The NMAH and Gelatin!

The National Museum of American History has taken their culinary materials one step further–and made some 1930s gelatin dishes to share! Check out their blog post, “Tasting the 1930s: An experiment with congealed salads and other one-dish wonders.”

I’ve had more than one person ask me about the possibility of doing a feature or two where I actually make a dish or two from cookbooks in our collection. And the idea keeps rolling around in my brain. Perhaps this is just the inspiration I need. I may just have to do some hunting for the right recipes…

Special Collections is on Twitter!

Just a quick announcement: Virginia Tech Special Collections and University Archives has joined Twitter! If you tweet, follow, or just want to check out our page, you can find us @VT_SCUA or at We’ll be tweeting photos, facts, exhibits, events, blog posts, and more. Of course we’ll be including things about and from the History of Food and Drink Collection, so be sure to keep an eye out!

Monday Afternoon News Bite

A quick early week news bite:

NPR’s food blog, The Salt, ran a story this weekend about African-American culinary history, “Beyond ‘Aunt Jemima’: A Taste Of African-American Culinary Heritage.” Certainly, this is a topic we’ve touched on before! If you’re interested in listening to the interview with author or just want to read highlights, both are available online.


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:


National Archives “Spirited Republic” Exhibit

Just a quick interlude: For those of you in the Washington, DC, area, the National Archives opened a new exhibit earlier this month, “Spirited Republic: Alcohol in American History.” The exhibit deals with relationship between the U. S. Government and alcohol, and it set to run through early January 2016. I’m hoping to make a trip at some point, but I wanted to share with those of you who may live closer or have a trip already planned. You can read more in the press release. Last week, the Washington Post ran an article about the opening, which featured a signature punch.



Ann Hertzler: Professor, Extension Specialist, and Culinary Friend

Some of our followers may have heard of, seen comments on the blog by, or personally known, our long-time History of Food and Drink Collection friend, donor, and supporter, Ann Hertzler. We were saddened to learn that Ann passed away last week on February 6, 2014, at her residence in North Carolina.

In 1957, Ann A. Hertzler received a B.S. in Home Economics Education from Pennsylvania State University. She taught high school Home Economics for two years. In 1960, she completed a Master of Science in Nutrition at the Drexel Institute of Technology. Between 1960 and 1966, she taught at the Drexel Institute of Technology and Northern Illinois University, and spent a year as a dietitian in England. She then pursued a Ph.D. in Nutrition at Cornell University, completing her studies in 1973. From 1970 to 1980, Hertzler was a professor and Extension Specialist at the University of Missouri-Columbia. In 1980, she joined the faculty at Virginia Tech as a professor of Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise, and as a Foods and Nutrition Extension Specialist. She retired in 2001.

During the course of her career, she published many research articles, authored Cooperative Extension publications, served on thesis and dissertation committees, and presented at conferences and events. She received regional and national awards, including a Fulbright Scholarship (1989-1990) and the American Dietetic Association’s Award for Excellence in Dietetic Education (1999).

No matter where she was or who she was speaking to, Ann was enthusiastic about her work. She helped bring the original Peacock-Harper Culinary Collection to Special Collections in 1999-2000. After the larger Culinary History Collection (now the History of Food & Drink Collection) was established, Ann’s focus on children and nutrition issues led her to create the Ann Hertzler Children’s Cookbook and Nutrition Literature Collection and a related endowment in 2005. Through donations and purchases, this sub-group of materials now includes more than 430 publications, pamphlets, and collections of ephemera. We are also the home of much of Ann’s professional papers, donated by her between 2001 and 2013. A finding aid is available online. Some of the resources from her collection have been digitized and can be found through the finding aid or her online faculty archives.

On a personal note (archivist/blogger Kira here), in my five years working with this collection of culinary materials, Ann and I emailed frequently, though I only met her once when she visited the Blacksburg and Roanoke area to give a presentation. She was always curious about the latest acquisitions, about who was using culinary materials, and about what we might have on a specific topic. She was quick to send people my way with questions, when she wasn’t posing her own, and she continued to support researchers in the United States and abroad. Special Collections and the University Libraries will always be grateful for her past efforts and we will miss her support in the future.

Later this week, I hope to have a second post, one that highlights some donations from Ann, purchases made with her endowment, and some of her own work, as well. In the meantime, if you have memories or thoughts of Ann you would like to share, we would be happy to post them. You can submit a comment below, or use the form on the “Contacting Special Collections” page and we’ll see that they make it to the comments section.

Roanoke Times Article of Interest!

A feature post is on the way this week, but in the meantime, here’s a local news story on one our favorite, jiggly topics: Jell-O! Check out this Roanoke Times article by Lindsey Nair.

Basics for Children: Fun (and Fundamentals) in the Kitchen

A quick plug: If you enjoy “What’s Cookin’ @ Special Collections?!” and would like to know more about Special Collections at Virginia Tech, we launched a new blog last month, “In Special Collections @Virginia Tech.” We’ll be sharing collections, books, and manuscripts from all of our collecting areas, as well as news, events, new acquisitions and newly processed manuscripts, projects, and more!  You’ll hear from all of our archivists (including archivist/blogger/foodie Kira, writing about something other than food and drinks) on a variety of topics. And now, back to your regularly scheduled food history….

This week, we’re back to the Ann Hertzler Children’s Cookbook and Nutrition Literature Collection with Fun With Cooking from 1947. As the subtitle (Easy Recipes for Beginners) suggests, it’s about learning some basic recipes and techniques, and it’s very clearly aimed at girls.

From the introduction:

This cook book is for beginners. The recipes are interesting yet not difficult, and each step is carefully explained. The recipes are for things youngsters like to eat, so that the young cook can enjoy the results of her own work.

A girl who makes the things in this book, following carefully all instructions, gains enough experience to go on to more complicated dishes.

The recipes are prefaced by helpful hints and techniques like washing your hands well, reading a recipe before starting, and how to level measuring cups. The girl from the cover appears as a guide throughout the book, demonstrating steps from recipes (although in a few pictures, she looks less than pleased).

While the recipes may be none-too-exciting (the Tuna Casserole looks a little frightening and there is a reason the picture of the hamburgers is absent from this post), the concept is a good, common one. Learning the basics of preparing different types of foods–biscuits, cookies, cupcakes, vegetables, eggs, cooked fruits, and and even oddly-shaped salads–is a great place to start. One can create a LOT of variety from a solid foundation. Yet, it is also important to note that the author specifically included recipes for things children would want to eat and therefore be more likely to want to cook. Steaming Brussels sprouts might be a useful skill, but it could be a tough sell to a ten year old kitchen helper (and even some of us grown ups!).

Side note: Oddly-shaped salads, with or without the aid of gelatin, are not new to us on the blog. They were common courses in dinners beginning in the 1940s and through the next few decades. It’s hardly surprising that this book introduces the concept via the “Candlestick Salad” (half a banana upright in a pineapple right, with an almond “flame” and a “Mickey Mouse Salad” that should appeal to kids (but looks remarkably unlike the familiar character). Still, these basic versions of shaped salads do encourage kids to eat some healthy fruits and veggies.

Mae Blacker Freeman co-authored a whole series of “Fun with” books with her husband, Ira Freeman, on topics from dance to chemistry.  Outside of the series, she wrote other books for children on an equally wide range of subjects–Albert Einstein, gravity, using cameras, and history, to name a few. Many were even translated into German! And that can serve as a good reminder for us–culinary history isn’t “just” culinary history. It exists in a larger context, whether that means within the whole body of an author’s works or the part that food & drinks play in the social history of people. If Fun with Chemistry, for example, can eclipse language barriers, think about the barriers a good recipe can transcend…

NPR and Leslie Blume on Cocktails

We’re playing catch up the first day back in Special Collections after a long holiday, so we don’t have a feature this week. However, in the spirit of our cocktail exhibits and posts about entertaining guests the last few weeks, here’s a great interview/story from NPR about the revival of cocktail culture and some returning cocktails:


Our little blog made the VT Daily News!

Thanks to the help of a dedicated library Communications/PR person, “What’s Cookin’ @Special Collections?!?” has made the Virginia Tech Daily News! The article was emailed to faculty and staff, and was posted on the VT News website. You can check out the press release here: There’s a little about the collection, a little about my (archivist/blogger Kira, as always) philosophies on collecting food-related materials, and a lot about the blog.   

A big thanks to those of you who are long-time readers and welcome to our newcomers! (I hope this brings us in some new readers, at any rate!) I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I love writing it!

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