercialized,” said Fetzer.
And that is another reason the Harvest Dinner at the Cabin sells out so quickly. It’s steeped in the tradition of giving thanks.
Harvest Dinner at the Cabin
6-8 p.m. Nov. 17
Allen County Farm Park Cabin, 1582 Slabtown Road, Lima
Call 419-221-1232 for wait list. A $25 donation is suggested.
Chris Fetzer’s Aunt Marie’s Hickory Nut Cake
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
4 egg whites, beaten to stiff peaks
1 cup hickory nuts, chopped
Sift flour, baking powder and salt together; set aside.
Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and mix well. Measure buttermilk and dissolve soda in it.
Add flour mixture and buttermilk mixture alternatively to the creamed mixture. Beat 2 minutes.
Fold in the whipped egg whites. Beat 2 more minutes.
Fold in the chopped hickory nuts.
Pour into two 8-inch greased cake pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes. Cool completely and frost.
Serves up to 8.
Brown Sugar Frosting
1 cup butter
2 cups packed brown sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream (or Half and Half)
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
In a saucepan, melt the butter. Add the brown sugar. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
Lower the heat to medium and continue to boil, stirring constantly. Add the cream and vanilla. Bring back to a boil, stirring constantly. Cool to lukewarm.
Gradually add the powdered sugar. Keep in the saucepan and beat with a hand mixer until frosting is thick enough to spread. If it becomes too thick, add a little hot water.
This frosting will harden very fast; frost quickly.
This cake recipe is a very old recipe and is rather dense compared to our modern cakes.