Billy in Bunbury: More about Baking Powder

By the early 1900s, companies were reaching out to new audiences and finding new ways to interact with existing ones. Pamphlets and storybooks emerged that appealed to mothers and children. Although Billy in Bunbury lacks some of the language used by companies to both frighten adults from using the competition and encourage them to use a company’s own “good” brand, even a children’s story can’t escape some advertising for Dr. Price’s Phosphate Baking Powder (see the title page and last image above).

Still, it’s cute and likely to hold a child’s attention with its vibrant illustrations and rhyme. Published in 1925, Billy in Bunbury tells the story of a little boy “too skinny for his shoes,” and how Hun Bun and the other characters in Bunbury help Billy regain his appetite by providing his mother with new recipes:

Dr. Price’s Baking Powder/And King Hun Bun’s wondrous book/Have made Billy’s mother/an exceedingly good cook./He eats his lunch and breakfast/Each meal he finds a treat./The other fellows watch their step/When Bill comes down the street./Cakes like he met in Bunbury/His mother makes him now./And if YOU want some too, this book/Will tell YOUR MOTHER how!

When it comes to advertising, this is certainly a common idea: our product will make you a better cook (and in this case, mother!). Dr. Price’s Phosphate Baking Powder was popular in the 1920s and 1930s, so clearly someone was buying it. It was owned by Royal Baking Powder Company, a company that still makes baking powder today.

Here in the Culinary History Collection, we have baking powder cookbooks from many companies: Royal, Rumford, Ryzon, Calumet, Clabber Girl, and Warner’s. In addition to Billy in Bunbury, Royal Baking Powder Company produced a handful of children’s themed recipe pamphlets in the 1920s, including The Comical Cruises of Captain Cooky (1926) and The Little Gingerbread Man (1923).

On a final note, although there doesn’t appear to be a scanned copy of the publication online, there is an audio recording of Billy in Bunbury available online at the Internet Archive. It includes both the story and the recipes.

So, whatever your brand of baking powder, get out there and get baking. It seems a great way to bribe children to eat…


Balanced Recipes, Cooking with Mettle/Metal

Sometimes, a cookbook just looks different, which seems more than enough reason to share. Balanced Recipes is a perfect example. The recipes themselves are on index card sized slips of paper, hole punched, and layered throughout the book by subject, allowing you to easily see and access them. Even more striking is the “binding.” It is hard to miss this shiny, metal-encased wonder on the shelf while browsing.

Balanced Recipes was published by the Pillsbury Flour Mills Company in 1933. In includes classics like brownies, the ever-popular chicken croquettes, candied sweet potatoes, and vegetable soup. And, like any good cookbook, it contains some more innovative dishes: baked bananas, creamed fried onions, and tomato pancakes. The introduction to each section offers advice for the home cook. Given the Great Depression-era timing of Balanced Recipes, the emphasis on not wasting is hardly surprising: “Use every edible bit of food that you purchase.” At the same time, the author shares the following:

[I]t it certainly poor menu psychology to plan an entire meal from left-overs. No matter how delicious each separate dish may be, avoid serving a meal consisting of hash, mixed fruit or vegetable salad and a dessert which has appeared in exactly the same form at a previous meal.

In other words, use your left-overs in a new way, don’t just reheat them. After all, a meal should “provide contrasts in texture, color and flavor.”

Balanced Recipes was the product of Mary Ellis Ames, who wrote at least three other publications for the Pillsbury Flour Mills Company in the 1930s and 1940s: Pillsbury’s Cookery Club (1934), Your Guide to Better Baking (1941), and The Three “R”s of Wartime Baking: Rations, ‘Richment and Recipes (1943).

Until next week, always remember to serve something crunchy with your soups: “celery, radishes, salted nuts…or small pieces of crisp toast or crackers spread with flavored butter or fish paste.” The choice is yours. 🙂

First Annual Edible Book Contest @ Newman Library

This spring, Newman Library at Virginia Tech is hosting what we hope will became an annual event: an Edible Book Contest! The First Annual Edible Book Contest will be held on Friday, March 30, 2012, from 2-4pm in Torgersen 1100 and we need your help!

If you like food and books, we have a challenge for you! The Edible Book Contest is a chance to represent, make fun of, interpret, or just share you favorite (or least favorite) book with edible ingredients.  Looking for a visual example? Photographs from the Newman Library pilot project, held in July 2011, are online. (Also, you can find all kinds of examples on the web–these are popular events!)

Below is the flyer for our contest (click on the image for a larger view). Additional information, including rules and the registration, can be found on the contest website: We only have space for 50 entries, so sign up soon! And even if you don’t want to make something, be sure to join us on March 30. Winners in six different categories will be chosen by attendees and our Edible Book artists want your vote!

Ice Cream…from George and Martha Washington?

Ice Cream…from George and Martha Washington?

To start President’s Week off right, here’s a post from NPR’s food blog, The Salt, about enjoying ice cream, the Washington way, and the new exhibit at Mount Vernon, “Hoecakes and Hospitality.” Seems fitting, given the local weather. You might be able to get ice from just about anywhere…

And it’s worth noting, Martha Washington’s ice cream recipe comes from early cookbook author, Hannah Glasse.

Candy Holiday Redux: In Honor of Valentine’s Day

In honor of yesterday’s candy-laden holiday, it seems appropriate to feature, well, candy. And what good culinary history collection doesn’t have material on that subject? Sure, there are traditional chocolates, candy hearts, chocolate-dipped strawberries, and chocolate cherries. But what if there was something better…something healthier? Enter Candy -Making Revolutionized: Confectionery from Vegetables, a book about making candy from vegetables. Seriously.

Published in 1912, this little book takes a novel approach to the sweet. Ranging from root vegetables (potatoes, sweet potatoes, parsnips, beets, and carrots) to fruits (tomatoes and dates) to spices (ginger), the book includes recipes for candies of all sorts. In addition simply crystallizing or candying pieces, there are specific directions on making marshmallows, puffs, creams, bon-bons, nutlettes, and pastilles. There are instructions for making basic candy you can shape into anything (note the table spread in the image gallery above with its pigs, flowers, and boutonnieres). The book includes several chapters on the techniques, as well information for caterers looking to expand their menus and teachers looking to add that little something extra to a class. And, like every good recipe book, it contains at least one treatment for sickness–onion tablets! You can read about those in the pages above.

Mary Elizabeth Hall’s introduction includes her reasons for touting vegetable confectioneries: the healthy nature of vegetables, the ease with which anyone with a garden has access to ingredients, the fact that beautiful items can be made with simple kitchen tools. However, good reasons aside, it is well worth sharing the start of the introduction:

The years of work in candy-making that have made possible this book, I now look back upon with a certain feeling of satisfaction. The satisfaction comes from the knowledge that because of the discovery that is here recorded, the candy of the future will be purer, more wholesome, more nourishing than that of the past has been. Even if the processes that are here set forth fail of the widest adoption, I have still the satisfaction of knowing that just so far as they are adopted will there be greater healthfulness of confectionery. (vi)

While no one really grabbed hold of Mary Hall’s philosophy, and a majority of our candy is a lot less healthier than it was in her day, there is still some hope. Organic, local, and healthy trends in eating may very well bring us to something close to the green bean taffy and potato caramel of 1912.

Besides, when you think about it, is there better way to say “I Love You” than with a decorative box filled with beet puffs, tomato marshmallows, and potato mocha walnuts? Yes, plenty (perhaps but NOT giving someone that box in the first place?)! On the one hand, this book could be a reminder that just because you CAN do something, doesn’t mean you SHOULD. On the other hand, you could do a lot worse than a candied green bean and gingered carrots…right?

On a final note, if you can’t come here to see our copy, this book is out of copyright and you can find is online in a number of formats.

The Power of Baking Powder

Special Collections has quite a selection of pamphlets filled with recipes from baking powder, baking soda, and flour producers. After all, what kitchen would be complete without tens (or even hundreds!) of variations of biscuit and bread recipes! Most, however, are short in length, small, and paperback with tiny, if any, pictures. So it was a pleasant surprise to find this little gem last week, which features a hard cover, large full color illustrations, and more than 70 pages of recipes!

Ryzon Baking Powder was a product of the General Chemical Company in New York. It does not seem to have been produced for very long, though the company still exists today. There were only three editions of a Ryzon recipe book between 1916 and 1918. Our copy of the 1917 edition is one of about a dozen in public or academic libraries, though there are plenty in private hands. 

Recipes in the cookbook range from the usual (biscuits, parker house rolls, and corn bread) to the uncommon (“hot-dog” dainties, salmon and tomatoes, and apriba loaf). (Thankfully, no gelatin!) Many of the recipes were compiled from women around the country and there is even one for rice corn pudding from Puerto Rico.

You may not be able to get your hands on Ryzon baking powder today, but there are still plenty of options (some of which you’ll undoubtedly learn more about on this blog in the future), so go forth and bake! And if you’re feeling adventurous, try the “Artichokes a la Remoulade Shells” and let us know how it turns out…

Special Collections Open House

Just a friendly reminder, Special Collections will be hosting its first of four Open House events tomorrow, Tuesday, February 7th, from 5:30-7:30pm. Feel free to come by and learn about the kinds of materials we have here (including the Culinary History Collection), take a tour, or ask an archivist a question! See our flyer for more information! And here are a few photos as a teaser…