A new look for the (almost) new year!

After 4 years on the WordPress platform (which we still love), it seemed like time for a change. With the new year around the corner, “What’s Cookin’ @Special Collections?!” has gotten a makeover. We’ve switched to a new template that makes better use of different screen sizes and mobile devices and more accessible. We’ve also moved a few things around, updated a few widgets, and tried to make better use of our space. We hope you like it! (And either way, you’re welcome to comment on the post or use the form on the “Contacting Special Collections” page to give us your feedback!

Here’s to 4 more years (although perhaps we won’t wait quite so long for a change next time)!

Food in the News: More Election Cakes! (#5)

All that time I spent writing about “Election Cake” last week, then NPR went and did it for me over the weekend! You can check out their piece “A History Of Election Cake And Why Bakers Want To #MakeAmericaCakeAgain” online, complete with the audio. On the other hand, maybe this means “What’s Cookin'” is staying ahead in the food news game!

 

 

 

Food in the News: Terroir (#4)

Late last week, NPR’s blog, The Salt ran a story about wine and terroir. “Terroir” is one of those beverage buzzwords that you might or might not have heard and might or might not know. The article, “Demystifying Terroir: Maybe It’s the Microbes Making Magic in Your Wine” offers a good background on the word and the concept as it relates to wine.  The general idea is that grapes and a wine, as a result, are influenced by a number of environmental and soil factors from the slope of a hill, the angle of sunlight on the plants, the amount of rainfall, and more. The article looks more specifically that even the local fungi and microbes may have an effect on the taste of a wine, too. However, it isn’t just wine that is influenced by the oh-so-subtle-factors of plant-based alcohols–think about the soil beneath hops that contribute to a beer or the elevation of the land on which agave grows before it becomes part of a tequila.

The idea of “terroir,” though, doesn’t stop there. At the local cheese festival here in Blacksburg two weeks ago, there was a talk/tasting on wine and cheese pairings. (And, since I’m often to be found where there’s one of those ingredients, you can bet I was there for both!) It certainly wasn’t surprising that the word came up, but it was fascinating to hear how much one of the experts had to say about the terroir of cheese and how much the locality in which it was produced can effect the food itself. While there’s an argument for consistency in a food product (whatever it is), there’s an argument for individuality, local influence, and terroir of a food, too. Just something to consider next time you’re in the farmers’ market, the co-op, or at a local farm.

Food in the News (#3): Food Fraud!

NPR’s The Salt featured a story this weekend on food fraud, how it’s “found out,” and just what it’s worth. If you’re curious, you can check out the article (or have a listen) to “Is There Wood Pulp In That Parmesan? How Scientists Sniff Out Food Fraud.”

Adulteration of food is nothing new and it’s a topic that’s come up among researchers using our collection. We have a number of publications that address adulteration (and regulation) of food, drinks, and in our History of the American Cocktail Collection, even the liquor trade! So, if you’d like to learn more, drop on by!

Food History in the News (#2): Gastronomy of Genius

This article is a couple of weeks old, but if you missed it, it’s worth a look: “Gastronomy Of Genius: History’s Great Minds And The Foods That Fueled Them.” As we say on the blog all the time, food doesn’t existing in a vacuum and it influences us in our daily lives.  You don’t have to be a genius to know that, but apparently even geniuses are subject to their food passions (and lack of passions?), just like everyone else.

Digitized Cookbooks at the Folger

As you know, Special Collections at Virginia Tech isn’t the only special collections and archives to be digitizing its rare and unique content to share on the web! Over the weekend, the Folger Shakespeare Library some new material to its online platform. The best part? It’s almost all historic receipt books and cookbooks! You can see the list of recent additions online, complete with links to the items themselves. I also recommend you browse by category and check out “Cookbooks” and “Recipes” for other items.

Snow Ice Cream?

Sorry for the lack of a feature post this week, but the snowstorm closed campus on Friday, cutting us off from our collection before we could scan anything to write about! Blacksburg has taken quite a hit, giving people the option to stay warm and dry, or go outside and play. If you’re looking for a way to interact with the snow AND stay inside, this article from NPR has some ideas for snow ice cream…or a creative way to cool down a cocktail: http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2016/01/23/463959512/so-you-want-to-eat-snow-is-it-safe-we-asked-scientists.

Enjoy the snow…or lack thereof, if you escaped winter storm Jonas…and stay warm!

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 https://twitter.com/VT_SCUA/. 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.