Until 154 years ago, the sight of cattle grazing on Boston Common in the heart of the city was commonplace. The nearby State House is located on pasture acquired by the commonwealth in 1795, and the top of adjacent Beacon Hill was mostly pasture lots in the 17th century.
Indeed, Boston Common was probably the nation's most famous cow pasture.
But by 1830 the population vastly outnumbered the cows, and Boston's Mayor Otis called a halt to pasturing cattle on the Common.
Today, however, a keen-eyed visitor to the Hub might still uncover evidence of the city's pastoral past. There's an alley off Mount Vernon street that must remain at a prescribed width to allow a cow to pass through to the Common.
There's even an order restricting the height of a certain building so as not to obstruct the view of cattle pasturing on the Common.
But the most visible reminder of the city's rustic history is going on right now on the Common.
The 29th Boston Common June Dairy Festival, sponsored by the dairy farmers of New England, is in full swing, bringing the farm back to the city. It also marks the 350th anniversary of the Common as a cow pasture.
But it is history with a difference.
In bygone times, when bovines were scattered around the green, the only sounds to rise above their gentle mooing was the clip-clop of horses' hoofs or the clatter of carriages.
Today the farmyard sounds are played out against the roar of city traffic, the tooting of horns, the swish of a jet overhead eating up the sky at miles per second.
Last year's visitors to the ''mobile farm,'' as the show is nicknamed, included more than 4,000 youngsters from urban schools. Organizers are hoping for an even bigger turnout of youngsters this year.
''Some city children have never seen a cow or any other farm animal in real life,'' says a festival spokesman. ''It's a thrill of a lifetime for them not only to see the animals but to be able to touch them too.''
Four dairy cows travel with the show, living in a mobile home. The other livestock is brought in from outlying farms.
Although the festival appeals to all ages, much of it is geared to children.
A new feature this year is a puppet show presented every half hour from 9 to 11 a.m. by the staff of the New England Dairy and Food Council.
Children are shown what a cow eats and drinks and where the milk comes from. Some youngsters may even get to try their hand at milking a cow, although modern milking methods are also demonstrated.
A good dairy cow puts away nearly 4,000 pounds of grain and protein feed, 4, 700 pounds of hay, and 3,400 pounds of silage in a lifetime. She washes it down with 75,000 pounds of water. Under normal circumstances she will reward the farmer with approximately 5,116 quarts of milk.
Also new this year is Scooper Bowl II, an ice cream smorgasbord put on by leading ice cream manufacturers to aid the Jimmy Fund. One dollar buys all you can eat. The smorgasbord is open from noon to 6 p.m. today (Wednesday, June 6) and tomorrow (June 7).
For the grand finale on Friday there will be a musical milk-off, with singing telegrams and balloons.
The festival gets the whole family in on the act, packaging an educational message in an enjoyable wrapping. But it does more.
It brings city dwellers back to earth for a while with the realization that even in this computer age, milk still comes from a cow and eggs from a hen. It also shows that man still looks to Mother Nature for sustenance, no matter what shape or form the food takes on the kitchen table - carton, can, or bottle.
Whether you buy them at the supermarket or produce them on your own farm, dairy products turn up in entrees, salads, desserts, and other foods. Here are some recipe ideas: Seafood Coquille 1 pound small cooked shrimp 1 pound fresh bay scallops 3 tablespoons minced scallions 1/2 cup butter or margarine 3 tablespoons flour 2 cups natural whole-milk yogurt 1/2 teaspoon dried crushed rosemary 1 tablespoon lemon juice Salt, pepper to taste 1/2 cup fine bread crumbs 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese 1 cup canned mushroom pieces, drained Cook scallops in a little water until tender. Drain. In a skillet saute scallions in butter, adding flour and blending well.
Add shrimp, scallops, and yogurt, and blend well over very low heat. Stir in rosemary, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Add mushrooms.
Turn into individual ramekins or shallow baking dish. Sprinkle with bread crumbs, then Parmesan cheese. Place under broiler until cheese browns. Serves 6 as an appetizer. Cucumbers 'n Cream 1/2 cup vinegar 1/2 cup water 1 teaspoon salt 5 peppercorns 1 large cucumber, thinly sliced 1 medium onion, thinly sliced 1 cup sour cream Combine vinegar, water, salt, and peppercorns. Add cucumbers. Cover and chill 2 hours. Drain thoroughly. Combine cucumbers with onion and sour cream. %? Easy Borsch with Yogurt 1/4 cup butter or margarine 1 small onion, finely chopped 1/4 cup flour 1/4 cup vinegar 2 1-pound cans julienne beets or sliced beets (cut in strips) 2 10 1/2-ounce cans consomme or 4 bouillon cubes in 3 cups of water Salt and pepper 1 cup whole-milk plain yogurt 1 teaspoon beet horseradish, optional
Melt butter in saucepan. Add onion, cook until transparent. Blend in flour.
Add vinegar, blend; add beets and consomme. Heat thoroughly. Taste before seasoning with salt and pepper. Pour into warm soup bowls.
Mix together yogurt and beet horseradish (if desired). Top each bowl with a spoonful of yogurt topping. Serves 6 to 8. Ham and Noodle Casserole 1 16-ounce package of flat noodles, cooked according to directions 2 cups chopped leftover ham or smoked shoulder 2 cups natural whole-milk yogurt 1 10-ounce package frozen mixed vegetables, cooked 1 1/2 cups fine bread crumbs 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese Salt, pepper to taste 2 tablespoons butter or margarine
Mix cooked, drained noodles with ham and yogurt in a large buttered casserole dish.
Add salt and pepper and vegetables. Cover with bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese.
Dot with butter and bake in a pre-heated 350-degree F. oven for 1/2 hour or until top is nicely browned. Serves 4 to 6. Strawberry Milk Shake 1 cup sliced sweetened strawberries 1 pint strawberry ice cream 1 cup lemon sherbet 1 cup milk Blend all ingredients in a blender container; cover. Blend until smooth and frothy.
Serve immediately with additional scoops of ice cream and strawberries for garnish. Makes 4 cups. Purple Cow 1 1/2 cups cold milk 3 tablespoons frozen grape juice concentrate 2 scoops vanilla ice cream, about 2/3 cup Vanilla ice cream
Blend milk, grape juice concentrate, and 2 scoops ice cream in blender until smooth.
Pour into 2 12-ounce glasses. Top with scoops of vanilla ice cream.
Serve immediately. Makes 2 10-ounce servings. Sweet Treat 1 8-ounce can jellied cranberry sauce 1/8 cup pure maple syrup or honey Blend ingredients thoroughly and then heat.
Can be served hot over ice cream. Especially good on lemon sherbet.
Can also be poured over warm pound cake generously punctured with long-tined kitchen fork.