What’s on the Menu?: Hotel Roanoke

A number of our archivists (myself included) are attended a conference this Thursday, Friday, and Saturday (or some combination of those days). Lucky for us, it’s being held in our own backyard, just up I-81 in Roanoke. More specifically, it’s at the historic Hotel Roanoke (you can read some highlights of its history online). Special Collections includes a few resources that can give you more information on the Hotel Roanoke, from architectural plans to local history. We can also tell you a little something about dining there! We have a small collection of menus, including the below.

This particular menu is the most “mysterious” of the bunch, in that it doesn’t have a date. Judging by the photograph in the menu, one might guess 1920s, but I’m still not sure of that. (The collection also has a menu from 1942 and several from the 1990s.) As you can see, it’s a wide-ranging menu for any meal–though to be honest, I kept fixating on the recurrence of “kraut juice.” Seems like an interesting item, but someone must have enjoyed it! While I don’t expect to be dining for those prices on my visit, it’s nice to know that the Hotel Roanoke is still around and continuing to build on over 130 years of tradition.

We have a few other collections with menus, as well as a other menus in this particular collection, so stay tuned for future posts on dining history. You’re welcome to visit us for a menu (prix) fixe, but if you can’t, there are also some amazing digital menu collections online. Visit our Food & Drink History Resources guide and scroll down to the bottom of the page for a list. Until next week, good dining!

Advice from an Alcott

No, it’s not a post about literature. Well, not American literature. But it advice literature for mothers! This week our feature item is a mid-19th century manual, The Young Mother, or Management of Children in Regard to Health. This book was first published in 1836, but went through multiple editions, including our, published in 1846. (There were others in 1838 and 1849, at least, and probably more.) Given the time period and the content, its an illustration-free book, so I won’t load you up with lots of pages. Instead, I’m posting a few sample pages.

A couple of notes on this item, however, William Alcott (1798-1859) was a physician, vegetarian, educational reformer, potential abolitionist (while he didn’t write actively in this area, the ideas are there in his other works), and author of books and articles. Incidentally, he was also the second cousin of Amos Bronson Alcott, father of American author Louisa May Alcott.  I know, I know, we’re not here to talk about American literature! If you are interested in that, you can read about that on our other blog, In Special Collections at Virginia Tech (my last two posts, as well as some previous ones, have been on that topic).

There are a number of observations one can make about William Alcott’s manuals (this and others). I choose the word “observations”carefully, since I believe the logical Alcott would approve. While this is a manual for mothers about children, it is also a platform for Alcott, his beliefs, and his apparently extensive education. He tackles child feeding, activities, care, dress, and more, all while challenging the works of other doctors and even philosophers (one of the pages above quotes extensively, then refutes, John Locke). You might (or might not) be surprised by the number of times he refers to Ancient Rome, refers to his theories vegetarianism, or reminders readers how differently he views boys and girls. One thing we can all agree on is that he has a great deal of advice to give.

There are other editions of this title available online, so if you want to read more from the 2nd edition or  3rd edition in 1836, the 3rd edition in 1838, or the 1849 edition, you can find them all online. Our 1846 isn’t online at this point.

Forty Famous Cocktails: A Recipe Card with a Twist

This week’s feature is a cocktail item that we acquired back in 2013. About that time, I planned to write a post about it, but first I was waiting for it to come back from cataloging. Then I cam across it again, but I had written a recent post about another cocktail item, so the timing was wrong again. Two weeks ago, I pulled it from the shelves to display at an event in Special Collections and was reminded it was tucked away. Somehow, this week, the timing felt right. I’m happy to present Forty Famous Cocktails, probably published in the 1930s, either during Prohibition, or shortly after the ban was lifted.

As you can tell, Forty Famous Cocktails isn’t a traditional publication. It’s not a book (though it is in our catalog) and it’s not exactly a piece of ephemera that belongs Cocktail Ephemera Collection (which I hadn’t started building just yet). Rather, it’s a two-sided sleeve within a two-sided card. The outside sleeve features some outlandish caricatures with strategic spaces. (You can click on the any of the images above for a closer look.) In two the images above, when the inner card is flush,  you’ll see phrases, images, bottle labels, and even eyes on the bartender, depending on which side you’re viewing. In the other two images above, you get a better sense of how the card is actually used. As you pull the inner card up, you can see a drink name appear under the word “Orders” on each side. Moving across card, appearing on bottles and in paintings, you can see the ingredients and the instructions for the drink.

Historic cocktail books are great and I love all of the ones in our collection. Seriously, you can’t ever ask me to pick a favorite–you either get a different answer every time, or just a strange look while I’m unable to make a decision. However, I think cocktail ephemera and interactive items like this one, which often times weren’t designed to live long lives (you can see some damage at the top of our card!), are equally important to cocktail and social history, too.  (Note the directions for the Harvard state “Shake well and down with Yale.”) They can offer comedic or practical insight into the view of alcohol at a given era and a sense of what was popular. While Forty Famous Cocktails does contain recipes for still-popular drinks like the Whiskey Sour or Side Car, it also includes drinks rare (if ever) heard of today. When we bought this item in 2013, it was the first time I’d seen a reference to the Nassau Beach or the Serpent’s Tooth (I have seen recipes for the latter since, dating from roughly the same time period, but still not the former).

Our copy measures 29 x 19 cm, but there was another “edition,” for lack of better word, that was produced at about half the size, so I know there are other ones out there. However, scans can’t do this item justice, so if you’d like to see more, you may need to pay us a visit. We’ll be here and while we can’t promise you a friendly bartender with a cool cocktail waiting, we can promise you some friendly archivists, some cool cocktail history, and maybe even a little mixology advice.


Two Announcements!

There will be a feature item post in the second half of this week, but for today, we have two announcements.

First, there’s an upcoming Peacock-Harper Culinary History Friends event on Friday, October 16th in Roanoke.

PHCHFG Event Oct. 16, 2015

You can download the flyer and registration form here: PHCHFG Event Oct. 16, 2015. Please note: the deadline for registration is October 12th!

Second, the Peacock Harper Culinary History Friends have created a new Facebook page! Be sure to check it out (and give it a “like”)!

Fireless Cooking in the Early 20th Century

This week, I’ve been attempting to clean up/sort out some boxes in my office. This includes two small boxes of additions waiting to be added to collections. Among them are some pamphlets for the Virginia Tech Special Collections National Agricultural Publications (Ms2011-022). (We’ve recently updated the name from its previous title of “National Agricultural Publications,” a decision motivated by a desire to create collection titles that are following the current standards for archival description.) The collection contains United States Department of Agriculture, War Food Administration, and other national agency publications on topics ranging from war-time food use and Victory gardens, kitchen appliances, preservation strategies, individual foods/food groups, and home demonstration. Our feature item is a USDA pamphlet from 1921 (first published in 1917) called Homemade Fireless Cookers and Their Use.

For those of you unfamiliar with a fireless cooker (personally, I had a vague idea, but nothing concrete), have no fear! The first page includes an explanation:

A fireless cooker is a device for keeping food so hot after it has been taken from the stove that the process of cooking will be continued and completed. It makes cooking easier and lessens the amount of fuel needed. It is usually more economical when used as a supplement to a gas, oil, or electric stove that to a coal or wood range in which a fire is kept all day for purposes other than cooking.

This bulletin explains the principles on which a fireless cooker works and the kinds of food with which it can be most advantageously used, and gives simple directions by means of which an efficient one can be made at home from easily obtained and inexpensive materials…

Efficient? Economical? And it can be made at home? Sounds like a helpful bite of food technology to me! Since it was written the practical purpose of instruction, it’s not surprising that this is a text-heavy 16 pages. But it’s chock full of information from the how-to-build to the what-to-cook, and does include some illustrations and photographs. The last page also talks about using the cooking box to keep foods cold. By 1921, a wide variety of stand-alone oven/stove types were available, but they were often small in size. The idea of the fireless cooker meant that foods with longer cook times could finish elsewhere, freeing up space inside. We still use some of the techniques of the fireless cooker today, though perhaps not in the same ways. The fireless cooker is a predecessor of sorts to the slow cooker, which would emerge about 15 years later, bringing fireless cooking back into the kitchen from the outdoors.

This pamphlet is available in its entirety on a number of sites, including the Internet Archive, but today I’m linking to the University of North Texas USDA Farmers’ Bulletins collection. It contains this week’s feature item, along with more than 1,800 other USDA books and pamphlets published between the 1880s and 1980s! The edition on the UNT site is from 1917, so it’s an earlier version of the one on our shelves. The 1921 has a few more images, but the same number of pages.

We’ve got lots more from the home economics field on our shelves and we’re always here. So feel free to come by and learn about how to make your own fireless cooker, your own cheese, or how to build the best greenhouse for your property…Or at least get a sense of how it was done historically. Happy cooking!

We’re on the Air…and Cooking!

We certainly talk on the blog about how improvements in kitchen technology have changed the way food was (and continues to) prepared, stored, served, and shared. Today, we’re going to look at how another form of technology had an equally interesting effect on cooking and improving one’s culinary skills. Also, there will be talk of Jell-O (briefly, I promise, but not without good cause). Enter General Foods Cooking School of the Air. Which “air” and which technology, you may ask? Radio!

Before we go too far, though, I should point out that the General Foods Cooking School of the Air series should not to be confused with the Betty Crocker Cooking School of the Air (see the National Women’s History Museum post on Betty Crocker for more on the latter). Same concept, some overlapping years on the radio, but two different companies behind them. (Coincidental titles? I’ll leave that up to you!)

(The images below are all individually captioned, which I haven’t done in a while. To read the full captions, click on the first image to bring up a browse-able gallery!)

General Foods Cooking School of the Air was published for at least 2 years (and probably longer). It’s a set of companion pamphlets to the radio show of the same title, hosted by Frances Lee Barton. Holdings are limited in public/academic libraries, so we’re sure happy to add these to our collection. A little searching revealed five other libraries with some of the pamphlets, but it’s unclear if anyone is lucky enough to have a full run. And, from what I can see, no one has digitized them yet. Ours are on rings with a paper front and back cover, but they could also be ordered with a 3 ring binder for easy organization.

Even with only a limited number, you can get a sense of the range of topics Barton covered: breakfast, lunch, dinner, and desserts; holidays; formal and informal lunch and dinner parties; food service; jams, jellies, and butters; and more. Since we just acquired ours, they are about to go for cataloging–which means they aren’t quite available for use in the reading room, but I hope it won’t be long. In the meantime, as you know, we’ve got plenty of other culinary items for you to check out, if you’re thinking of paying us a visit. We’ll be here!

News: Bowdoin College Acquires Collection of American Cookery Books

Since it’s always nice to know what our fellow academic libraries are up to, especially when it comes to culinary news, you might like to know that Bowdoin College in in Maine has recently acquired a very cool collection of early American cookbooks: http://community.bowdoin.edu/news/2015/09/library-acquires-collection-of-early-american-cookery-books/.


Better Barbecues & Picnics (and Homes & Gardens)

I don’t know about you, Readers, but I’m wondering how September arrived so quickly. The end of summer is around the corner (gulp). The good news is, we have a three day weekend ahead of us! If you’re throwing a last “hurrah” picnic, BBQ, or cookout, today’s post should be an inspiration (for better or worse). Back in late June/early July, I had a short exhibit in our display cases, sharing books and publications on picnicking. This morning I picked one of the (literally) more colorful items to blog about. I can’t promise an intellectual discussion on the merits of gas v. charcoal, but I can guarantee lots of corn husks, food on skewers, and hot dogs. Oh, and some 1960s neon shades of color. This week, we’re featuring Barbecues and Picnics (1963) from the Better Homes & Gardens Creative Cooking Library series. I hope you like bacon…

In addition to this title, the Creative Cooking Library series also includes: Best BuffetsBirthdays and Family CelebrationsLunches and BrunchesMeals in MinutesMeals with a Foreign FlairSnacks and Refreshments and So-Good Meals. The History of Food and Drink Collection includes all 8 publications, so we can help you find something for every occasion!

Enjoy your Labor Day as we begin to say goodbye to summer! (Oh, and say “Hello!” to college football season, as we will in Blacksburg this weekend–Go Hokies!)

Culinary Communities: Blacksburg Organization Cookbooks

Several months ago, I wrote a post about the oldest Blacksburg community cookbook currently in the History of Food and Drink Collection. It also has a nice introduction to what we mean as “community cookbooks” and the region in which we focus. This week, I’ve pulled two more of the town organization community cookbooks from our shelves to share. On the surface, they may not have much in common, but at the core, they share something very important…which we’ll come back to after our image gallery interruption. :)

The first is Blacksburg’s Best, published by the Blackburg Junior Woman’s Club in 1968.

The second one is Bread of Life, published by the Blacksburg Christian School in 1996.

Okay, so what do these have in common? Like many community cookbooks, they are in a similar format–in many cases, books like this came from the same publishing house. However, with nearly 30 years between them, there are some changes in how the sections are named. But it’s the “local” nature of them that I think is far more important. These books include recipes from our community and as a result, they raise all kinds of questions: What are the recipes that contributors feel are important? Do they use local or regional foods/ingredients? Are they family recipes or something new? Can you find multiple variations of traditional recipes, and if so, what do those changes reflect?

While we can’t always answer these questions as users and preservers of these books, we can still begin to find stories (or at least threads of stories) that tell us about the community in which we live. In this case, it’s Blacksburg, but if I had selected different books this morning, it could be Roanoke, Fincastle, or a number of other Southwest Virginia towns. The 1996 book might reflect a more diverse set of recipes that include global influences, but you can’t go more than 4 pages into either publication without finding a recipe for a cheese ball. Look further and you’ll find cheese biscuits, barbecue chicken, meat loaf, sweet potato casserole, and sour cream cake appear in both of these (and a myriad of other) books, among other recipes. Which brings us back to my earlier comment: At their core, these books fulfill an important common role–they serve to document communities (and yes, fundraising, I know that part matters, too!). They show us the recipes that are the continuing favorites of our families and friends, that span generations, that remind us of being in the kitchen with people love, and that take us back to our roots and help us establish new roots as we go forward. Plus, they’re usually just filled with really good recipes!

New Acquisitions Round Up #1

Part of our staff, (archivist/blogger Kira included) are at the big annual archives conference most of this week. While we’re taking in the food scene of Cleveland, networking with colleagues, and discussing the finer points of preserving and serving up access to materials (even archival work can be talked about in food terms!), this week’s post will be a new acquisitions round-up. We’ve been VERY busy acquiring new items for the History of Food and Drink Collection in first half of this year, so this is a sort of sneak preview. Who knows which of these items might get their own blog post one day!

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We’ll see you again next week with another feature item from the History of Food and Drink Collection!

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