The Bee’s Knees (Well, Combs, Actually)

Happy National Pancake Day! That’s a sidebar, since the focus of the blog today isn’t actually pancakes. What we’re talking about, however, could go in (or on!) your pancakes. September is also National Honey Month, so this post is all sweet, golden goodness.

This week, our feature is Gems of Gold with Honey, published by the California  Honey Advisory Board. It includes a wide range of recipes for incorporating honey into classic recipes, as well as some dishes you might not consider. Even though it’s only 35 pages, you’ll find recipes for meat, poultry, veggies, salads, breads, drinks, desserts, cakes, pies, cookies, candies, jellies, and even relishes. So whether you want to cram honey into every element of a dish, or just use it sparingly, Gems of Gold with Honey has got you covered!

September is also National Biscuit Month, National Bourbon Heritage Month,  National Breakfast Month, National California Wine Month, National Chicken Month, National Mushroom Month, National Papaya Month, National Potato Month, AND National Rice Month, several of which make a wonderful compliment to honey. So, you’ve got a few days left to celebrate the end of September and the start of autumn with some sweet dishes. Also, if you think September has a lot to celebrate, wait until we get to October!

The History of Dining (and Eating) at Virginia Tech

This week, we’re featuring one of the few more recent publications from our collection. One, it’s a really neat book. And two, it has a section on tailgating. I’ve spent my fair share of time staying away from campus during a home game, but if you’re a part of the Blacksburg community, some things are inevitable. Whether you love or hate football season, it does mean food. Nor is it the only food history our town has to offer. A Taste of Virginia Tech is the work of two alumnae, published in 2012.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This book is about a lot more than tailgating, however. It covers some of the recent history of dining on campus, the farmer’s market, and PLENTY of recipes from local restaurant and local people. Sure, this is a recent book, but it’s an important piece of VT history, too. It’s also a great reminder of the way food insinuates its way into our daily life and culture. It doesn’t matter if you’ve lived here all your life, spent your college days here, or only show up for games. Whether it’s wings and dip at a tailgate, fish tacos on the patio at Cabo, or a burger at Mike’s, we all have our favorite spots and foods in Blacksburg.

P.S. The library copy is checked out, so if you’d like to scout the recipes, you might just need to drop by and see us. :)

And You Thought Straws Were Just For Drinking!

How to Make Parties and Gifts Sparkle with Glassip Transparent Drinking Straws

Once in a while, food related products aren’t just for food (or in this case, drinks). We recently acquired this little gem full of craft projects you can do with a box full of drinking straws. And while the options aren’t endless, they are certainly…festive.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

How to Make Parties and Gifts Sparkle with Glassip Transparent Drinking Straws does include a few drink recipes at the start. But the majority of this pamphlet is devoted to some–let’s call them “creative”–opportunities to think outside the box and cellophane wrapper. In addition to pompoms, pumpkins, and parasols, you can also make things that don’t begin with the letter “p.” There are the strange stick figures in the slide show, but how about Easter bunnies, Valentine’s heart, Christmas trees and stars, and an pair of Mardi Gras dolls? Not enough? You can create boutonnieres, faux potted plants, little baskets, and even placements. Although the booklet is published in two-tone color, from the content, it seems that “Glassips” came in a variety of colors and even some striped designs. (If you’re curious, try a Google image search for “glassips straws”–there are lots of pictures of the straws in vintage packages.)

This is another one of those unique items in our collection that makes you wonder “why?” At the same time, the techniques are timeless. So if you have a box of straws and a few minutes this weekend, How to Make Parties and Gifts Sparkle with Glassip Transparent Drinking Straws has a project or two for you.

Cowboys and Cure-alls?

Not long ago, we acquired this publication. At 49 pages, it’s not really a pamphlet anymore. While it is primarily at advertisement for a patent medicine/cure-all, we also learn some interest facts about production and the creator of Com-Cel-Sar, Charlie White-Moon. (Although on at least one page, his name is also spelled “Charley.”)

The majority of the publication is testimonials–and LOTS of them. From individual users and family members, young and old, male and female. Everyone seems to benefit from this product! We’ve looked at patent medicines before on the blog, but there is something that stands out about “Com-Cel-Sar” (well, one of many things, really). There’s a full list of ingredients and why they are included on the second page. Even more interesting, we’re given this explanation: “The components of COM-CEL-SAR, as published on every package, do not only more than comply with the PURE FOOD LAW, but are for self-protection, all being Copy-Righted, hence protected by the United State Government.” The Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, among other things, required that active ingredients be placed on the label of a drug’s packaging. But you don’t often see patent medicine creators and suppliers complying so eagerly and/or pointing out their compliance. 

Our publication dates from 1912. Based on newspaper advertisements, however, Com-Cel-Sar was produced at least as early as 1903 and at least as late as 1916. The market was very localized in specific areas of Kentucky and Indiana (Charlie White-Moon’s headquarters were in Louisville). Nearly all the testimonials come from Louisville, Kentucky, and New Albany, Indiana (just across the Kentucky River), where it was heavily advertised and promoted.

On a side note, some of our department did have a conversation about the cover page when this item first arrived. What caught our attention wasn’t the picture or the title, but the small phrase in the bottom right: “Written for Human Beings Only.” We couldn’t come to a consensus about why one might label a publication that way, but it’s a good reminder of what makes working in Special Collections so much fun. Every day there’s a new surprise!

And, of course, I get to share some of those discoveries with you!

Meal Prep, Service, and…Design?

A title like How to Prepare and Serve a Meal: Interior Decoration had to catch our attention. After all, it’s food history related. But, in case you didn’t know, we are also the home to the International Archive of Women in Architecture. This group of manuscript collections and publications helps to document a field that wasn’t widely open to women until the last 40 years or so. You can read more about it here: That being said, you can imagine how a book that combines these two areas might be of some interest to Special Collections. Written by Lillian B. Lansdown around 1922, this a household guide on two related subjects.

What’s interesting is that this publication almost feels like two books. There isn’t a real transition from the topic of meal planning to interior decoration, just the start of a new chapter. The decoration section is significantly smaller, and one wonders if it was sort of tacked on (perhaps it was too short a section to stand on its own?). It is cataloged as a culinary item, as opposed to a design one.

At the same time, this combination makes perfect sense for the time period. Both the kitchen and the home (management, order, and design) were considered part of the woman’s domestic sphere. I would guess we have more manuals like this on our shelves (and I know some of the large household management guides cover these and other topics), so I’ll be keeping an eye out for similar pieces in the future. They’re chock full of little lessons.

Happy meal planning and home decorating! Just remember: For afternoon teas, never use paper doilies (unless you have more than 100 visiting); Broken lines aren’t shouldn’t be part of permanent fixtures in a room; and drinking liquors in 1922 wasn’t illegal (so long as you found a way to legally obtain it…)

Upcoming Event!

Just a quick second reminder about the upcoming event in Roanoke on September 5th! There’s still time to register  for “Bear Meat Picnics & Whistlepig Pie: Food and Tradition in Appalachia” (registration is due by September 1st).

Hello all! If you’re in the Roanoke area, you’ll probably want to know about an upcoming event! On September 5, 2014, the Peacock Harper Culinary Friends will be hosting a lunch and program: “Bear Meat Picnics & Whistlepig Pie: Food and Tradition in Appalachia.” It will be held at the Roanoke Country Club from 11:30-1:30. Please note that you need to register for this event in advance (registration form is below the flyer).

Sept. 5 flyer

Below are pdf versions of the flyer and registration form for downloading and printing:

September 5 Event Flyer
September 5 Registration Form

New Pamphlet Round Up!

We’re revving up for the new school year here at Virginia Tech, so it seems like a good time for pamphlet round up this week. There are always lots of new items to share, but we haven’t had a large collection pamphlets lately. It makes selection a little easier, though not by much. So many great recipes!

Selected Banana Recipes for Appetizing and Nutritious Dishes

Selected Banana Recipes for Appetizing and Nutritious Dishes, 1923

Selected Banana Recipes for Appetizing and Nutritious Dishes

Selected Banana Recipes for Appetizing and Nutritious Dishes, 1923

So, the thing about bananas is that they seem to have almost too many uses. Baked, fried, or sliced? Breads, pies, puddings, and salads? Okay! Pickled, hashed, or used as stuffing? Ummm, perhaps not this time.

Wartime Recipes That Taste Good (Sun-Maid Raisins)

Wartime Recipes That Taste Good (Sun-Maid Raisins), c.1941-1945

Wartime Recipes That Taste Good (Sun-Maid Raisins)

Wartime Recipes That Taste Good (Sun-Maid Raisins), c.1941-1945

From bananas to raisins, it’s a logical leap, right? The raisins in this pamphlet hit every course, from breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, and snacks. The wartime nature of the publication, as any of our readers know, means we should be prepared for anything. Like using raisins as a filler in meat loaf or the creation of “Raisin Spaghetti Ring.”

Adventures in Herb Vinegars, 1944

Adventures in Herb Vinegars, 1944

Adventures in Herb Vinegars, 1944

Adventures in Herb Vinegars, 1944

“Adventure” isn’t generally a word one might use in conjunction with food. Well, unless you’re taking on the challenge of preparing certain mid-20th century dishes containing words like “surprise” or “piquant.” Flavored vinegars (and oils) are a great ingredient to cook with though. This adventure turns out a bit less frightening than expected, at least on the page. (No strange vinegary desserts in sight!)

Dressy Dishes from Your Victory Garden, 1945

Dressy Dishes from Your Victory Garden, 1945


Dressy Dishes from Your Victory Garden, 1945

Dressy Dishes from Your Victory Garden, 1945

(I promise, I didn’t actually intentionally select mostly World War II era items today! But they are so much fun!) We’ll finish up with a veggie-based booklet. You can do a great deal with vegetables, which isn’t surprising. (Much like bananas, apparently?) Recipes in this publication have them in jams, butters, pickles/slaws, salads, sweet and savory pies, and cakes, in addition to as main dishes. There are even potato doughnuts, stuffed and baked cucumbers, and chocolate potato cake!

So, if you’re feeling selective, victorious, adventurous, or dressy this weekend and looking for a recipe to try, you might just look back. Historical recipes aren’t just for reading and research. They might just be worth a nibble, too.

Upcoming Event in Bedford!

This week I received a note and a request to share the flyer below. The historic Avenel house in Bedford ( will be hosting a dinner featuring recipes from Nancy Carter Crump’s Hearthside Cooking and a presentation about cooking in Virginia. The dinner is on September 6th, so you’ll want to act fast. Contact info and purchase information is on the bottom of the flyer.

Food & Drink Poster

Excuses, Excuses (Or, Why This Week’s Post is Short)

Most of our staff is out this week at the annual conference for our archives-oriented professional society, including your usual blogger, Kira (me!). I’m off “researching” food and drink one of my favorite cities (my custom google map has more places that I can eat/drink in a month, let alone in 4 days!) and discussing all things archival. Procrastinator that I can sometimes be, I wasn’t able to draft a full feature before leaving Blacksburg.

However, I can’t bring myself to skip a week. We’re coming up on the three year anniversary of “What’s Cookin’ @Special Collections!?” More on that in September. In the meantime, here’s one of the items that started the whole blog in motion (and serves as part of our header):

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This c.1880s handwritten 8 page manuscript is a copy of a late 19th century extended metaphor. It talks about the best way to find and care for a husband. I’ve written about it before on Special Collections’ other blog here (which includes a full transcript): You can also view the finding aid for the collection here:

Happy cooking until next week!


Instruction, Reference, and the History of Food & Drink Collection

If it isn’t clear by now, there’s a lot I love about the History of Food and Drink Collection. In the last year, however, I’ve been especially excited about some emerging instruction opportunities. During the 2013-2014 academic year, I taught sessions that were both an introduction to Special Collections and an introduction to the History of Food and Drink Collection. One was a course on Food and Literature (we had two sections come to visit us, one in the fall and one in the spring). The other was a history seminar for undergraduates taught by Mark Barrow, Food in American History. It’s the latter I want to talk about today, because the work of students in that course led to a new acquisition for the collection.

Front cover of the collection of undergraduate student essays from HIST4004: Food in American History

Front cover of the collection of undergraduate student essays from HIST4004: Food in American History

Each student in the course wrote a paper on a topic of interest to them (relating to food in America, of course!). Over the spring semester, I was lucky enough to work with many of these students, whether it was helping them find an item for a blog post or helping with research for their paper. Each student kept a blog and all the blogs were consolidated into a single source. You can read that “mother blog” here:

I’ve opted not to scan and share the essays themselves for a variety of reasons. I didn’t want to do so without permission, and several of the students have graduated already, making them tricky to track down. Also, I don’t think there’s an easy way to pick any one or two above the others. As you’ll see from the table of contents below, these students covered a variety of food topics relating to business, history, technology, legislation, and health. Their creativity and ideas were eye-0pening for me. As always, it was a great experience, too, because it meant I discovered new resources to help answer new questions.

There will be two cataloged copies of this publication soon, one in Special Collections and one in the circulating collection. So, whether you come here and visit us, or check out the other copy, I hope you find something to suit your taste. I know I did. :)

%d bloggers like this: