STURBRIDGE February is not so bleak when chocolate and valentines are on the schedule, and Old Sturbridge Village (OSV) will explore both of those romantic topics with “Be Mine: Chocolate and Valentines,” a weekend program on Feb. 11 and 12, celebrating the history of the valentine in America and the old-fashioned methods of making chocolate.
Village historical interpreters will talk about the birth of America’s Valentine card industry in nearby Worcester, and will demonstrate chocolate processing and beverage concoctions to please both the mind and the taste buds.
On Feb. 11 at 7 p.m., the love life of one of America’s founding couples takes the stage at the Village’s Center Meetinghouse in a performance of “Love Letters: The Intimate Correspondence of John & Abigail Adams.”
Thomas Macy and Patricia Bridgman portray the presidential couple, whose four decades of surviving letters form the basis for “Love Letters.” Following the performance, attendees can join the Adamses at the Village’s Bullard Tavern for period chocolate-processing demonstrations, a chocolate and cheese tasting, and musical entertainment.
Also on Feb. 11, OSV’s Oliver Wight Tavern is the site for a reservations-only, fireside Valentine’s Dinner with a classic American menu. Attendees of “Love Letters” will receive a discount on the evening’s menu.
OSV is an appropriate place to examine the history of American valentines, a custom that began nearby. “Be Mine” attendees can “meet” Esther Howland, the Worcester native and daughter of a stationer who, upon seeing an English-made valentine in 1847, was inspired to design and sell her fancy hand-made valentines.
Howland originally hand-made valentines with friends in her family’s home with paper lace and floral decorations imported from England. Her business flourished as the popularity of the ornate and sentimental cards grew. Eventually, she sold the business to the Whitney Valentine Company; Worcester would remain the center of the commercial valentine industry in America until World War II.
OSV is also the perfect place to experience first-hand the old ways of making chocolate, which in the early- to mid-19th century usually meant creating a beverage.
Chocolate had made its way from its Central American origins to Europe via the Spanish conquistadors in the 16th and 17th centuries, and was known in England (and thus to the American settlers) by the mid-17th century. It became a popular candy in the late 19th century and gained its association with Valentine’s Day through the efforts of Richard Cadbury, who also designed the heart-shaped candy box in 1868. Before then, however, chocolate was mainly milled or ground into a drink.
OSV historians will talk about the history of chocolate and demonstrate processing chocolate by hand, using cacao beans in the original manner of ancient Mexico. They will use a “metate” to grind freshly roasted chocolate “nibs” to make a hot, spiced chocolate drink. They will also share the secret behind the 1824 recipe for “chocolate cake.” (A hint: There’s no chocolate in it.)
Winter hours at OSV are 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Wednesday to Sunday and all Monday holidays.
Admission is $24 for adults, $20 for seniors, and $8 for children age 3 to 17. All programs are subject to change. Each admission includes free parking and a free second-day visit within 10 days.
For all times and details, call (800) 733-1830 or visit www.osv.org.
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