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.

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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. :)

Cora Bolton McBryde’s Cookbook

Some of our readers may know (and some of you may not) that Special Collections has a second blog. Launched in January 2014, it highlights materials from all of our collecting areas and features contributions from all our staff. Last week, our university archivist wrote a post about a handwritten cookbook we acquired last year. It was kept by Cora Bolton McBryde, the wife of Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College president (from 1891-1907), John McLaren McBryde. It’s a very interesting piece of university history AND food history. So this week, our feature comes from our other blog. You can read about the cookbook, its preservation, and a little about the McBrydes here: http://vtspecialcollections.wordpress.com/2014/07/17/cooking-for-the-president-cora-bolton-mcbrydes-cookbook/. Enjoy!

Mrs. Scott’s Seasonal Summer Cooking

Since summer is in full swing, this week we’re again featuring, well, summer recipes. This time, from Mrs. Scott’s North American Seasonal Cook Book: Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter Guide to Economy and Ease in Good Food, 1921. (Perhaps we’ll revisit other portions of the cookbook later in the year, too!)

Front cover

Front cover

From the introduction:

This is the first cook book ever planned to help the housewife take advantage of Nature’s changing supply of foodstuffs from season to season, tho such timeliness is the chief determining factor in the economy, palatability and healthfulness of many articles of diet…The average woman who never thought of the matter in this light will be astonished at the usefulness of this Seasonal Cook Book. It will enable her to make timely use of what is in market, and by so doing will help not only to reduce the cost of living, but at the same time increase the pleasure of the table.

The summer recipes include recipes for hot and cold soups; fish and clams; beef, lamb and combination dishes; egg dishes; cheese receipts; vegetables; salads and dressings; fruit desserts; puddings; frozen dishes; seasonable cakes; jams; home flavors; breads; beverages; jellies; canning; and sandwiches. Personally, I got stuck in the sandwich section at the end, surprised at how many different things one can combine with cream cheese to make a filling, especially when it comes to olives…

Mrs. Scott’s point, though, is that you can do a great deal with what is on hand during a given season. Good advice for any age where cooks may be seeking economy, simplicity, and efficiency. And there are at least some options for those hot days when turning on an oven might be the last thing on your mind!

Frozen Desserts and Virginia Dishes–Just in Time for July 4th!

While hunting for either a) July 4th themed recipes or b) summery desserts for the holiday, I stumbled upon Frozen Desserts: A Little Book Containing Recipes for Ice Cream. Water Ices, Frozen Desserts Together with Sundry “Famous Old Virginia Dishes,” by Mrs. Clement Carrington McPhail. (Quite a long title for 16 pages!) It probably dates to the early part of the 20th century. What’s more intriguing, though, is the combination…

Front cover

Front cover

It’s hard not to look at this more like two 8 page publications by one author that were sort of stuck together. There isn’t a real connection between, say, Frozen Banana Bisque and Old Virginia Hoecake, but what cook doesn’t have a diverse knowledge of foods. I suppose Mrs. McPhail was just sharing what she knew.

So, whether your three day weekend needs some tutti frutti, pineapple ice, apple dumplings, or wild duck, take a little inspiration from Virginia past. (Though you may want to skip the frozen mayonnaise, whether you’re picnicking or not!)

Happy July 4th!

Betty Crocker & Salads!

It’s back to Betty Crocker and the bright red box for a short Friday afternoon post. There’s something that must draw me to it for these end-of-the-week features. Today’s post focuses on section “D,” aka “Salads for Every Occasion.” Frozen, fruity, meaty, fishy, jellied, dressed, dry…and often some wild combination. (But don’t worry, we’ve spared you the jellied chicken this time…)

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Whether you’re looking for dish to complement a weekend bbq or a way to use up leftovers, this series of cards can help…maybe?

Happy Friday and make something you enjoy this weekend!

Betty Crocker & Outdoor Entertaining

As Friday afternoon hit and I still didn’t have an idea for a post, I suddenly remember the bright red box shelved in our Special Collections Media section. Saved by “Betty Crocker” for neither the first nor last time! (I know it’s really a team of people, but admit it, we all have an image of her.) A couple of years back, I found the cheery box that is the Betty Crocker Recipe Card Library (our edition is from 1971). As we headed into the Memorial Day weekend and grilling season, I pulled out the section called “Outdoor Entertaining.” (We’re only taking on one section for today–the cheery red box of Betty Crocker recipes holds lots of surprises for future posts!)

Skewered or spitted foods not pictured include steak kabobs, lamb or veal skewers, and ham on a spit, in case you were curious. There are a number of seafood recipes (nothing stabbed or punctured—though there is a fish in a wire grilling frame) in this section, what appears to be a nice recipe for grilled apples, and lots more meat.

So, as we kick off grilling season and unofficial summer, take some inspiration. This weekend, break out the coals/gas/wood and skewer away (carefully, of course). It’s amazing what you can do with a little grill power.

 

Women’s History Month, Part 8: Amelia Simmons (fl. late 18th century)

Since last week, I’ve been running around with the idea in my head that I wanted to write about a first: namely, the author of the first known American cookbook, Amelia Simmons. We aren’t lucky enough to own an early edition of the treasured American Cookery, or the Art of Dressing Viands, Fish, Poultry, and Vegetables, and the Best Modes of Making Pastes, Puffs, Pies, Tarts, Puddings, Custards, and Preserves, and All Kinds of Cakes, from the Imperial Plum to Plain Cake: Adapted to this Country, and All Grades of Life (first published in 1796), but we do have a 1996 reprint of the second 1796 edition. (Oh, how I do enjoy a long cookbook title!)

Below I’m sharing the book itself, but profiling Amelia turns out to be a near-impossibility! Her history is gleaned in bits and pieces. There’s a wonderful biography of what is known and speculated about her online at the Feeding America project from MSU. I won’t re-hash it here, but it is a great read and I recommend it.

 

American Cookery was first published in 1796. The country was young, still creating an identity. American food culture, influenced by Simmons and some of her receipts, was developing right along with it. Certainly this and other publications relied on mostly British cooking and British cookbooks would remain popular and common in America for decades to come. However, Simmons’ receipts incorporated native ingredients, most notably cornmeal (Indian meal), and, by the 1798 edition, advice for how to improve access to resources for cooking (“The cultivation of Rabbits would be profitable in America”).  Simmon’s recipes include the use of pearl ash (also called “pot ash”), which functioned as a precursor to what we consider modern baking powder, still about 50 years ahead of her time. The final page of our edition also contains directions for “emptins,” an ingredient that worked as a kind of yeast. Simmon’s book wasn’t only about recipes, but cooking and baking as processes in the home. The 1798 edition offered was expanded to offer information on growing and choosing foods, as well as preparing them.

Feeding America has a digital copy of the 1798 edition online, for those of you interested in viewing the whole item and Project Gutenburg includes the text of the first 1796 edition, if you’d like to compare. Either way, this book offers us a great peek into the roots of American food and its history. Now, Independence Cake, anyone? :)

From Tiny Books to Chunky Books

You may recall A Tiny Post on Some Tiny Books that we shared last October, when we acquired three tiny books, one each on salads, sandwiches, and chafing dish recipes. The post ended with a note about the elusive 4th volume in the quartet, The Tiny Book on Cocktails. I’m happy to report that it took a couple of months, but we’ve had success…sort of. Each of the four volumes were published individually in 1905, but finding a copy of The Tiny Book on Cocktails is tricky, as they are few and far between. However, we were able to purchase a rare version of all four books, published together, alternately titled, The Chunky Book.

The Chunky Book spine

The Chunky Book spine

The Chunky Book front cover. The book used to have a strap.

The Chunky Book front cover. The book used to have a strap.

The Chunky Book side view. Yes, it really is chunky!

The Chunky Book side view. Yes, it really is chunky!

The majority of The Chunky Book consists of the three volumes we already have (The Tiny Book on Salads, The Tiny Book on Sandwiches, and The Tiny Book on Chafing Dishes), each one divided by a few blank pages. The last part, however, is our new addition: The Tiny Book on Cocktails. There are some that may seem familiar, some that are forgotten in today’s modern cocktail age, and some that just make you wonder. There’s a table of contents and a short introduction on cocktails and ingredients, with the following note: “A cocktail should never be bottled and should always be made at the time of drinking. A bottled cocktail might be likened unto a depot sandwich–neither are fit for use except in cases of necessity.” While not a unique perspective, it makes an interesting contrast to the work of some other early cocktail book authors, who often have recipes for bottling mixes. 

If you were to spend a little more time looking through the recipes, you’ll notice a trend of certain ingredients, namely gin, whiskey, and brandy, along with wine-based aperitifs, bitters, and lemon peel. Lots of lemon peel. There are other, more unique ingredients–specific types of rum or liqueurs, for example–but gin, whiskey, and brandy were at the core of cocktail culture in early 20th century America, so we shouldn’t be surprised. (Rum was gaining ground, but vodka was still decades away from filling the American market and glass.)

In any case, The Chunky Book makes for fun perusing, if you’d like to stop by and swap sandwich, salad, hot dish, OR cocktail recipes. And until next week, cheers and eat well!

Eudora Welty’s Fruitcake

In 1980, Albondocani Press produced a Christmas card with Eudora Welty’s White Fruitcake recipe. The cover art, by Robert Dunn, was an hand drawn image that actually looks quite appealing! WhiteFruitcake
This fruitcake used bourbon, which would be a nice compliment to the pecan, crystallized cherries and pineapple, and lemon peel. You can find the recipe online in a number of places, including the Cookbook of the Day blog. Welty’s recipe may not have been created by her, but she did give it quite the boost. This recipe may be a little late for this year, but you can always start fruitcake planning for next year…

We have one New Year’s Eve post scheduled, then we’ll be back in 2014. We look forward to continuing to share our collection with you.

Happy Holidays from Virginia Tech Special Collections!

Culinary Cereals…Err, that’s Serials

If you missed the Special Collections Open House on September 3rd, don’t worry! You still have three more chances to visit us, see a selection of materials, talk with our staff, and even take a tour behind the scenes! Our next evening is scheduled for next Tuesday, October 1st, from 5-7pm. Come on by!


Last week’s almanac post got me thinking about serial culinary publications (aka food magazines). These days, they come in a variety of formats and with a wide range of emphases. Looking back at previous generations, you’ll see the same kind of variety, even in the same publication. While we don’t focus on collecting culinary magazines, per se, we do have some neat items on our shelves–i.e. What To EatWhat to Eat was Minneapolis based magazine from 1896-1908. (It later changed names and ran for a while as National Food Magazine). Sadly, we don’t have a complete run, but we have the issues from 1897.

January issue, front cover

January issue, front cover

April issue, front cover

April issue, front cover

May issue, front cover

May issue, front cover

Sample table of contents, February issue

Sample table of contents, February issue. This issue features an essay on hosting a Japanese-themed dinner. The cover and the table of contents are decorated with Japanese-style imagery.

The front covers all feature large color illustrations. Some relate to the time of year; others related to a particular item of interest within the issue. And they certainly are eye-catching. Even the table of contents for each issue features themed illustrations. Many other culinary publications at the time didn’t contain much color and those that did were often advertisements. Speakings of which…

Sample advertisements (throughout the issues, the same ads appear again and again).

Sample advertisements (throughout the issues, the same ads appear again and again).

More sample advertisements.

More sample advertisements.

Not only to the same ads appear again and again in each issue, but they address a VERY clear audience: middle-and upper-class ladies who can afford travel (EVERY issue includes train travel ads), servants, and a variety of food goods, and, in most cases, are also caring for a family in some way. But the meat (pun intended) of these publications is what’s between the advertisements: essays, poems, stories, nutrition advice, testimonials, letters to the editor and more!


Quite cleverly, What to Eat has a little something for everyone to read, enjoy, and entertain (including one certain archivist 116 years later!). Although we only have one year’s worth of issues in our holdings, it can offer some great insight in the American woman of 1897 and how she was targeted by publishers and advertisers. What to Eat doesn’t appear to have been scanned by anyone yet, so thinking about stopping by. And you never know, we might even have a volume out at our next Open House. :)

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