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Shake Up the Menu

With family dinners becoming a relic of the past in the fast-paced modern world, it's hard to imagine getting the whole neighborhood together for dinner - much less every night. But that's exactly what the Hancock Shaker community did every day of the week - three times a day, nonetheless - for more than a century.

Visitors to Hancock Shaker Village can still experience communal dining and warm hospitality with a hearty Shaker Supper. Offered two Saturdays a month in September and November, and once in December, Shaker Suppers not only offer a great home-cooked meal, they also offer a chance for an after-hours tour of this historic "City of Peace."

The evening begins with the guided tour of the village, taking guests past the historic barn, dwellings and workspaces. Authentic Shaker furniture, wares and clothing are on display, and guests even get a glimpse of the then-state-of-the-art kitchen facility, featuring fire boxes, steam kettles and oversized frying vats.

Inside the kitchen of the 1830 Brick Dwelling, hosts dressed in period attire offer visitors tempting refreshments and specialty hard ciders. Singing of Shaker grace follows, as guests sit down to dinner by candlelight in the Believers' Dining Room. The sit-down affair begins with a plated salad and soup, followed by a buffet-style dinner presentation allowing diners to sample a full array of Shaker flavors.

The menu, utilizing recipes from The Best of Shaker Cooking by founding President of Hancock Shaker Vil-lage Amy Bess Miller, is prepared by noted caterer Paul Proudy. Guests can expect such hearty soups as cream of potato leak and tomato basil to start the meal, along with a fresh garden salad.

Entrees and sides vary by what happens to be in season, but suppers often include such dishes as ham baked in cider, Sister Clymena's Chicken Pie and roast beef pot roast. Regular veggies are herbed rice and potatoes, green beans with dill and Sister Mary's Zest Carrots. Of course, a hearty meal has to be followed by a hearty dessert. Decadent but simple dessert options include Shaker bread pudding, Shaker ginger cake and apple crisp, all served with coffee and tea.

Diners can expect a fairly faithful representation of Shaker cuisine. The only major modifications come in the area of fat content - Shakers' physically active lifestyle demanded high calorie, high fat meals. Proudy certainly doesn't skimp on the good stuff, but the butter and fat-laden recipes are somewhat lightened to meet today's palate.

Reservations are recommended and can be made by calling 800-817-1137 or at hancockshakervillage.org.

Shaker Facts

The Shakers were originally known as The United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing but garnered the "Shaker" moniker from the trembling, whirling and shaking common to members during their enthusiastic spiritual worship.

The Shakers' core religious tenets included celibacy, communal life and confession of sin. Socially, they believed in racial and gender equality, separation of the sexes and pacifism.

The Shaker communities divide labor along gender lines, with men responsible for the heavier agricultural and construction work and women for the cooking, cleaning and other domestic chores. However, Shakers were progressive in putting equal value on the work of both men and women.

Men and women ate at the same time in the Believers' Dining Room, but at different tables. However, guests to the Shaker Suppers are free to sit where they please.

The clean, simple design and functional, durable qualities have made classic Shaker furniture a popular item for both antique collectors and interior designers.