Every Table has a Silver Lining!

Happy (almost) Thanksgiving! With the holiday only two days away, you may have your mind on entertaining–food, guests, activities…But, are you really thinking about the correct things? Undoubtedly. If, however, you’d like to ponder the finer points table setting and silver serving pieces, How to be a Successful Hostess is here to help!

Written by Sandra Bruce and sponsored by/featuring the silver of Reed and Barton (a company still in business today), this is a compact, but thorough, guide to silverware. It starts with information and suggested menus for different types of event: formal and informal dinners, afternoon tea, cocktail parties, special events, etc. Most sections offer general advice, but the section on cocktail parties includes lots of recipes, along with some advice.

Probably the preparation of drinks is in the able hands of the master of the house; but even so, it is essential that every hostess be prepared to put together a really good cocktail in an emergency. With that in mind, we offer here some popular recipes for a number of the drinks most commonly called for.

While the probability of that being the situation today is far lower (I promise you, women make excellent bartenders!), this is followed by a helpful two pages of classic recipes and a page on different types of glassware.

The majority of the booklet, however, is about silver: what to have, how to choose it, how to set it on a table, how to decorate it (seriously, 4 pages on how to choose a monogram), and how to store and clean it. In the end, we might find the title a little misleading–menu planning, table setting, and selecting/keeping silver are a part of etiquette, but perhaps not the most important parts of it. That being said, if you’re interested in the larger “etiquette” picture of our collection, this is an a piece of the puzzle. There are other items in the History of Food and Drink Collection that can give you more information on how to invite guests to dinner, where to seat them, how to write a thank you note after an invitation, and a host of other aspects of entertaining. So, whether you’ve got 4 for a small dinner or 25 for a buffet, we’ve got volumes of advice to share!

Have a happy Thanksgiving and after you’ve recovered from the dinner and the leftovers, we’ll be here. You know, in case you’re ready to start planning table decorations for the next set of holidays. :)


New Pamphlet Round-Up #3!

It’s been more than 6 months since I did a pamphlet round-up and, as I once again have about 0.5 cubic feet of pamphlets in my office, it seems like a good time. These haven’t officially made their way into the Culinary Pamphlet Collection just yet (and I have one item below that’s going into the Culinary Ephemera Collection), but they should be soon. On a side note, we’ve also started acquiring some items that will be the start of our new Agricultural Ephemera Collection, but I’ll save that for a future post.

First up, a couple of items to help prepare you for the Thanksgiving holiday, include turkey tips, cranberry sauces uses, and some cottage-cheese based hors d’oeuvres.


Turkey Techniques from the Reynolds Wrap Kitchens (c.1980s?)


Pure Cranberry Sauce, page 1


Pure Cranberry Sauce, page 2


Serve Cottage Cheese: Selected Recipes from the Sealtest Kitchen

Then, it’s back to basics, with some pamphlets on flavorings for baking, cooking with meat, and all of the things you can do with salt.


Baker’s Pure Fruit Flavoring Extracts (also the makers of Walter Baker chocolate products!)


The Homemaker’s Meat Recipe Book, c.1948


Make It with Salt, n.d.

To wrap up, we’ve got something from Battle Creek Health Foods. It’s full of recipes using a variety of vegetarian-friendly products developed by John Kellogg. And if that doesn’t have you feeling better, how about a tonic? Although it was an advertisement to buy boxes and labels for what we would likely call “patent medicines,” the ad even included recipes for druggists to make their own supplies.


Modern Menus and Recipes for Your Health, c.1920s?


Patent Medicine Label Advertisement, J. F. Lawrence Printing Co. page 1


Patent Medicine Label Advertisement, J. F. Lawrence Printing Co. page 2

Next week, we’ll be back with some tips for the hostess with another sponsored pamphlet. In the meantime, feel free to ponder your cranberry sauce and cottage cheese opportunities!

The NMAH and Gelatin!

The National Museum of American History has taken their culinary materials one step further–and made some 1930s gelatin dishes to share! Check out their blog post, “Tasting the 1930s: An experiment with congealed salads and other one-dish wonders.”

I’ve had more than one person ask me about the possibility of doing a feature or two where I actually make a dish or two from cookbooks in our collection. And the idea keeps rolling around in my brain. Perhaps this is just the inspiration I need. I may just have to do some hunting for the right recipes…

Special Collections is on Twitter!

Just a quick announcement: Virginia Tech Special Collections and University Archives has joined Twitter! If you tweet, follow, or just want to check out our page, you can find us @VT_SCUA or at https://twitter.com/VT_SCUA/. We’ll be tweeting photos, facts, exhibits, events, blog posts, and more. Of course we’ll be including things about and from the History of Food and Drink Collection, so be sure to keep an eye out!

Cooking with Ground Meat–It’s WAY More Than Hamburgers

As you may have noticed, we have quite a number of publications from the Culinary Arts Institute, an organization that was based in Chicago in the early and mid-20th century. It’s also no secret I love these publications! I’ve written on it before for previous posts about Ruth Berolzheimer and other publications in the series (There’s Something about Dairy!Ring Out 2014–Culinary Arts Institute Style!; and Sandwiches, Part 2: Return of Frosted Sandwich). I’m pretty sure some of the series has appeared in other posts, too. I couldn’t help myself again this week when I found The Ground Meat Cookbook (1955). This post is a little lean, but it is chuck full of recipes. (I promise, next week, we’re on to other topics–but this has “Meaty Beets” and “Frosted Lamb Loaf!”)TX749C651955_tp

Like many of the other titles in this series, this one comes in booklet form. It’s 68 pages of recipes that, surprisingly, aren’t ALL meat based. It’s just mostly meat. And not just ground beef. You’ll find ground beef, veal, lamb, ham, tongue, livers, and corned beef dishes for appetizers, lunch, and dinner. There’s even a section of dessert recipes, if you’re really into mincemeat. Please note: I did spare you the image of “Frosted Lamb Loaf.”

You may notice it’s not all meat, either. There are recipes for sauces and accompaniments (LOTS of potatoes and rice), and there’s even some gelatin (a gelatin garnish made with tomato juice, meat broth, and chili sauce). But what really caught my eye were some of the creative appetizers: pickles stuffed with meat and sliced; beets done the same way; some dressed up ham/deviled eggs and lots of meatballs. Some of the recipes may seem a bit outdated, but others are familiar standbys that stand the test of time.

Most Culinary Arts Institute publications are still under copyright and you won’t find them online in their entirety. Which means you’ll have to pay us a visit to find a few more meat recipes for your table. Or, you can visit one of the other 11 libraries that have a copy. (Hmm, this title is a bit rarer than I realized!) Expect a short post on Friday with a quick announcement, then we’ll be back with a new feature next week. Cheers! Or, whatever one should say when toasting with “Porcupine Beef Balls” (no, they do NOT contain actual porcupine meat)…

Staple Stories for Staple Items

This week, we’re back to the children’s cookbook and nutrition literature collection, looking at Aunt Martha’s Corner Cupboard by Mary and Elizabeth Kirby. First published in 1875, our edition is from 1901. There was at least one edition between those, published in 1895.


Aunt Martha’s Corner Cupboard is a series of stories told by Aunt Martha to her two nephews, Charley and Richard. We learn that both boys are less-than-stellar students at their school. One Christmas, they are sent to spend the break with their Aunt Martha, who they adore for her company, her jolly nature, her locked cupboard full of goodies, and her stories. Aunt Martha comes up with a plan to encourage the boys to be more curious (and hopefully better students in the future). Instead of her usual fairy tales, which even the boys have grown weary of, she decides to tell them a bit of history about tea-cups, tea, sugar, coffee, salt, currants, rice, and honey.

The book includes a few color lithographs and 36 engravings, ranging from full pages to smaller illustrations. Aunt Martha’s Corner Cupboard is strictly a storybook, but as we have seen with many other culinary-related storybooks for children, it is full of lessons. In this case, Aunt Martha teaches the boys history of items in her cherished cupboard, inspiring them to think and explore. After she finishes her series of tales about tea-cups, Charley and Richard find some broken pottery and clay, and contrive to make their own. Her lesson about tea offers the moral that we don’t always get things right the first time, when she talks about the introduction of tea from China to England in the 17th century:

There is a funny story of two old people, who had an ounce of tea sent to them, and who were quite at a loss what to do with it. At last, the old lady proposed to her husband that they should sprinkle it on their bacon, and eat it; which they accordingly did–and very nasty it must have been.”

(There are similar stories of tea in early America, where people brewed tea in boiling water, then tossed out the water and ate the leaves.)

If you’d like to see the book in its entirety, you can see two different versions online. One is the first edition from 1875, held by the New York Public Library; the other is an edition from 1895, held by Harvard University. Or, you can always pay us a visit and learn a little more about honey and currants alongside Charley and Richard. Aunt Martha really does have some great stories. :)


There’s Something about Dairy!

This week, I had it in mind to find something Halloween related. Then I realized, with a busy day today and tomorrow, hunting for Halloween recipes wasn’t on my menu. We haven’t talked about dairy in quite some time, though, and that seemed as good a topic as any. The even better news is that I happened on a “Halloween Pie” recipe in the book I selected. Sometimes, the best thing you can do is not look for what you want with the History of Food and Drink Collection. Sometimes what you’re looking for finds you.

Last year, during Women’s History Month (March), I talked a little bit about Ruth Berolzheimer and the Culinary Arts Institute. One of the books mentioned in that post is our feature item this week. What I expected was a 30-50 page soft cover pamphlet, like many other publications in the series from the Culinary Arts Institute. What I got was 256 pages and 750 recipes related to dairy! (I think we’ll get our daily dose of Vitamin D in this post!)

The Dairy Cook Book, 1941. Front cover.

The Dairy Cook Book, 1941. Front cover.

The Dairy Cook Book, 1941. Table of contents.

The Dairy Cook Book, 1941. Table of contents.

The Dairy Cook Book, 1941. Pictures include Cauliflower with Cheese Sauce (above)--which also looks a bit Halloween-eqsue--and Potatoes in Savory Sauce (below).

The Dairy Cook Book, 1941. Pictures include Cauliflower with Cheese Sauce (above) (which also looks a bit Halloween-eqsue, if you’re looking for a brain-like item on your menu!) and Potatoes in Savory Sauce (below).

The Dairy Cook Book, 1941. Pictures include Chicory Crown Salad (top), Frozen Cheese Salad (middle), and Cottage Cheese Ring (bottom). There are a LOT of frozen salads in this section of the book!

The Dairy Cook Book, 1941. Pictures include Chicory Crown Salad (top), Frozen Cheese Salad (middle), and Cottage Cheese Ring (bottom). There are a LOT of frozen salads in this section of the book!

The Dairy Cook Book, 1941. Pictures include Bombes (above) and Sour Cream Chocolate Cake (below).

The Dairy Cook Book, 1941. Pictures include Bombes (above) and Sour Cream Chocolate Cake (below).

The Dairy Cook Book, 1941. Pictures include Chocolate Malted Milk (above) and Banana Milk Shake (below). Also, note the recipe for Halloween Pie, which sadly, isn't pictured anywhere.

The Dairy Cook Book, 1941. Pictures include Chocolate Malted Milk (above) and Banana Milk Shake (below). Also, note the recipe for Halloween Pie, which sadly, isn’t pictured anywhere.

This is a cookbook that’s organized around meal components, not meals themselves. So, if you’re looking for breakfast ideas, for example, you aren’t out of luck. They are in the book, if you know where to go: breads and entrees, specifically. Go into those sections and you’ll find more doughnuts, muffins, and egg dishes than you can manage, but this is really a book that’s focused on the sweet stuff. One look at the table of contents above makes that fairly clear: puddings, cakes AND refrigerator cakes, frozen desserts, pies, cookies, frostings and fillings, and more than half of the sauces and beverages. We might even make a case for a fair number of the salads being desserts! On the flip side, if you’re looking for cheese-based appetizers, this is also the book for you. It’s chock full of cheese balls and snack foods stuff with or rolled in cheese. Seriously, it’s enough to whey anyone down! (Yes, I had to get at least one cheese pun in this week.)

On a last (unintended) note, this book contains a recipe for an old friend of ours that I found while flipping through the pages (serendipity at work!). It’s called “Individual Salad Sandwich Loaves,” but as you may know, a recipe title can be deceiving. There’s no picture, but  when you see a list of ingredients that includes minced meat and eggs, unsliced bread, butter, mayonnaise, cream, cream cheese, a few herbs/spices, and garnishes like watercress and olives, a mid-20th century recipe aficionado’s brain can make the leap before even reaching the end of directions which read “[c]ut loaf into 2-inch slices and cover each with cream cheese.” Call it what you will, but a frosted sandwich is a frosted sandwich, any day of the week. (The previous posts on this topic can be found here and here and here and here–yes there are FOUR! As for future posts, well, you’ll have to wait and see.)

The Dairy Cook Book (1941) isn’t out of copyright, so you won’t find it online, as is the case with most of the Culinary Arts Institute publications, which come from the same era. However, they do seem to overlap a bit, so if you have one (the one on snacks, or one of the dessert pamphlets, for example), you may have seen some of the recipes before. As always, you’re welcome to visit us in search of your next dairy recipe–or any other recipe, of course. You won’t find everything on our shelves, but as I like to point out to researchers, you might find something you didn’t know you were looking for, and it can take you in a whole new direction. I think this rings true for research, but for cooking, too. After all, recipes are just a guideline, right? ;)

Reliable Flour, Reliable Recipes, Reliable Baking

With all our talk of baking powder on this blog, I feel I’ve neglected an equally important ingredient: flour! They go together quite well, each with their baking-related tasks. So, it seems time to put flour in the spotlight…at least this week.

The Reliable Flour Company, based in Boston, Massachusetts, began distributing pamphlet recipe books as early as 1899 and until at least 1920, possibly a bit later. The first in our collection is from 1904 (above), but we also have one from 1907 (Reliable Recipes: Number Two) and another from 1911 (Biscuit and Cakes, The “Reliable” Method). I’m not sure which came first, the name or the marketing idea, but kudos to whoever decided on “Reliable” as the company name. Other pamphlet titles include Some Puddings and Would You Like to Make Good Cake? 

The nice thing about baking is that is never goes out of style. Technology may change, recipes may alter, but there are always going to be good reasons for a chocolate cake, a pie crust, or a doughnut. It’s part of what makes flour such a staple. So, with fall in the air (at least in Blacksburg), it might just be time to pull some from the cupboard and see what autumnal baked goodies you can make (apple dumplings, for example?). Until next week, happy baking!

Monday Afternoon News Bite

A quick early week news bite:

NPR’s food blog, The Salt, ran a story this weekend about African-American culinary history, “Beyond ‘Aunt Jemima’: A Taste Of African-American Culinary Heritage.” Certainly, this is a topic we’ve touched on before! If you’re interested in listening to the interview with author or just want to read highlights, both are available online.


An Anniversary. Plus, Some Summer and Fall Fruits

Somewhere in the hectic month of September, “What’s Cookin’ @Special Collections?!” celebrated it’s 4th anniversary, which only occurred to me earlier this week in the hectic month of October. (Are you sensing a theme?) Last week was our 281st post–that’s a fair amount of blogging and some days I can’t believe what started out as as experiment is still going strong! We’re not going anywhere any time soon, mind you, but I felt like it was worth mentioning. (Happy belated anniversary, What’s Cookin’!) In fact, we’re doing some new things, which I’ll be talking about soon. In the meantime, though, today’s feature item is a look something agricultural: a c.1901 Broce Nurseries fruit catalog.

This is an odd little catalog, which seems to be the best way to describe it…sort of. Unlike most bound publications, this is almost completely text-free. Other than the captions for the fruits themselves, there is no title page, no introduction, and, aside from the note on the cover, no way to identify the origins of the publication. There isn’t even an obvious way to connect the product to the nursery. That, combined with the different lithographers of the various prints, suggests it may be been bound at a later date, rather than serving as a contemporary advertising tool. On the other hand, one look at the images, and you can see why someone might go to the trouble of having them bound.

I’m also particularly fond of this item for its local ties. If you’re from the Blacksburg area, you might recognize Broce as both a historical family name and a street. A little more digging resulted in a 1912 Virginia Wholesale Nurseries catalog with some background on Broce and the establishment of the nursery in 1907-it seems Broce himself was a VPI graduate!

During the winter of 1907 and 1908 J. H. Broce, a graduate of the Department of Horticulture of the Virginia Polytechnic Institute, returned to Blacksburg after extended experience in nursery-work and began the propagation of apples and peaches in a commercial way. Having had the full training under Prof. Wm. B. Alwood and others at V. P. I., he was in the best possible position to profit by this experience, and his first crop of trees grown at Blacksburg showed the result in a very successful lot of stock.

The nursery still appears in 1913 directory of American florists, nurseries, and seedmen. Unfortunately, at least at present, I don’t know how long it was in business or where it was located. On a related note, we do have some papers from Dr. Alwood in our collection, too.

Oh, and by the way, if you’re fond of full-color fruit lithographs from the turn of the 20th century, you might also check out this previous post on the Stark Bros., written back in 2012. Both of these items call to mind “Goblin Market,” the work of one of my favorite poets, Christina Rossetti. In the poem, the luscious fruits that tempt two sisters have much darker consequences than our simple catalog of nursery products, but the opening stanza conjures up similar imagery:

Morning and evening
Maids heard the goblins cry:
“Come buy our orchard fruits,
Come buy, come buy:
Apples and quinces,
Lemons and oranges,
Plump unpeck’d cherries,
Melons and raspberries,
Bloom-down-cheek’d peaches,
Swart-headed mulberries,
Wild free-born cranberries,
Crab-apples, dewberries,
Pine-apples, blackberries,
Apricots, strawberries;—
All ripe together
In summer weather,—
The whole poem is much longer, but you can read it, if tempted, in its entirety online. And it’s quite dangerous to let me start talking about 19th century British poetry, unless you’d like a MUCH longer blog post. :) Instead, I invite you to read again next week, where we’ll take a look at a different item of agriculture production: flour.
%d bloggers like this: