What do you eat at reenactments?


Dec 12, 2012
Hi there,

I was wondering what reenactors typically eat at reenactments. Is cooking and camping common? Is it strictly period foods only, or is there flexibility? What are some of the most popular dishes among reenactors?


M E Wolf

Retired Moderator
Feb 9, 2008

Have you visited the "Food Forum?"

There, you'll be able to access what was available in the Civil War on various levels and recipes in addition.

At each re-enactment, there will be specific guidelines. For example, at 150th Fredericksburg, the Union camp had to have their fires 'up off the ground' in a special metal tray like device for their logs. This preventing historical ground being dug for fire pits. In the Confederate camp however, they were allowed to dig fire pits. So, not all answers can be had as a specific rule of thumb. Each event has separate rules and are usually published by the organizers on down through command and down through units and published from there.

M. E. Wolf

James B White

Honored Fallen Comrade
Dec 4, 2011
The answer is going to vary widely. There are some reenactors who eat at modern food vendors or cook modern food from coolers while only displaying hardtack and bacon for show to spectators. There are other events where a wide range of period food or sort-of period food is served, regardless of the specific situation being recreated. There are other events where all the food is period-appropriate for the particular historic time and place, researched as much as possible from specific letters and reports.

Reenactors are a very diverse bunch, so it's impossible to generalize. However, the whole range usually doesn't occur at the same event, unless it's a very large, inclusive one. Different events meet the wants of different styles of reenacting. It's no fun to be teased for eating period food while everyone else is eating modern stuff, or vice versa.

Personally, I prefer events where the food is planned to fit the historic time and place, so it's all a seamless part of the historic experience. I've been to events where it was green corn and apples, and others where it was full meals cooked and served by servants, and everything in between.

James B White

Honored Fallen Comrade
Dec 4, 2011
Is it more like jerky or something?

It's salted enough that the salt prevents bad bacteria from growing. It's also a little drier than modern bacon, though not much. The original purpose of making bacon, ham, salt pork, etc. was to keep meat over the summer, before large-scale refrigeration was practical. Since then, they've been changed to suit the taste, so the modern grocery-store versions sort of resemble the flavor and texture of the original items, but no longer perform like the originals. I think that's one of the reason reenactors and modern people are afraid of eating period food at reenactments--they don't understand what it is.

It's fairly easy to identify what made food go bad in a particular historic situation in the period--government contractors skimping on salt for example--and just avoid that one thing, rather than assuming that there's something wrong with period food in general and using modern food instead.


Regimental Armorer
Retired Moderator
Feb 20, 2005
South of the North 40
When the season is right, fresh turnips, parsnips, apples etc. Salt pork, beef & period cheeses are still readily available at most local meat markets. I luck out in that my wife is a wonderful cook and enjoys cooking over an open fire. Her period donuts, pies & bread are the stuff of legend. In fact there was a literal: "If you die we can get Bobbie to events." Made me feel right appreciated.

Philip cav

Nov 9, 2012
Depending on season or impression it consists of different items
Cornfed: mill ground cornmeal, or flour, fried double smoked bacon, roasted bacon (really like this), sometimes fresh bacon but I consume this as soon as possible, boiled rice, maybe some dried apples if appropriate, possibly some hardtack if we captured it, peanuts, chicory coffee, and maybe some biscuits.

Union: mostly the same as Cornfed, but substitute cornmeal and flour with hardtack, doubled smoked bacon, sometimes some cheese,
Maybe some salted beef, sometimes potatoes, onions, other items

Period food may seem hard to do at first, but ounce you start doing it, its not that complicated.


Jul 24, 2012
West Virginia
My unit has a lot of stuff and a lot of people so the food varies a lot! Sometimes we have bacon for breakfast, sometimes sausage. We just make our own sandwiches with rolls for lunch and have some type of soup or meat for dinner.
May 30, 2011
Well... it's a different perspective but here's a survey of what food I took to events this season past. It includes everything from "local history days" living history presentations to full immersion events that were too "hard core" for the "hard core." I start with the title of the event, give a brief blurb about the nature of the event and whom I was portraying, and finish up with the "bill of fare."
I prefer to have historic foods decanted into period appropriate containers, no matter the event. I prefer to have period menus when I can have control over such. Thus, you will see some items eaten at "strange" times. :tongue: Recipes and documentation available for my items available upon request.

150th Pittsburg Landing/Shiloh
3 day event, no refrigeration and minimal cooking, providing for myself
-Wallachian immigrant who has travel interrupted

Friday Supper: Potato & Onion Knish, Lemonade
Breakfast Saturday & Sunday: Farina, Dried Apples, Tea
Saturday Supper: Puliszka, Lemonade
Lunch Saturday & Sunday: Clatita, Dried Apples, Lemonade

Living History Presentation at Cherry Hill
1 day, lunch provided by unit mess with contributions from unit distaff

I brought lemonade. I was served ham & roll, lettuce salad with oil dressing, cucumber pickle, gingerbread with whipped cream.

Taps 150th/ Harrison’s Landing
3 day event, no refrigeration and minimal cooking, high heat and humidity expected, providing for myself and friend
-I said “local citizen” but most probably thought “distaff”

Friday Supper-McDonalds on the Road
Breakfast Saturday & Sunday: Farina, Tea
Lunch Saturday & Sunday: Jelly Biscuit, Lemonade
Saturday Supper: Meat Pie

Independence Day at the Frontier Culture Museum
1 day event, minimal refrigeration and moderate hearth cooking, high heat expected, pot luck shared among unit
-farmwife of 185X celebrating Independence Day

Breakfast: I provided tea, fried potatoes & onions. Others provided eggs, sausages, coffee, fruit
Lunch: I provided corn pudding and lemonade. The site provided ham. Others provided potato salad, beans, fruit, bread, and switchel

Maryland, My Maryland: 150th Antietam/Sharpsburg
3 day event, minimal refrigeration and moderate campfire cooking, storms & rain expected, providing breakfast for myself…or so I thought, pot luck for lunch and supper

-local citizens who’s lives were interrupted by battle, sorta immersion in parts
Breakfast Saturday & Sunday: I provided farina and tea for myself. Others provided eggs, sausage, fruit.
Lunch on Saturday (Church picnic theme): I provided cold slaw and lemonade. Others provided cold fried chicken, bread with butter and jam, apple pie, cookies.
Supper on Saturday: I provided fried veggies. Others provided beef stew, potato salad, corn bread, berry cobbler, and coffee.
Lunch on Sunday: Left overs

Yankees at Falmouth
1 day event, minimal refrigeration and cooking, providing for myself and a friend
-regimental matron with Federal army, living history presentation

Breakfast provided by the site at a near by restaurant.
Lunch: meat pie, apple dumpling

Event at Belair Mansion
1 day event, easy refrigeration and microwave cooking, pot luck shared by unit
-living history presentation

Lunch: I provided pumpkin pudding, lemonade, fruit vinegar drink. Others provided ham & biscuit sandwiches, beans & snap peas, deviled eggs, potato salad, cookies

Amidst the Storm: Hopewell Homefront 1862
3 day event, minimal refrigeration and moderate hearth cooking, meals provided as part of event fee
-immersion event portraying a charcoal-maker’s wife

Saturday Breakfast: scrambled eggs, bacon, biscuits with butter and jam, tea, coffee
Saturday Lunch: split pea soup, sandwiches, pickles, peaches, apples, cookies, apple cider, lemonade, milk
Dessert Contest as part of our Fundraising Fair theme: I provided pear custard tart. Others provided, flummery, pumpkin pie, sweet potato pie, apple pie, apple cake, and gingerbread
Saturday Supper: roast beef, chicken and dumplings, baked potatoes, acorn squash, string beans, gingerbread and applesauce, dessert contest left overs
Sunday Breakfast: pancakes and syrup, sausage, dessert contest left overs, tea, coffee, milk
Mrs. Egbert’s “At Home” (aka: baby shower): fruit vinegar drink, lemonade, cookies, jam biscuits
Sunday Lunch: Left Overs

Welbourne 1862/ 150th Unison
4 day event, modern kitchen but period menu, meals provided as part of event fee
-immersion event portraying the immigrant Cook to the Dulany family and serving as food coordinator/cook for the event

Breakfast Friday, Saturday, & Sunday: provided by modern B&B staff
Friday Lunch: biscuits, ham, macaroni pudding, greens salad with mustard & vinegar dressing, cookies, fruit water drink, apple cider
Friday Supper: French Rolls, Tomato Soup, Salmon in a Potato Paste, Breaded Pork Loin, Apple Sauce, Gravy, Carrots, Cabbage & Onions, Butter Sauce, Sweet Potato, Custard Apple Tart, Jelly Cake, Cheese Selections, Spinach Salad
Saturday Lunch: Bread, Cabbage & Carrot Slaw, Breaded Pork, Fried Veggies, Sweetmeat Dumplings, Apple Cider, Fruit Water drink
Saturday Supper: "Indian Meal" Rolls, Chowder, Stuffed Turkey, Cranberry Sauce, Ragot of French Beans,
Squash, Potato Snow, Butter Sauce, Cup Cake, Baked Spiced Pears, Cheese Selections, Pickle Salad
Sunday Lunch: Left overs Buffet

Prospects of Peace in Quartermaster City 1864
2 day event, minimal refrigeration and cooking, providing for myself and a friend
-museum docent interpretation

Lunch Saturday & Sunday: summer sausage, cheese, rolls, cinnamon & sugar rolls, and lemonade. I also provided lubkuchen to outfit a confectioner’s display

Fire On the Rappahannock: 150th Fredericksburg
2 day event, minimal refrigeration and cooking, providing for myself
-sorta immersion as a traveler stuck when the battle interrupted

Lunch Saturday & Sunday: dried salami, cheese, rolls, lemonade