Table Dècor–New Year’s Style!

(Click on the first image below to bring up the gallery of images.)

Some table decoration inspiration from the Culinary History Collection, if you’re looking to wow your guests this holiday!

(Though we suggest you try to leave a little space for food, too.)



1731 Book for Receipts (Or, You Want to Pickle WHAT?)

Acquired in 2005, the 1731 “Book for Receipts” includes handwritten recipes by at least two different people. In addition to extensive directions on pickling everything from walnuts to melons to pidgeons, there is also a large collection of baked goods, wines, and even a variation of cheesecake! Like many collections of the time, there are home remedies, too!

By the way, this is also the manuscript that inspired our “Snail Water” post several weeks back.

A finding aid (or collection guide) for this manuscript collection is available online. The entire book was digitized in 2005 for preservation purposes. A pdf version can be viewed, saved, and/or printed here.

Celebrating 150 Years of Mrs. Isabella Beeton

A wonderful little piece from the British Library on the 150th anniversary of Mrs. Beeton’s The Book of Household Management online. With advice on everything from roasting a guinea pig to seating your dinner guests, Mrs. Beeton’s book was reprinted well into the 20th century, as were several of her other publications.

Vegetables: The Food of Inspiration?

In 2010, Special Collections purchased a book called Vegetable Verselets. Published in 1911, it contains poetry about (you guessed it!) vegetables by Margaret Hays. Many of the poems include illustrations by Hays’ sister. Our copy here is one only 7 or 8 cataloged in public or academic library hands.

The other reason we’re featuring Vegetable Verselets this week, aside from the hilarious nature of the poems, is to introduce the event that this book inspired. After it arrived here, the volume went into a display case, where it then caught the attention of a professor, Tracy Cowden, in the Department of Music, who took an idea and ran. Several months later, Special Collections is pleased to be part of a new kind of collaboration (at least for us)! In April 2012, a song cycle featuring eight of the poems from the book will premiere at Virginia Tech! The links below include both an article about the creation of this song cycle, as well as a video clip preview of two pieces.  As we get closer to the big day, you’ll be seeing and hearing more about the event (the when/where and why you might just want to join us). We’ll even post more of the pages, too.  For now, enjoy the teasers:

And while you’re at it, consider this: Is reading about the soap opera-esque lives of your vegetables any better than eating them? Lettuce know!

Preserving all those 3×5 cards…

The Rise and Fall of the Recipe Card

This is a great article from last week about the importance of saving all those 3×5 cards with handwritten recipes. While the story has a focus on keeping those cards within a family, it’s also a reminder of what we’re trying to do here at Special Collections: preserve culinary history in its original form for the future. Among our manuscript culinary materials are several collections of compiled and handwritten recipes, as well as receipt books. Recipes cards like these can reveal a great deal about the creators and collectors, as well as supply us foodies with years of history!

There’s a follow up to this article due out this week, so look for that story before the end of the week!

We’ve moved!

Welcome to the new site for “What’s Cookin’ @ Special Collections?!” As much as we liked Tumblr, it just didn’t have everything we wanted. And who knows what else we might want in the future?!? WordPress, our new platform, definitely seems to have some more options.  The blog looks a little different and will have some new features, but expect the same kinds of content with the same mix of education and fun.

We’ve redirected the links we had on our websites, but if you have us bookmarked (as well you should!), be sure to update it! You’ll probably see a few more changes in the days and weeks to come, so please, continue to explore culinary history with us!

Dear Nannie: The Civil War letters of Fincastle’s Charles Figgatt and Ann Godwin

Dear Nannie: The Civil War letters of Fincastle’s Charles Figgatt and Ann Godwin

A local news article on research using materials from Special Collections. This particular collection of items also includes two handwritten recipe and home remedy books!