Mail Call! (Some New Items!)

If you’ve ever wondered what “mail call” looks like around here, it can be all over the place! After so many years, I have come the conclusion that acquisitions work is really a master juggling act. There are items you think are coming to your door, items you know are, items you have that are waiting for your attention, and plenty of surprises! Yesterday, I got one of last category: an envelope stuff with one of my favorite things–pamphlets!

Collection of culinary pamphlets in a pile on a wood table
Collection of culinary pamphlets

This is the pile fresh from the envelope. I spread it all out on the table…

Culinary pamphlets spread out on a wood table
Culinary pamphlets

…and of course, my eyes lit up as I found some of my favorite topics: cocktails, gelatin, and Betty Crocker:

"Betty Crockers Continental Casseroles" pamphlet
“Betty Crockers Continental Casseroles” pamphlet
"Chalmers Granulated Gelatine" pamphlet
“Chalmers Granulated Gelatine” pamphlet–with a few friendly nibble marks on the corner!

Of course, in the south, you can’t look far without finding something about barbecue!

"Barbecue" trifold pamphlet
“Barbecue” trifold pamphlet

There are a lot of treasures in this package and I’m still sorting through. Some items will go in our Culinary Pamphlet Collection (Ms2011-002) and some will go for cataloging and be added to our book collection.

One other item that stood out is this pamphlet of “cookmarks.” The pages are perforated, and each one has two bookmarks with space to indicate the book, page number, and notes about the recipe!

"Cookmarks" pamphlet with individual cookbook bookmarks
“Cookmarks” pamphlet with individual cookbook bookmarks

As you can see, they even have quotes and illustrations!

One of the best part of being an acquisitions and processing archivist is that even when you think you know what materials you’re getting for the collections, you don’t! Surprises can show up on your doorstep and make your day!

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Pears and Cherries from the Stark World's Fair Fruit Catalog, 1903

What’s New at the Library and How it Relates to Food History (or, why there haven’t been many posts lately)!

Many apologies for the lack of posts lately, but life in the library has been hectic. While not meant to be excuses, there are reasons your archivist/blogger Kira has been otherwise occupied. Since they related to food history in at least a few ways, it seems like this week is a good week to talk about some recent activities and changes! Summer is that time of year when I always think I’m going to tackle a bunch of projects–then a million other things come along, asking for my attention.

Events

  • Last month, the library was closed for one day while we had our biennial staff day. The last few times, I have done food-related programs and this year was no exception! I talked about some of my favorite hot-spots (pun intended!) in the history of baking in America. Then, armed with 6 dozen cookies (sugar and gluten-free, dairy-free sugar), 5 cups of homemade buttercream (vanilla, chocolate, and vegan vanilla), and a bunch of edible decorations, attendees let loose customizing their own frostings and decorating cookies. I’m working on a place to share presentation about the history of food & drink materials on the LibGuide (more on that below), so it will hopefully be online soon.
  • Next week, I have a historic cocktail tasting and talk on the docket, so I’ve been putting together notes, menus, and more. I’m really looking forward to talking about the History of the American Cocktail Collection itself, as well as how it’s being used by researchers, with a new audience!

Searching Materials

The biggest changes lately have to do with how you can search for and discover materials in Special Collections and the University Libraries generally. In May, we got a new catalog and a new discovery search tool. If you’ve been on the library website, you’ve probably noticed some changes and may wonder how this affects you. (I’ve definitely been spending part of my time finding problems and trying to help solve them!)

  • Our new catalog is here: https://catalog.lib.vt.edu/. The catalog contains information on the physical collections held by the University Libraries at Virginia Tech (including Special Collections). Library staff are still working on some issues, so if you have trouble locating materials or need help using the new catalog, we encourage you to contact us and we’re happy to learn while we help you! (Here in Special Collections, we are still adjusting our workflows accordingly and learning as we go.)
  • Our new discovery tool is located here, right on the library’s front page: https://lib.vt.edu/. The discovery tool includes physical (items in the catalog) and electronic resources (e-books, databases, articles, and the like). Special Collections materials are in here, but it works a little differently from the catalog and some items are a little more hidden than others. Again, please reach out to us if you have trouble and we’ll help!
    • We hope that we will also be able to include our finding aids AND records for digitized collection content in this system in the near future. We are in the first stages of looking at making that happen, so stay tuned!
  • As you may know, I’ve created several resource guides for researching aspects of our history of food & drink collecting area. As of this week, there is a quick and easy way for researchers to find any and all guides related to Special Collections materials! “Special Collections” is now its own group on the list of guides. You can go to the group list and click on “Special Collections” to see our guides OR you can jump right to the alphabetical list of guides.
  • In light of the new catalog and discovery system, I’ve been updating links in the food-related resource guides (as well as some others I’ve developed), so they should be working correctly. Since you can’t search the new catalog the way you could the previous one, I have removed old directions, updated some text, and once we have some more things figured out, will go back and add some more detailed text about searching to those guides!
  • Also, I’ve been working on a new set of pages on the Food & Drink History Resource Guide. There is now an FAQ about the collecting area for some questions we get most often. And there’s a tab called “Sources for Selected Topics” that contains some content. Click on the arrow next to “Sources for Selected Topics” to see the list and jump to a page. There are a few more topical pages in draft mode that will get done one of these days…

What’s Coming Soon?

As if all that wasn’t enough, there’s still more! There are several projects in progress in Special Collections–basically, some things to look forward to in the coming months.

  • Our staff is working on a new and updated website. It will be a little more streamlined and you’ll probably also see some new resource guides, as we move some information around. But don’t worry, I’ll have a new post about the site when it goes live!
  • After over 6 years on a hosted WordPress site, “What’s Cookin’ @Special Collections?!” is starting to run out of space for content! (Side note: our blog will have it’s 7th anniversary this fall!) While it’s a problem I’m VERY glad to have, it also means we need a new place for our blog. Behind the scenes, I have been working with our IT Services department to move to a blog that is hosted on the library’s website. Good news: No concerns about space limitations! Bad news: There was a hitch or two (fixed!) and now it’s taking me a bit of time to update links and develop a new look and feel. I’m hoping to have it done later this month. When it’s ready for prime time, I’ll have a post here to redirect people to where new content will be posted. This site will remain, so you’ll still be able to find/read old posts, I just won’t be adding new ones.
  • Over the last 9+ years, I’ve done a fair number of presentations about the food & drink history materials. Some of them are posted in different places, but I’m hoping to be able to collect them together on the Food & Drink History Resource Guide to share. It’s definitely on my project list and we’ll see how it goes!

So, a long text post this week, but there was a lot to tell! But, to finish up, here are a couple of pages from one of my favorite publications in the collection, just because!

Pears and Cherries from the Stark World's Fair Fruit Catalog, 1903
Pears and Cherries

Berries from the Stark World's Fair Fruit Catalog, 1903Berries

Folk, Historical, and Patent Medicine: Creating New Access Points to Materials

So, as is the way of things, your usual archivist/blogger Kira has found herself a new project. (I want to talk about it, but it means a more text-based blog post this week–apologies for that in advance.) Good news: It’s for the benefit of everyone and it will provide a new access point to some of our materials–I think! Additional good news: It only took a set amount of time to accomplish and didn’t interfere with all the other projects. Bad news: Well, there isn’t any!

One of my favorite items relating to patent medicine, an advertisement for labels to bottle medicines. Featured on the blog in February 2017: https://whatscookinvt.wordpress.com/2017/02/24/medicines-patent-practical/

To explain: For folks interested in the history of medicine, there’s a really great resource out there from the National Library of Medicine: the History of Medicine Finding Aids Consortium. This resource brings together finding aids from institutions around the country that deal with aspects of medicine and allied sciences. Some of our food and drink, local/regional history, and Civil War materials touch on some related aspects of medicine, including patent medicine, folk/traditional medicine, practitioners, disease history/research, and even military medicine history. Which, it turns out, does make us good candidates to contribute content to this resource!

To further explain: In a case of perfect timing, we may also have some faculty and classes interested in history of medicine materials. So, I’ve spent a few hours this week identifying collections that relate to aspects of medicine and started working on a way to bring those collections together virtually. Namely, through the use of a new subject heading for this purpose: “Folk, historical, and patent medicine.” This heading itself is being used as an umbrella term to gather collections (I realize it’s a pretty wide scope). So, in addition, we are including more specific, and authoritative, headings in these collections, too. These are formal headings created by the Library of Congress for cataloging books (and, in our case, we’re using them to describe manuscript collections). For this project, we’re using “Medicine” (for collections relating to the history of medicine, medical practices, doctors, and patients, and the like), “Patent medicine” (for collections relating to the history of propriety, patented, over the counter “cure,” often plant and/or alcohol based), and “Traditional medicine” (for collections relating to home remedies and folk medicine). Because we also have some Civil War collections dealing the the military perspective, you may also see “Medicine, Military–History” appearing in collections.

This image includes two pages from the Hertford Receipt Book (Ms2008-027), which contains home remedies for various medical issues. This item is available in digital form online: http://digitalsc.lib.vt.edu/HFDMss/Ms2008-027_HertfordReceiptBook.

Getting these collections into the NLM consortia will take a little time, but the good news is that you can already access these collection using these headings through Virginia Heritage, the statewide finding aid portal! There are 41 collections already tagged with these subjects and I’m working identifying some more. Then I’ll also be setting up a “Sources for Selected Topics” page on our food and drink LibGuide about home remedies, folk medicine, and patent medicines! We encourage you to take a look–and check back. You never know what might interest you!

Food & Foodways Resource Guides Update

The majority of our staff was off at a conference last week and I, for one, took advantage of a great food scene. Playing catch up hasn’t left me with too much time to ponder a feature this week, but I thought I’d take a few minutes to post updates on some resources from Special Collections on the topic of food & foodways research. Since I last posted a link to these resources back in January of 2017, I’ve added at least one more.

The “Food & Drink History Resources @Virginia Tech” resource guide was created back in 2014 and there is a previous blog post about it. Since then, I’ve made period updates to content, fixed links, and tinkered a little bit with the layout, but it’s largely the same guide and serves the same purpose as when it was first created.

http://guides.lib.vt.edu/specialcollections/foodhistory

After that, I created a guide for the materials relating to infant, child, and family nutrition. This was partially to highlight this group of materials AND partially a response to a class I was working with at the time. It includes information about the collection, how to locate books and manuscripts in the collection, and some suggested online tools and resources.

http://guides.lib.vt.edu/specialcollections/childrensnutrition

Of course it didn’t take me long to get into the cocktail history materials, either. The guide for this group of materials is organized by time period and highlights some of the significant “eras” of cocktail culture in America. Each section includes a short introduction and a list of suggested resources. I’ve also put together some more general cocktail history and online tools.

http://guides.lib.vt.edu/specialcollections/cocktailhistory

Last (for now!), but certainly not least, at the start of this year, I put together a resource guide for the Introduction to Appalachian Studies course offered at Virginia Tech. It includes a breakdown of Appalachian resources by format and topic.

http://guides.lib.vt.edu/specialcollections/aps1704

One of the major sections is dedicated to food & foodways. It contains suggested resources in Special Collections relating to food items (i.e. cookbooks and research on food), as well as books about traditional folk medicine, farming, and agriculture. It’s a little bit broader that “just” food, but it’s another helpful place to collate information!

I’m still working on the latest guide, which will focus on aspects of food technology and production. I’m looking forward to getting it completed (or at least enough of it to go live), since this will talk about some other aspects of food history not covered in the same detail on other guides. This will include aspects of food technology, agriculture, food science, transportation of food products, manufacturing, advertising, and more!

So, if you’re doing any summer research on food, some of the resources above might help you out! The majority of the content covers print and manuscript materials housed in Special Collections, but most guides also contain some online resources, tools, and digital collection you can access wherever you are!


Also, in the realm of manuscript collection updates, just this week, I processed the remaining backlog of the Ann A. Hertzler Collection. The finding aid has been updated and it includes materials donated by the late Dr. Hertzler in 2014: research and subject files on foods and people in the culinary history world, as well as several small boxes of magnets and other small artifacts. We moved of the digitized items  that weren’t from Cooperative Extension to the same platform and updated the links. Digitized items from her collection are online via the Special Collections website. Digitized Cooperative Extension publications authored or co-authored by Dr. Hertzler are available through the university’s institutional repository.

Helpful (and Healthful) Hints!

There’s been a big influx of culinary materials lately, which, as always, makes me want to write about everything. However, most of those items are still making their way to the shelves. So, instead I went an a stroll through the “R” call numbers. While most of your traditional cooking and cocktail materials are in the TX section, RJ includes Pediatrics and RM includes Therapeutics/Pharmacology. RJ is usually a good place to start if you’re looking for something non-traditional that relates to children’s nutrition–like this week’s feature!

This is about 1/2 half of the pamphlet, plus a couple of the final pages–it’s the section that deals with caring for infants. The other pages parallel the caring for infants in style, but are full of advice for caring for invalids. The end of pamphlet includes a reproduction of a hand-written product endorsement AND ads for the product that actually sponsored it. Unlike many other product pamphlets we’ve looked at before, this one isn’t laden with ads or not-so-subtle placement. It sneaks up on you at the end, instead, leaving us a final taste (pun intended, of course), of just the product that will help you properly feed both the infants and the sick or aged in your family. It’s a different approach from the “ads on every page/in your face” placement of some pamphlets from the era, but probably just as effective–Ridge’s Food may be the last thing you remember, showing up on the bright pink page, when you put the pamphlet down!

Since this item is particularly fragile, short, and out of copyright, I went ahead and scanned it all this afternoon. I’ve added it to our collection of other culinary-related books online, where you can read it in its entirety: https://digitalsc.lib.vt.edu/items/show/5540.


On a completely unrelated note, I’ve updated a bit of out-of-date content on the informational pages of the blog. I’ve also included links to all the resources guides I currently have posted on the University Libraries pages that can help you locate materials relating to food, drink, & foodways! They are a great place to get started if you’re interested in doing research here at Special Collections!

Revisiting the History of Food & Drink Collection

So, for a little while now, two of us in Special Collections have been mulling over a History of Food & Drink Collection-related idea (pun intended, of course). I’m rather excited that this idea has stuck and we’re creating a new subset of the overarching collection. Back to that in just a moment! (Today’s post isn’t going to a feature an item, but I hope you’ll stick with us!)

There’s a long history the collection, some of which we’ve talked about on the blog before, but it’s been a quite some time. Today, in light of what else I have to share, it seems like a good time to talk about the current structure of the collection. Not to mention the fact that I’m working on some new paragraphs about all of our collecting areas (and sub-collecting areas) in Special Collections–which means I have nice, neat descriptions on hand!


Neil, Marion Harris. 1917. Ryzon baking book: a practical manual for the preparation of food requiring baking powder. New York: General Chemical Co., Food Dept.
Neil, Marion Harris. 1917. Ryzon baking book: a practical manual for the preparation of food requiring baking powder. New York: General Chemical Co., Food Dept.

History of Food & Drink Collection

If we take a step back and look at things from a larger perspective, the University Libraries are home to what we now call the History of Food & Drink Collection. (This had previously been known as the Culinary History Collection.)  To date, the HFD Collection, as I often refer to it, contains 4,900+ cataloged publications. I’m very pleased to say that number is actually over the 5,000 mark if you count items waiting to be cataloged or in process! About 30% of the HFD Collection resides in the circulating collection of Newman Library or in off-site storage and can be checked out for use. The other 70% is housed in Special Collections. In addition, Special Collections has 75 processed manuscript collections and another 40 more in the processing queue. All things considered, those are some numbers I’m proud of! Here’s what it’s all about.

The History of Food & Drink Collection consists of several focused subsets and a variety of other collecting areas. Subsets of the collection include the Peacock-Harper Culinary History Collection, the Ann Hertzler Children’s Cookbook and Nutrition Literature Collection, the History of the American Cocktail Collection, and the Food Technology and Production Collection. In addition, the History of Food & Drink Collection contains publications and manuscripts documenting or representing early American imprints, Virginia/regional/southern cooking, food technology and processing, community cookbook, nutrition and dietetics history, household management, domestic/economic/social history, food customs and habits, and home demonstration/home economics history and agricultural extension. Materials from the History of Food & Drink Collection also overlap with other collecting areas in which Special Collections is particular interested, like local/regional history, the American Civil War, and science and technology history. We are actively engaged in acquiring new items that contribute to this collection and can serve as primary and secondary sources for research in a variety of fields that study aspects of food and food culture.

This section includes hotel and periodical cookbooks, and even a book on the history of WW I and II army dietitians.
This section includes hotel and periodical cookbooks, and even a book on the history of WW I and II army dietitians.

Subset #1:

Peacock-Harper Culinary History Collection

Of course, the HFD collection started with the Peacock-Harper Culinary History Collection. The Peacock-Harper Culinary History Collection is a group of 750 published works documenting more than three centuries of culinary history. It consists of the private collections of Dora Greenlaw Peacock and Laura Jane Harper, acquired by Special Collections in 1999/2000. The collection includes a wide variety of contemporary and historic cookbooks, community cookbooks, household management guides, and home economics/domestic science manuals. As a result, the Peacock-Harper Culinary History Collection represents many perspectives on the history of cooking, social and cultural practices, and food science. Although this is not a collection to which new materials are added, it was the inspiration behind the History of Food & Drink Collection and remains the core of the larger collection.

The whole slideshow can be viewed and downloaded here: http://scholar.lib.vt.edu/faculty_archives/hertzler/hertzler_child_nutrition.html
The whole slideshow can be viewed and downloaded here: http://scholar.lib.vt.edu/faculty_archives/hertzler/hertzler_child_nutrition.html

Subset #2:

Ann Hertzler Children’s Cookbook and Nutrition Literature Collection

Then, a few years later, a new subset of the collection arrived on the scene! Beginning in 2006, Special Collections received an endowment from Dr. Ann Hertzler to acquire publications relating to children’s cookbooks and items documenting nutrition history. The Ann Hertzler Children’s Cookbook and Nutrition Literature Collection contains more than 500 volumes. Highlights include manuals for young mothers, guides on proper eating for children, Virginia Cooperative Extension pamphlets, books designed to education children about cooking (and eating!), and themed cookbooks. Dr. Hertzler remained a strong supporter of and contributor to her collection and the History of Food & Drink Collection until her death in early 2014, through the continued donation of books and her personal papers. Today, the endowment continues to fund the purchase of new and historic cookbooks for children, publications focused on the raising, feeding, and nutrition of children and families, and storybooks that feature food products, food advertising, and food history.

Front cover

Subset #3:

History of the American Cocktail Collection

By the end of 2011, we were working on a new crazy idea: cocktails! There is a whole amazing history there and we wanted to find a way to be part of documenting it. As a result, we launched a new subset of materials.

The History of the American Cocktail Collection includes more than 125 cocktail manuals and bartenders guides, books on social activities and entertaining, and a variety of items documenting the history of cocktail ingredients, cocktail creation, and cocktail consumption, as well as around 20 manuscript collections. The collection also contains materials on individual spirits, the medicinal and alcoholic history of bitters, temperance/Prohibition, and advertising ephemera. The cocktail—and spirits generally—have played a significant role in American history, experience revolution, prohibition, and revival. We are interested in acquiring and adding books, manuscripts, documents, and occasionally artifacts, which contribute to the scholarship around the ever-evolving place of the cocktail in food and social history.

Scarff's nursery, fruit, farm seed, live stock, 1931
Scarff’s nursery, fruit, farm seed, live stock, 1931

Announcing Subset #4:

Food Technology and Production Collection

All of that brings us to today. As you may know, our university’s history is that of a land-grant. We were and continue to have a focus on agriculture. We have the Virginia Cooperative Extension. We have a food science program and courses in wine and beer. So, by late 2015, we were pondering a new scheme: a subset of the collection that would benefit researchers in these, as well as other areas.After spending some time working on a name and goals for what we want to accomplish and support with future materials, we are excited to share with everyone our newest subset of the HFD Collection.

The Food Technology and Production Collection brings together aspects of agriculture, Cooperative Extension, and the history of changes to the growth, production, marketing, sale, transportation, preparation, and consumption of food. We are interested in acquiring books and other publications, manuscripts, and ephemera that document the agricultural, commercial, and scientific lives of foods and how these processes have evolved over time. We realize that changes in the way we produce and consume foods occur organically, as a direct result of human interaction and advances in technology, and because of continuing changes within the cycle. Our goal is to help support research being done in the fields like history, food science, English, material and cultural studies, and human nutrition.


We are already on the lookout for new acquisitions that will fit into this subset (along with the materials we are always seeking for the rest of the HFD Collection!). At the same time, one of my goals for the summer will be identifying materials we already have in the HFD Collection that we can make a part of the Food Technology and Processing Collection subset, too. Hopefully, as I find some of those items, they will be features over the next few months, and place where we can all get to know the food technology and production a little better.

Apologies for the lack of a feature this week, but as the semester comes to a close and summer is before us, it seemed like a good time to share this exciting news about a new initiative! We hope you’ll come along for the ride and learn with us about where agriculture, Extension, food science, and food history collide.

Archivistkira’s Week at Culinary Geek Camp

If you’re a long-time follower, I hoe you’ll forgive me for going a bit more off track than usual this week. You know that usually I would post images and commentary/history on an item from the History of Food and Drink Collection. The thing is, last week, I got to do something amazing and 100% food history related. And I really want to talk about it. I think it may give our readers more insight into some of my future hopes/dreams for the collection, and you’ll learn about my passion for food history. It’s going to a long post, but I’ll keep my comments short and I promise there are pictures.

Each summer, the Center for Historic American Visual Culture (CHAViC) at the American Antiquarian Society (AAS) hosts a week long seminar. Each year, the topic changes and you’ll never see quite the same thing again. This year, the theme was “Culinary Culture: The Politics of American Foodways, 1765-1900.” You can read more about it online.  As soon as I heard about it from a colleague who attended last year, I knew I had to go. Luckily, the faculty member leading the seminar agreed and I was accepted.

The front of the main American Antiquarian Society building, Worcester, MA.
The front of the main American Antiquarian Society building, Worcester, MA.

My week was spent in the company of graduate students, faculty, and a couple of other library types from a variety of disciplines: History, Art History, English, American Studies, and Religion Studies. Led by a visiting faculty member and assisted by the staff at the AAS, we had lectures, hands-on workshops (with books, prints, ephemera, trade cards, images, and artifacts), field trips, and even time to do our own research. The archivist in me was giddy from the behind-the-scenes tour, the scholar in me was gleeful about playing in someone else’s archives, and the collection manager in me was thrilled to talk about and learn how and why people from diverse backgrounds study food and food history.

On our first day, we were shown a number of objects related to food and asked to pick one. Over the course of the week, we were supposed to keep thinking about the object, how what we talked about changed our understanding of it, and, on the last day, give a brief informal presentation about the object as an item. Some people put the object in the context of American culture at the time, others talked about how it could be used in a classroom setting to engage students, and still others used the object as a jumping off point for broader observations about what the item represented. I chose this 1759 advertisement for a merchant in Boston, printed by one Paul Revere. It was accompanied by a handwritten receipt for the items purchased by a customer, around which the ad would have been wrapped (you can still see the fold line under “Large & small Spiders” below).

20150712_163832
1759 Advertisement for merchant Joseph Webb of Boston. Printed by Paul Revere.
20150712_163857
Handwritten receipt from Webb to Obadiah Dickinson, 1759, accompanying the advertisement.

I could probably write a paper on what I talked about for those short 5 minutes, and I won’t linger on that today, but it won’t surprise anyone to know I focused on how this might fit in as something I would show a visiting class and what it says about culinary activities in early America.

During our daily workshops, we got to handle a wide variety of materials. The items related to the day’s theme. We spent time looking at them, then had group discussions about their significance, interest, use, etc., as they related to art, political, culinary, economic, and social/domestic history. I took lots of picture, from political cartoons to trade cards to hand-colored tea plants in a botany book. (Apologies for all the reflections, but most items were in mylar for their safety and flashes weren’t permitted. Also, I haven’t had a chance to crop and edit yet.)

A. Brown & Co. print, "Brooklyn Sanitary Fair, 1864."
A. Brown & Co. print, “Brooklyn Sanitary Fair, 1864.”
Hand-colored tea plant illustration, Ladies' Wreath and Parlor Annual, c.1854.
Hand-colored tea plant illustration, Ladies’ Wreath and Parlor Annual, c.1854.
Czar Baking Powder Trade Card (back). Straight out of the "baking powder wars!"
Czar Baking Powder Trade Card (back). Straight out of the “baking powder wars!”
The Grocer, 1827. This tiny book contained rhymes for children relating to food, including the title piece about what a grocer does.
The Grocer, 1827. This tiny book contained rhymes for children relating to food, including the title piece about what a grocer does.

Of course, you don’t put a group of scholars obsessed with food together and not cook. During a trip to Old Sturbridge Village, we cooked an 1830s meal over an open hearth from scratch (stuffed and roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, carrots, rolls, greens with burnt butter dressing, lemonade, pounded cheese, and “Washington Cake” with hand-whipped cream, plus we churned and washed our own butter!). It was an eye-opening experience to actually prepare this meal and if it weren’t for 20 sets of hands, it would have taken well more than our 3 hours. We tasted and talked about hard cider, cheese and cheesemaking, and Sazeracs and other historic cocktails, and bravely sampled hardtack. On our last day together, we made gingerbread as dessert for the evening’s cook out. It was Eliza Leslie’s 1827 recipe that included a pint of molasses and four different spices. Dense as it was, it tasted amazing and I’m looking forward to making it at home for friends.

Historic Sazeracs (and yes, I got to help bartend!)
Historic Sazeracs (and yes, I got to help bartend!)
Eliza Leslie's 1827 recipe for gingerbread.
Eliza Leslie’s 1827 recipe for gingerbread, made in 2015!

Besides the fun, my pile of notes, new knowledge gained, and the chance to do research (why yes, I DID find some interesting cocktail history in manuscript form, but more on that another day), there was something even more important I learned last week and it was a large part of what I wrote about in my application essay. I wanted to meet people from different disciplines who studied food and I wanted to know why they did. I’ve worked at Virginia Tech Special Collections with the History of Food and Drink Collection for more than 6 years. One of my biggest challenges is finding ways to make it seem usable and relevant in the classroom. After a week of conversation and collaboration, I’m looking forward to reflecting on how I can broaden the way I think about our collection and its use, and how I can encourage faculty and students on campus to do the same. Hopefully, I can find some angles to entice classes in unexpected areas of study to pay us a visit.

Finally, after going on way to long, I’ll leave you with two more images (no, not me washing butter–but a picture of that DOES exist!). They are two food items vital to the history of food and culinary culture in America and abroad. If you want a bit of my experience from last week, give yourself five minutes to consider them. It might just surprise you how politically charged your morning beverage might be.

A bottle of tea whose label reads "Tea thrown into Boston Harbor Dec 16 1773."
A bottle of tea whose label reads “Tea thrown into Boston Harbor Dec 16 1773.”
Unroasted coffee beans taken from the desk of General Ulysses S. Grant.
Unroasted coffee beans taken from the desk of General Ulysses S. Grant.

See you next week, when we’re back to our regularly scheduled programming. 🙂