Meet Melissa, Hearth Cook Extraordinaire!

Every summer, Locust Grove is lucky to welcome a group of talented interns who are passionate about living history and eager to learn more about working in museums! Interns at Locust Grove have developed exhibits, conducted research on outbuildings, completed inventories of our collections, and worked on new programming to better serve all of our visitors and guests. This summer, we welcome three interns to our family–Melissa, Bailey, and Sarah–and over the next couple weeks, we’ll get to know them on this blog. First up is a familiar face–costumed interpreter and hearth cooking expert, Melissa Alexander! Melissa recently graduated from Xavier University and is now a graduate student at the University of Cincinnati, studying for her Master’s Degree in History. This summer, she is our historic trades intern, working with Brian, our program coordinator, to facilitate the costumed interpreter program and create awesome hearth-cooked food in full view of our visitors and Cultural Pass guests! This past Thursday, she held a workshop Read on to find out more about Melissa and her love of interpretation and historic apples!

Hi Melissa!

Hi Melissa!

What brought you to Locust Grove?

I became familiar with Locust Grove at the 2012 Jane Austen Festival, but didn’t begin volunteering until the summer of 2014.  There is something beautiful and wonderful about the Croghan family household, and I just couldn’t get enough!

 How did you become interested in the hearth culinary arts?

After messing around in my own modern kitchen with a lot of historic recipes (with lots of trial and error!) Brian Cushing, program coordinator, approached me with the offer of letting me explore cooking at Locust Grove.  I couldn’t say no!

What are some classic recipes?

A lot of people try to simplify historic food by boiling it down to “meat and potatoes”, but a lot of the recipes I make in the kitchen are actually really diverse and interesting.  They have as many varied dishes as we have, so I can’t really say that any is more classic than the others!

A busy kitchen!

A busy kitchen!

What are challenges of hearth cooking?

Hearth cooking is not glamorous work.  It’s a lot of lugging around full pots of water, standing over blazing fires, and smelling like a chimney afterwards.  The food is amazing, so that makes up for it!

What are the joys of hearth cooking? 

I love it when I can make a connection between what someone knows today and what our ancestors did in 1816.  This past Christmastide, I made a Yorkshire Christmas Pie, which was extremely labor intensive, but all paid off when I got to see the lightbulb go off in peoples’ heads when they realized that its modern cousin is — yes! — Turducken!

Do you have any favorite memories or recipes?

The best part of any day hearth cooking is when the Costumed Interpreters all gather in the kitchen and enjoy what I made throughout the day.  Hearth cooking can be a lonely business, but when I get to feed all of my friends, it’s all worth it! I also love making baked apples and working with apples. I once cooked with an 1805 variety!

Delicious baked apples, as made by Melissa!

Delicious baked apples, as made by Melissa!

What are your other interests? 

My favorite pet project right now is bourbon history.  I’m actually working on developing a paper I wrote for my undergraduate degree into a manuscript, so I can seek publication for it.  Wish me luck!

Melissa is also an accomplished seamstress!

Melissa is also an accomplished seamstress!

Melissa will be in the kitchen most Sundays and Mondays this summer, and she is always looking for volunteers! She needs  any able-bodied person she can get who can use a knife! If you’d like to volunteer at Locust Grove as a cook or any other area, contact Mary Beth Williams at 502.897.9845 or

This Thursday’s program is Homebrewing 101 with Lagers Homebrew Club. The event begins at 6:30pm and is $6 per person, with no reservations necessary. We are also taking reservations for June 18’s event, “The Beauty and Lore of the Forest”, a tour of Locust Grove’s woods with volunteer Jennifer McCormick. This event starts at 6:30pm and is $6 per person, with a limit of 10 people, so make your reservation now by calling 502.897.9845. Our summer programming continues apace–what events are most intriguing to you? As ever, we look forward to seeing you!

Graciously yours,


P.S. To receive updates on all the goings-on at Locust Grove, why not join our e-mailing list? Sign-up HERE to receive monthly updates! Or if you foresee numerous visits to Locust Grove in your future, why not become a member? Friends of Locust Grove receive free admission, invitations to members-only events, a 10% discount in the Museum Store, a copy of our quarterly newsletter, The Grove Gazette and much, much more! More information can be found HERE.

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One thought on “Meet Melissa, Hearth Cook Extraordinaire!

  1. Pingback: Recreating 1816: Costumed Interpreters at Locust Grove | Locust Grove Louisville

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