Earlier this month, it was the 100th anniversary of the United States’ entrance into World War I. While we don’t have a huge selection of culinary history materials relating to World War I (yet), over the last year or so, I have been on the lookout for items representing World War I and II culinary culture. Historically, though, we have previously acquired some items and I thought this week we might look at one of them.
Extracts from Manual for Army Cooks was published in July 1917. Given the title, it wasn’t too hard to trace the origins of the content. After all, earlier in 1917, the Government Printing Office produced the Manual for Army Cooks, 1916 (Document No. 564). The Extracts from Manual for Army Cooks is Document No. 564a. (Phew, sometimes you need an easy mystery to solve!) We don’t currently have a copy of the larger manual, which is 270 pages, but our extracted version is 116 pages of useful content. If you’re an army cook or looking to feed 100 men, that is…
Extracts from Manual for Army Cooks is a little bit different from the other World War materials we have in the culinary history collecting area. Most of those items and collections focus on what was or could be done at home to help the war effort: rationing/cooking under rationing conditions, Victory gardening, cookery that made use every scrap of food, or home activities that supported the war. The manual does touch on some of these ideas–the recipes include meat scrap and leftovers–but the major focus in on organization through structure, menus, and strict tracking of foods. It also talks about setting up kitchens in different kinds of locations, even on a railroad car! Of course, the reality of war-time experience likely differed greatly from the practical, planned manual, but a publication like this can give us some insight in the expectation of military efficiency in feeding a literal army.
On another World War I note, through the middle of May, Newman Library is hosting an exhibit on several VPI students who served in World War I. This display is an excerpt from a larger, on-going, multi-semester project that included the use of Special Collections materials. You can find out more about the exhibit, the project, and these students through the project’s website: http://vpiworldwarone.lib.vt.edu/.