So, this summer has clearly gotten away from me. Due to impending space limitations, I was working on moving the blog to a new site, hosted by the library. That came with some delays and the new blog isn’t ready to go yet. Then, as I mentioned in June, we moved to some new systems in May. As usual, things got done, but not the things I intended. Then suddenly, it was the first week of class. As a matter of fact, I just taught my first session of the semester to a food history class! Which then reminded me I need to get back to blogging (it’s also my week to post on Special Collections’ other blog!). There’s still space for more pictures here, though, and I’ll be doing my best to get back into routine while I sort out other details for the new blog site in the background. So, a couple more updates and then a new item to share!
First: We have a new website! Our address is still https://spec.lib.vt.edu/, but you may notice an updated look. We are still working on many parts of the site and expect to be migrating some content for a while yet–either to the site or other tools we have in Special Collections. We appreciate your patience while we do so–it may mean some things are a little harder to find, but it will be worth it in the end! In the interim, if you’re looking for something, contact us and ask! We’re here to help.
Second: Colleagues are trying to plant dangerous ideas in my mind and I may be exploring a new medium to talk about one or two aspects of food history in the near future. Stay tuned for more on that.
Third: There’s going to a Peacock Harper Culinary History Friends Committee event here at Newman Library in October. More information will be forthcoming, but for now, consider marking your calendars for Friday, October 4th, at 5pm, especially if you like tomatoes!
Okay, on to new stuff!
Ta-da! Earlier this summer, we purchased this poster (close ups coming). It’s a World War I baker recruitment poster, c.1917:
Wanted! 500 Bakers for the U. S. Army (also 100 cooks) If you can bake bread Uncle Same wants you–if you can’t bake bread, Uncle Sam will teach you how in a Government School. A bakery company consists of 61 men so that you and your “pals” can join the same unit and bake and break bread together. Enlist for the war-bakers pay $33 to $45 per month Ages 18 to 45 Cooks pay $36 per month with clothing, food, quarters and medical attention.
We haven’t done a lot of research into this item just yet, but I love the visuals of it and wanted to share. We had a World War I and food exhibit up in the spring and this seems a good continuation of that theme. (And I was just talking about food and wartime in the class session earlier!)
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!
This is the pile fresh from the envelope. I spread it all out on the table…
…and of course, my eyes lit up as I found some of my favorite topics: cocktails, gelatin, and Betty Crocker:
Of course, in the south, you can’t look far without finding something about barbecue!
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!
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!
Let’s start this post off honestly: I don’t know much about Martha Lee Anderson. In fact, I don’t even know if she was even a real person. However, I believe she was, since unlike the legendary Betty Crocker, her name appears in her some of publications as attributed to her as part of the Research Test Kitchen of Church & Dwight Co., Inc. So, while we can’t talk about her in detail, we can certainly see her handiwork.
Good Things to Eat, 1933; Good Things to Eat, 1939
“Chicken Shortcake” and “Fluffy Gingerbread” recipes from Good Things to Eat, 1939
Back cover, Good Things to Eat, 1939
Successful Recipes for Flavor and Texture, 1934
Martha Lee Anderson pamphlets (clockwise from top left): It’s All in Knowing How, 1934; New Fashioned Old Fashioned Recipes, 1949; Good Things to Eat, 1942; New Fashioned Old Fashioned Recipes, 1951
Successful Recipes for Flavor and Texture, 1936
Frosting recipes from Successful Recipes for Flavor and Texture, 1936
Some of My Favorite Things to Eat, 1940
Good Things to Eat, 1942
Martha Lee Anderson authored or edited a LOT of pamphlets while in the employ of Church & Dwight Co., Inc. You might know this company best for a little product called Arm & Hammer baking powder? You can cook or bake with it, as well as clean you home and yourself with it! Quite a versatile product! Anderson’s pamphlets focused more on the eating part, usually compiling recipes for baked goods, though sometimes venturing into more savory dishes. “Chicken Shortcake” led to some interesting expressions when I shared it with colleagues while preparing this post. It’s not generally two words you expect to see together–but its basis is formed by baking soda biscuits!
You might notice a certain trend among the pamphlets attributed to her. Many of them share the same name: “Good Things to Eat” or “Successful Baking for Flavor and Texture,” for example. Historically speaking, many of these pamphlets went through multiple editions. When I pulled the folder from the Culinary Pamphlet Collection relating to Church & Dwight Co., Inc., I found edition number 115 of “Good Things to Eat,” published in 1936. Since the company was established in 1846, that means each year had more than one edition produced. Martha Lee Anderson was responsible, it seems for at least 18 years of them, too. The earliest item in our collection I found with her name was from 1931 and the latest was 1949. It’s possible (and likely) her tenure extended beyond this, but at the moment, we don’t have any particular items after 1949 or anything before 1931 with a name on it.
While details on her identity may be limited today, her prolific culinary pamphleteering, as it were, likely made her name more recognizable in her own time. Most of these were little publications that would have been given away for free to could be acquired for a small fee. Between the four items we have cataloged and the Culinary Pamphlet Collection, we have more than 20 pamphlets from Church & Dwight, about a dozen of which are editions authored by Anderson. The pictures above are just a sampling and even among those, you can seem some variations in covers, recipes, and style. So, if you’d like to learn more about Martha’s recipes, you’re welcome to stop by and see them in person. You might find some inspiration for some cookies, a cake, or even, if you’re feeling bold, Chicken Shortcake!
For the start of Women’s History Month (or, as we call it on the Virginia Tech campus, Women’s Month), I thought we would, oddly enough, talk about the woman who didn’t exist: Betty Crocker. The idea of Betty Crocker was (and remains) influential. And yet, she doesn’t (and didn’t) exist as a person–Crocker is an identity and a brand. On the one hand, we could argue that perhaps a fictional identity isn’t the way to sell products or best way to represent women. On the other hand, the fact is, it worked. Really, really well. Which is why it seems fair to take a look at just what this character did for culinary history.
We’ve highlighted a couple of specific publications “by” Crocker in the past: Betty Crocker & Salads and Betty Crocker & Outdoor Entertaining. This week, we’ll add some more to the mix. Special Collections houses 21 books and publications attributed to Betty Crocker, including my beloved Betty Crocker card libraries. If you add in books housed in the circulating collection, that total doubles. You can view a list of the publications online. And that barely scratches the surface of materials attributed to this identity and image. There are books, card libraries, pamphlets (we have those in some manuscript collections, too), flyers/single-page instruction sheets, individual recipes cards, advertisements, and more.
So, who was Betty Crocker, then? The idea behind her creation in 1921 was to have a female persona/representation for Washburn Crosby (by the end of the decade, the company would merge with others to form General Mills). The company’s advertising department was all male, but their intended audience was, of course, women. They needed an image to sell that. However, this is not to say that there weren’t women involved in helping to build the persona. When “Betty Crocker” got a radio show in 1924, she was voiced by a home economist on staff, Blanche Ingersoll. The publications that began to flow out to the public written by Betty were really the work of Marjorie Child Husted and a team of home economists who created, tested, and marketed the recipes. Husted worked on getting the persona of Betty Crocker to engage with real people for items like “Let the Stars Show You How to Take a Trick a Day with Bisquick” from 1935. The first portrait of Betty Crocker appeared on materials in 1936, giving further credence to the identity.
During decades of change, Betty Crocker’s work was adapted to meet needs of women around the nation: Publications focused on how to stretch foods during the Great Depression and how to cook under rationing conditions in World War II. While all of these things could have also been provided by a single author, radio host, home economist, etc. (or a series of them over time), as we’ve seen with other companies, we might also consider there is something to be said for the consistent image that we’ve seen now for more than 90 years. The idea of Betty Crocker as a constant companion in the kitchen, one who rises to the challenges of changing times and even reflects back some of what is going on for women during that turmoil. (*see note at the end of the post)
*On a side note, I didn’t know much about Marjorie Child Husted before I started this post, though I had seen the name. It was interesting to learn that in addition to her work with this persona, “during the war, Husted worried that women were not being honored for their work in the home. She developed the Betty Crocker American Home Legion in 1944 to recognize women for their contributions. Husted championed the rights of women in the workplace, criticizing General Mills and other companies for discriminating against their female employees.” (http://www.mnopedia.org/person/betty-crocker) It seems that much of what she did was tied to Betty Crocker, which gives us another perspective on both Husted and what she intended Crocker to be.
It’s time again for another pamphlet round-up! (Side note: As with last time around, these are all brand new items. They haven’t been added to the Culinary Pamphlet Collection yet, but they will be soon! I’m actually getting some processing done this summer!) Presented in no particular order:
This is only about 1/5 of the pamphlet backlog in my office at present, but there are definitely some good discoveries, no matter what your interest. As always, you’re welcome to come view items–even the unprocessed ones–and visit us in Special Collections. We’ll be here all summer!
Housekeeping in the Blue Grass: A New and Practical Cook Book Containing Nearly a Thousand Recipes was originally published in 1875. The copy is one of the 10th “new and enlarged” edition, first issued in 1879, but our actual copy is from 1881. Compiled and edited by the Ladies of the Presbyterian Church in Paris, Kentucky, these 206 pages are packed with recipes from women (and a few men) from mostly Kentucky, but also Virginia, Arkansas, New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio.
Our edition includes the original 1875 preface, which we can’t NOT quote a bit of for you:
The “Blue Grass” region of Kentucky, as is well know, is considered the garden spot of the State. It is celebrated for the fertility of its soil, the beauty of its pastures, its flocks and blooded stock, and last, but not least, for the hospitality of its people and their table luxuries.
It is useless to enlarge upon the last feature, especially to those who have attended Bourbon Fairs [that’s the county, not the whiskey], and made visits in this and the adjoining counties. We only refer to it, by way of introducing our book to the appreciation of the public.
The 1879 also had a preface of its own, which states, in part:
…Nine thousand copies have been sold, and its praises have been sung by many of the best housekeepers of the land.
In sending forth this new edition, we have corrected some errors, supplied defects, and added many valuable recipes, which will be found at the close of each section and in the Miscellaneous department.
The entire profits of this work have been, and will continue to be, devoted to religious charity.
Housekeeping in the Blue Grass was, at its core, a community cookbook, designed to raise funds for a cause. But the fact that it went on into at least 10 editions and over 9,000 copies sold says a lot for this little volume. (There was at least one more edition in 1905 AND it has been reprinted at least once in the last 10 years.) It clearly appealed to a wide audience (not just Kentuckians!) in its originality. (The preface also states that “Many of our recipes are entirely original with our own famed cooks; others have been gathered from the most reliable sources; not one, so far as we know, has been copied from books.”) So, what are these amazing recipes?
Oysters, were an increasingly popular item in landlocked states like Kentucky and Tennessee during this time, both as a stand-alone and as an ingredient in other dishes.
These “Walnut Pickles” include a quite precise direction that they should be “gather[ed]…about the 10th of June, when you can stick a pin through them”
And, apparently, adding cloves makes pickled walnuts even better!
These “Transparent Pudding” recipes all vary a bit, but the idea is generally the same: a kind of baked custard covered in meringue.
Recently, our staff came across a “buttermilk lemonade” recipe from the early 20th century we might be making as an experiment. This book has a more complicated “Milk Lemonade” option.
The cookbook contains an entire section of home remedies (remember: this is NOT medical advice) that gives us some insight into late 19th century folk medicine.
Lastly, this page comes from the later-added “Miscellaneous” section of recipes. We couldn’t pass up sharing “Blue Grass Fruit Cake!”
Housekeeping in the Blue Grass has elements we see in many other cookbooks of the time: sections for home remedies, home cleaning/upkeep, and cooking for invalids, in addition to all the other recipes. Of course, it also reflects a different era of cooking. The majority of the recipes have a list of ingredients in non-standard amounts (standardized measurements, courtesy of Fannie Farmer, were still several years in the future in 1881) and, in some cases, additional directions, but there was still an assumption that a reader would know what to do with those ingredients. Or, they would at least understand the basics of producing a pudding, a white sauce, or a pastry dough as a component. Compared to many modern cookbooks, there was a different set of expectations on home cooks in the late 19th century! Some of the basics may be covered in the book (Housekeeping in the Blue Grass has recipes for pie crust that you could use throughout, for example), but there’s no guarantee.
Community cookbooks were aptly named, especially in their early days–they weren’t just something produced by a community group (often of women). They were produced by a community of cooks, for a community of new and experienced cooks, and to help build community between those who had the knowledge and those who might have needed some culinary and domestic education. That’s a whole other topic we don’t have space for here today, but it is food for thought (at least it has been for me lately).
Way back in the days of March 2012, when the blog was just a wee babe of 7 months old, I wrote a post about Mary Randolph’s The Virginia Housewife; or, Methodical Cook, America’s first regional cookbook. While I don’t plan to re-hash the post exactly, it seemed like time to revisit it. That post (found here) focused primarily on the 1846 edition of the book in our collection, though it made passing mention of the other two in our possession: the 1824 (first edition) and the 1855 (which we had only recently acquired). I’m pleased to say that these days, Special Collections includes SEVEN different editions of Mary Randolph on our shelves! (All told, this is just scratching the surface–there are more like 40 editions in print if you count different years of publication , publishers, and later reprints!) Let’s take a look, shall we?
Publication year: 1824 (sometimes cataloged or described as 1820 or [1820?])
Publisher: Hurst & Company, New York
Number of pages in the text: 180 including preface, introduction, table of contents, and recipes (this edition also contains several pages of advertisements in the back).
Number of copies in public or academic libraries (incl. Virginia Tech): 4
Fun fact about this edition: “Arlington Edition” doesn’t denote the location of publication, but more likely where it was written (Mary and her husband David moved to the Washington, DC area in 1819, five years before this first edition was published.)
Bonus fact about this copy: Our 1824 is in particularly fragile shape. At some point in its history, it sustained water damage and has been nibbled on by insects. We provide a safe and stable home for this copy, so if you come to see it in person, we’ll have to help you look at it.
Publication year: 1836
Publisher: John Plaskitt, Baltimore
Number of pages: 180 including preface, introduction, table of contents, and recipes.
Number of copies in public or academic libraries (incl. Virginia Tech): 24
Fun fact about this edition: In 1828, Mary Randolph added a small selection of recipes to 3rd edition of The Virginia Housewife. Our 1836 is our earliest copy to contain these additional recipes, which include items like “Mock Turtle Soup of Calf’s Head,” “Fried Chickens,” and “To Make Yellow Pickle.”
Publication year: 1846
Publisher: E. H. Butler & Co., Philadelphia
Number of pages: 180 including preface, introduction, table of contents, and recipes.
Number of copies in public or academic libraries (incl. Virginia Tech): 14
Fun fact about this particular copy: Our 1846 edition was rebound in a new binding with new end-papers sometime in the latter half of the 20th century. However, the original front and back covers were retained (despite their damage) and applied to the new binding. This was a well-used copy with blotches and stains, suggesting it saw plenty of time in a kitchen!
Publication year: 1855
Publisher: E. H. Butler & Co., Philadelphia
Number of pages: 180 including preface, introduction, table of contents, and recipes (this edition also contains several pages of advertisements in the back).
Number of copies in public or academic libraries (incl. Virginia Tech): 3
Fun fact about this edition: Like some other earlier additions, this one features several pages of advertisements in the back. In this case, there are 12 pages of ads for textbooks and educational volumes printed by the same publishers (E. H. Butler & Co. of Philadelphia).
Publication year: 1970 (reprint of 1860)
Publisher: Avenel Books, Richmond (1970); E. H. Butler & Co., Philadelphia (original 1860)
Number of pages: 180 including preface, introduction, table of contents, and recipes (this edition also contains several pages of advertisements in the back which were part of the 1860).
Number of copies in public or academic libraries (incl. Virginia Tech): 30
Fun fact about this edition: Although printed in 1970, this edition is actually a page for page reprint of the 1860 version! The book is a little larger than the original would have been, which makes the text a bit bigger and easier to read, but once you get past the modern cover, this edition takes you back 110 years.
Publication year: 1984 (reprint of 1824, plus pages from the 1825, and additional recipes which first appeared in 1828)
Publisher: University of South Carolina Press (1984); Davis and Force, Washington, DC (1824) (American Antiquarian Society copy); Way & Gideon, Washington, DC (1825 & 1828) (American Antiquarian Society copy)
Number of pages: 370 including preface, introduction, table of contents, and recipes, and extensive notes, commentaries, and appendices by author Karen Hess.
Number of copies in public or academic libraries (incl. Virginia Tech): 186
Fun fact about this edition: Unlike any of the 19th century editions or the later reprints, this 1984 edition contains a frontispiece with a picture of Mary Randolph (it would be common practice later in the 19th century to include author’s pictures or some sort of image opposite the title page). Karen Hess did extensive work comparing early editions and the result is this version which includes the original 1824 text plus recipes that were added to the 1825 and 1828 editions and a historical glossary. The 1825 edition also included Mary Randolph’s designs for a home refrigerator and tub, but these designs were removed from all subsequent editions–these pages are also included in this 1984 volume.
Publication year: 2013
Publisher: Andrews McNeel Publishing, LLC, Kansas City (2013); Way & Gideon, Washington, DC (1828) (American Antiquarian Society copy)
Number of pages: 240 including preface, introduction, table of contents, recipes, and additional introduction by Nathalie Dupree.
Number of copies in public or academic libraries (incl. Virginia Tech): 30
Fun fact about this edition: This edition is part of a series of reproduced American cookbooks and culinary-related works that, to date, contains around 65 publications. It includes the works of people we’ve talked about on the blog before like William Alcott, Catherine Beecher, Lydia Maria Child, Eliza Leslie, Jerry Thomas, and Susannah Carter, as well as some community cookbooks, early translations of French cookbooks, and many more authors!
I’ve been wanting to do this little comparison for some time now. I know we didn’t get into the details of these volumes, but that would have made for an exceptionally long post. If you’re interested in seeing the volumes for yourself, you’re always welcome to visit us and do some comparing of your own. You can also find a few different editions of The Virginia Housewife, or; Methodical Cook online in digital and/or transcribed forms: Project Gutenberg has the1860 edition; Michigan State University’s “Feeding America” project has the1838 edition; the Internet Archive, via the University of California Libraries, has the1836 edition. In other words, Mary Randolph’s influence–or at least her recipes–are still available today for the curious culinary historian! And remember: “Method is the Soul of Management”–for Mary, it wasn’t just about what you cook, but how you cook it!
Lately I’ve been thinking about how to write a post about political food without, well, getting into politics. Since food is so much a part of our lives, it’s hardly surprising that it would play a part in our political lives, too. For you dairy fans, there are two strange examples of food gifts to politicians: the 1,400 lb “Jackson Cheese,” gifted to the President Jackson in 1837 (with additional 700 lb cheeses given to Van Buren and four others for politicians/political organizations of the time) and the 1,234 lb “Cheshire Mammoth Cheese,” gifted to then-president Thomas Jefferson in 1802. Both are interesting stories (after all, what does one do with a half ton or more of cheese??) and worth reading about. But I was looking for something a bit more accessible–we have no recipe for giant cheese that I’m aware of in the collection. What we do have, though, are recipes for “Election Cake.” (I know, I know, it’s not November yet–but I’m sharing this in advance, in case anyone want to make it for Election Day!)
I’ve got four variations of “Election Cake” to share today, though there are some definite similarities between the three versions from the 18th and 19th centuries. (The origin of American “Election Cake” is actually in the 17th century, so it’s been around a while!) The latest of the bunch is from 1914 and is also the most distinct, reflecting not a change in politics or views, but a change in kitchen and baking technologies (we’ll come back to that in a moment).
The amount of ingredients in Simmons’ recipe, as you may notice, are quite large. This gets the origins of “Election Cake,” which was often commissioned by local officials in celebration of elections (and may have also been a way to entice voters to the polls). So, rather than a cake for a family or a small party, 18th century “Election Cakes” were designed to feed large crowds. Through the 19th century, such cakes were also time consuming. One had to make a mixture that would sit for hours (and even overnight) before it could be finished and baked.
Lydia Maria Child’s recipe is of a more manageable size, designed for the small/home baker. Her recipe first appeared in print in an earlier edition of The American Frugal Housewife from 1833. Like Simmons, though, her recipe relies on time and effort. This “single-loaf” version, as we might call it, occurs commonly in the time period. The first American version of Mackenzie’s Five Thousand Receipts, published in Philadelphia in 1831, includes an “Election Cake” with the following directions:
Take 5 lbs flour, 2 lbs sugar, 3/4 lbs butter, 5 eggs, yeast, 1 pint of milk, and spice as you please.
Hopefully, a good baker would know what to do from there? At any rate, the recipe’s history in America goes back to at least, the late 18th century, and cakes of the same or similar ingredients or techniques can be found in the British tradition as early as the mid-17th century (though with different monikers). Two other American variations sometimes appear in books as “Hartford Election Cake” or “Old Hartford Election Cake.” There is a story behind that, too. Alternatively, because in some places in New England Election Day was also “Muster Day” or “Training Day,” you might also find recipes for “Muster Cake” or “Training Cake” that seem remarkably familiar.
Elvira Jane Hanna’s receipt book of recipes also features “Election Cake.” The instructions she recorded are less detailed than Child’s and more so than Mackenzie’s, but it’s easy to see that the published version was making the household rounds. Although we don’t have exact dates for Hanna’s manuscript cookbook, we believe it dates to about the mid-19th century, certainly during the time that Child, Mackenzie, and others were sharing the cake. Skipping ahead a bit, one can still find “Election Cake” published in the 20th century.
The first edition of The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book was published in 1896 and “Election Cake” was among the recipes. However, our earliest edition of this title is from 1914. “Election Cake” was a staple in the Fannie Farmer classic cookbook in all its later editions, too. But, it has slightly different approach: it includes bread dough as an ingredient (which, one would have have to make or have on hand), adds more fruit and spices, incorporates baking soda as a leavening agent, and it even gets frosting! Most notable, perhaps, though, is the middle item on that list. We begin to see a modernization of this recipe that relies on new ingredients that can speed up the once-overnight process. Farmer’s book tells us one need only let the mixture rise for 1 1/4 hours, not overnight, or even the 3 hours suggested by Child in warm weather.
Of course, I’ve cherry picked some variations, but there are plenty more out there–and on our shelves, too! So, whether you’re looking to celebrate the election or drown your sorrows in delicious, cake-y goodness, you might want to think about an “Election Cake.” Regardless of the politics, cake will most certainly make you a winner among your constituency.
So, earlier this week I finally sat down and updated the Culinary Pamphlet Collection (Ms2011-002). Over the last several months, I had been collecting new additions and since the 0.5 cu. ft. box in my office where I store items had reached capacity, it seemed a good time. I added 19 new folders for food or appliance companies and added items to about 30 existing folders–it was quite a haul! Here are a few highlights:
“The Presto Recipe Book for Little Girls and Their Mothers” comes from the Heckler Products Corporation and is dated 1937. It’s primarily baking recipes like the cakes below.
“Recipes that Pep-Up Meals with Wise Potato Chips” put chips in and on everything. Seriously…everything. Published in 1957, it features chips with dips, in meatloaf, on coffee cake, in candies like fudge, and even under creamed seafood!
This unique little advertisement from Libby, McNeill, & Libby is actually also a scissor-sharpener! The front side talk about available products and the back has directions for use of the sharpener. Functional advertising is useful–and creative–approach to “getting your product out there!”
Last up (for now), here are a few pages from a fold out pamphlet by the William G. Bell Company, maker of Bell’s Seasonings. (We’ve talked about Bell’s once before, in a Thanksgiving post during the first year of the blog.) For only 8 small pages (4 shown below), this item is packed full of company history, recipes, and suggestions.
In addition the Culinary Pamphlet Collection, I also updated the Cocktail Ephemera Collection (Ms2013-027) last week, adding new pamphlets (for wine, spirits AND temperance!), bottle labels, and some neat artifacts. I’ll save that for another post, since we just received three MORE new artifacts I need to add and these items are prime “feature” content. Next up, I hope to add the small folder of ephemera I have waiting to go into the Culinary Ephemera Collection (Ms2013-028), which includes a series of collectible trade cards, among other things.
In other words, there are PLENTY of great new items and publications coming into the collection and you’re always welcome to stop by! The blog barely scratches the surface of our shelves.
This week, many of our staff are at the Society of American Archivists annual conference. This includes me, your usual archivist/blogger Kira who is, quite excitedly, presenting on a panel this year. “What panel?” you ask. Why, one about food collections and outreach! So, while I’m off definitely learning from others and hopefully inspiring a few colleagues, too, we’ve got another culinary lesson here on the blog. Despite the high temps in Blacksburg the last couple of weeks, I went a little crazy and was baking last week. For the library’s annual summer picnic, I whipped up a couple of cobblers (thanks to a very simple, 6 ingredient recipe!): blackberry peach and strawberry blueberry. While it may not have been the smartest move, turning on the oven and all, the summer smacks of cobbler to me and I hadn’t made one in a long time. Which also has me thinking about baking. I respect the fact that baking is a precise and scientific art, but I’ve never been good at that in the kitchen. And, I’ve gone this long with any major baking disasters in my life (we’ll save tales of cooking and candy-making disasters for another day). Still, there’s plenty to learn from our historic resources, like The Pastrycook and Confectioner’s Guide for Hotels, Restaurants, and the Trade in General, Adapted Also for Family Use, Including a Large Variety of Modern Recipes. The title actually goes on, but we’ll take a break there. (You can see the rest of it on the title page below.)
Written by Robert Wells in 1889, this is a short, but detailed, British guide to baking, confectionery (including sugar-work), meat pies, ornamental butter, and more. Since this is a British book, you’ll notice a few differences, but nothing that can’t be overcome in the historic or modern American kitchen. Castor (aka caster) sugar, for example, isn’t that common in the U.S. These days, though, it can found in some stores, most definitely online, and, with modern kitchen technology (a coffee/spice grinder or a food processor), you can make it yourself!
While, at first glance, this book may seem like a strange conglomerate of recipes–I can see including meat pies in a book on pastry–there is a theme here. The sections on cooking meat and poultry may seem a bit out of place, but if you can’t cook them properly, they aren’t going to make for a good meat pie. The one thing that is really lacking, especially since this is designed to be a manual not only for other professionals, but for the home cook, was pictures. I, for one, would love to see #294: To Ornament a Tongue as a Dolphin. This seems like the kind of manual that would benefit from a bit more visual content, but perhaps the lack thereof gives the home and professional the freedom to be creative rather than match a certain image.
The entirety of The Pastrycook and Confectioner’s Guide can be found on Special Collections Online, our digital platform: http://digitalsc.lib.vt.edu/HFDBooks/TX773.W4457_1889. You can read it online or download the pdf for later if you’re interested. Take a moment to learn something new about culinary history this week, even it’s just a little fact. I know I’m looking forward to finding out what my colleagues are doing with food history collection and outreach. I might even have some tidbits to share when I get back! Until then, good eating (though if your summer is as hot as our in Blacksburg, you might want to take a word of advice from me and skip the baking for now)!