All about the Eggs

There are several simple ways of cooking eggs which are very commonly followed. Thus, the egg in the shell is cooked by immersion in hot or boiling water or is less commonly roasted. After removal from the shell, the egg is cooked in hot water or in hot fat. In the latter case it may or may not be beaten or stirred. Combined with other materials to form various made dishes, eggs are boiled, baked, steamed, or fried, as the case may be. The total number of methods of serving and preparing eggs is very large, but in nearly every case is will be found that the method of preparation is only a more or less elaborate modification of one of the simple methods of cooking.

From Langworthy, C. F. Eggs and Their Uses as Food. Farmer’s Bulletin No. 128. Washington, DC: U. S. Department of Agriculture, 1905.

Women’s History Month, Part 13: Marion Harris Neil

Welcome to Women’s History Month 2016! As with previous years, this month we’ve got a whole new series of profiles lined up. But first, a quick message from our sponsors–Us!

Your archivist/blogger Kira and two of her amazing colleagues, Laurel and Sam, are working on some Women’s History Month displays. We have a digital exhibit that went live yesterday, which you can see here: https://digitalsc.lib.vt.edu/exhibits/show/womens-history-2016. (Spoiler alert: there IS some History of Food & Drink material in it!). We’re also in the process of switching content in our reading room display cases AND setting up two other cases on the first floor of the library along with a touch screen monitor for the digital display. We hope you’ll check out one or both exhibits. (And hey, if you’re coming to the talk next week, “Cookery, Cocktails, Chores, and Cures: Food History in Special Collections,” you’ll already be here!)

…Back to our regularly scheduled blogging! This week we’re looking at the works of Marion Harris Neil. I say “works” for a very specific reason. Normally, I tried to include some biographical information in my aptly-named “profiles.” But Marion is a mystery. A prolific, prolific mystery. Census records from the eras during which she wrote include plenty of “Marion Neils,” but with no clues to go on, it’s hard to narrow things down. Her books and publications are often product-based, so the focus is on the company and the food, not the woman. Unlike some of our other authors, there are no biographical hints in prefaces or introductory pages. Still, she had plenty to say on the topic of food:

You can read about the 1917 edition of Ryzon Baking Book: A Practical Manual for the Preparation of Food Requiring Baking Powder in a previous blog post and you can view the 1914 edition of The Story of Crisco on the Special Collections digital collections website.

Marion Harris Neil Bibliography (items in bold are held by Special Collections):

  • “The Minute Man Cook Book.” 1909. [Alternate title: “The Minute Man A Brief Account of the Battles of Lexington and Concord by Wayne Whipple with Recipes for Minute Tapioca, Minute Gelatine (Plain) and Minute Gelatine (Flavored) by Janet McKenzie Hill, Marion H. Neil, Ella A. Pierce, and other culinary authorities.”] In the Culinary Pamphlet Collection, Ms2011-002.
  • Alcono Cook Book. Newark, N.Y., J.M. Pitkin & Co., 1910.
  • Choice Recipes Requiring “True Fruit” Brand: Pure Flavoring Extracts. Rochester, N.Y.: J. Hungerford Smith Co., [1912?]
  • How to Cook in Casserole Dishes. Philadelphia: D. McKay, 1912. (Multiple editions)
  • Good Thing to Eat Made with Bread. New York: Fleischmann Co., 1913. (Multiple editions)
  • Candies and Bonbons and How to Make Them. Philadelphia: D. McKay, 1913. (Multiple editions)
  • Canning, Preserving and Pickling. Philadelphia: D. McKay, 1914. (Multiple editions)
  • “The Story of Crisco: 250 Tested Recipes.” 1913. In the Culinary Pamphlet Collection, Ms2011-002.
  • Cox’s Manual of Gelatine Cookery. 5th American ed. Edinburgh, Scotland: J. & G. Cox, Limited, [1914]. (Previous post on a broadside advertisement for this company)
  • Delicious Recipes Made with Mueller’s Products. Jersey City, N.J. : C.F. Mueller Co., 1914.
  • The Story of Crisco: 250 Tested Recipes. 5th ed. Cincinnati: Procter & Gamble Co., c1914. (Multiple editions) (Available online)
  • A Calendar of Dinners with 615 Recipes: Including the Story of Crisco.8th ed. Cincinnati : Proctor & Gamble Co., c1915.
  • The Something-Different Dish. Philadelphia: D. McKay, 1915
  • Ryzon Baking Book: A Practical Manual for the Preparation of Food Requiring Baking Powder.  New York, General Chemical Company, Food Dept., 1916.(Multiple editions)
  • Salads, Sandwiches and Chafing Dish Recipes. Philadelphia: D. McKay, 1916. (Multiple editions)
  • Dromedary War-Time Recipes: Appetizing and Economical Dishes Made with Dromedary Food Products. [New York?]: Hills Bros. Co., 1917.
  • Favorite Recipes Cook Book: A Complete Culinary Guide. New York: F.M. Lupton, 1917. (Multiple editions)
  • Good Things to Eat: A Selection of Unusual Recipes for Those who Appreciate Good Things to Eat. San Francisco, Calif.: California Packing Corp., 1917.
  • Ryzon Baking Book: A Practical Manual for the Preparation of Food Requiring Baking Powder.  New York, General Chemical Company, Food Dept., 1917.  (Previous blog post)
  • Economical Cookery. Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1918.
  • Sixty-Five Delicious Dishes Made with Bread: Containing Tested Recipes Compiled for the Fleischmann Co. New York: Fleischmann Co., 1919.
  • The Thrift Cook Book. Philadelphia: D. McKay, 1919. (Multiple editions)
  • 40 Unique Dromedary Cocoanut Recipes. [New York]: Hills Bros. Co., [192-?]
  • 43 Delicious Ways of Serving McMenamin’s Crab Meat. Hampton, Va.: McMenamin & Co., [192-?]
  • Auto Vacuum Ice Cream Freezer Recipes. New York: Auto Vacuum Freezer Co., 1920.
  • Delicious Recipes. [Fresno, Calif.]: [California Peach Growers, Inc.], [1920?]
  • A Calendar of Dinners, with 615 Recipes. Cincinnati: Procter & Gamble Co., c1921. (Multiple editions)
  • A Modern Manual of Cooking. Cincinnati, Procter & Gamble Co., 1921.
  • Mrs. Neil’s Cooking Secrets: and, the Story of Crisco. Cincinnati: Procter & Gamble Co., 1924. (Multiple editions)
  • “Mrs. Harland’s Cooking Secrets.” [Crisco.] 1925. In the Culinary Pamphlet Collection, Ms2011-002.

Neil also published in Table Talk, a long running home economics and cooking periodical, and wrote or edited numerous other pamphlets and ephemeral publications that aren’t likely captured by catalog records. I’ll also mention that many of the publications above (and the others) are available online through the Internet Archive, HathiTrust, and/or Google Books. You’ll just have to go looking for them!

With an extra Thursday this March, you can expect four more profiles, and I promise, they won’t all be about women of the food world shrouded in quite so many shadows. For now, you’ll just have to let Marion’s recipes speak for her.

Need a New Years’ Eve/Day Candy Rush?

Happy (almost) New Year! Special Collections is still closed, but we don’t want to leave you recipe-less or uninspired on the cusp of 2016. If you need some last minute candies for guests or a sugar rush for yourself, this week’s feature will help! It’s Plain Rules for Candy Making, published in 1922. It’s not a book or even a pamphlet. Rather, it’s a double-sided card. We’ve seen some similar items before in the Cocktail History Collection, but this is the first candy-based one we’ve acquired.

For the most part, Plain Rules for Candy Making  speaks for itself. Also, while your usual archivist/blogger Kira planned ahead and wrote this back on December 16, it’s the holiday season and there are more important (but only slightly more fun ;)) things to do than read a long blog post. However, before we part ways until 2016, there are a few points worth making. First, this sliding recipe card comes from Livermore & Knight Co., no strangers to the History of Food and Drink Collection. They published the set of tiny cookbooks you may have read about on the blog before in “A Tiny Post on Some Tiny Books” and “From Tiny Books to Chunky Books.” Apparently, quirky and unique methods of sharing recipes was there thing. Second, it’s a good reminder that there are connections to be made through the collection and not always in obvious ways. We have a variety of books it the collection that don’t contain related content, but are connected by other elements like publisher, which makes them an interesting study for other reasons (did a publisher produce books that all looked a certain way? focused on a certain theme/ingredient? contain a shared element?). Perhaps we’ll take some of that up…next year.

Happy New Year (and be sure to join us for a whole new year of feature items in 2016)!

 

Fireless Cooking in the Early 20th Century

This week, I’ve been attempting to clean up/sort out some boxes in my office. This includes two small boxes of additions waiting to be added to collections. Among them are some pamphlets for the Virginia Tech Special Collections National Agricultural Publications (Ms2011-022). (We’ve recently updated the name from its previous title of “National Agricultural Publications,” a decision motivated by a desire to create collection titles that are following the current standards for archival description.) The collection contains United States Department of Agriculture, War Food Administration, and other national agency publications on topics ranging from war-time food use and Victory gardens, kitchen appliances, preservation strategies, individual foods/food groups, and home demonstration. Our feature item is a USDA pamphlet from 1921 (first published in 1917) called Homemade Fireless Cookers and Their Use.

For those of you unfamiliar with a fireless cooker (personally, I had a vague idea, but nothing concrete), have no fear! The first page includes an explanation:

A fireless cooker is a device for keeping food so hot after it has been taken from the stove that the process of cooking will be continued and completed. It makes cooking easier and lessens the amount of fuel needed. It is usually more economical when used as a supplement to a gas, oil, or electric stove that to a coal or wood range in which a fire is kept all day for purposes other than cooking.

This bulletin explains the principles on which a fireless cooker works and the kinds of food with which it can be most advantageously used, and gives simple directions by means of which an efficient one can be made at home from easily obtained and inexpensive materials…

Efficient? Economical? And it can be made at home? Sounds like a helpful bite of food technology to me! Since it was written the practical purpose of instruction, it’s not surprising that this is a text-heavy 16 pages. But it’s chock full of information from the how-to-build to the what-to-cook, and does include some illustrations and photographs. The last page also talks about using the cooking box to keep foods cold. By 1921, a wide variety of stand-alone oven/stove types were available, but they were often small in size. The idea of the fireless cooker meant that foods with longer cook times could finish elsewhere, freeing up space inside. We still use some of the techniques of the fireless cooker today, though perhaps not in the same ways. The fireless cooker is a predecessor of sorts to the slow cooker, which would emerge about 15 years later, bringing fireless cooking back into the kitchen from the outdoors.

This pamphlet is available in its entirety on a number of sites, including the Internet Archive, but today I’m linking to the University of North Texas USDA Farmers’ Bulletins collection. It contains this week’s feature item, along with more than 1,800 other USDA books and pamphlets published between the 1880s and 1980s! The edition on the UNT site is from 1917, so it’s an earlier version of the one on our shelves. The 1921 has a few more images, but the same number of pages.

We’ve got lots more from the home economics field on our shelves and we’re always here. So feel free to come by and learn about how to make your own fireless cooker, your own cheese, or how to build the best greenhouse for your property…Or at least get a sense of how it was done historically. Happy cooking!

We’re on the Air…and Cooking!

We certainly talk on the blog about how improvements in kitchen technology have changed the way food was (and continues to) prepared, stored, served, and shared. Today, we’re going to look at how another form of technology had an equally interesting effect on cooking and improving one’s culinary skills. Also, there will be talk of Jell-O (briefly, I promise, but not without good cause). Enter General Foods Cooking School of the Air. Which “air” and which technology, you may ask? Radio!

Before we go too far, though, I should point out that the General Foods Cooking School of the Air series should not to be confused with the Betty Crocker Cooking School of the Air (see the National Women’s History Museum post on Betty Crocker for more on the latter). Same concept, some overlapping years on the radio, but two different companies behind them. (Coincidental titles? I’ll leave that up to you!)

(The images below are all individually captioned, which I haven’t done in a while. To read the full captions, click on the first image to bring up a browse-able gallery!)

General Foods Cooking School of the Air was published for at least 2 years (and probably longer). It’s a set of companion pamphlets to the radio show of the same title, hosted by Frances Lee Barton. Holdings are limited in public/academic libraries, so we’re sure happy to add these to our collection. A little searching revealed five other libraries with some of the pamphlets, but it’s unclear if anyone is lucky enough to have a full run. And, from what I can see, no one has digitized them yet. Ours are on rings with a paper front and back cover, but they could also be ordered with a 3 ring binder for easy organization.

Even with only a limited number, you can get a sense of the range of topics Barton covered: breakfast, lunch, dinner, and desserts; holidays; formal and informal lunch and dinner parties; food service; jams, jellies, and butters; and more. Since we just acquired ours, they are about to go for cataloging–which means they aren’t quite available for use in the reading room, but I hope it won’t be long. In the meantime, as you know, we’ve got plenty of other culinary items for you to check out, if you’re thinking of paying us a visit. We’ll be here!

The Domestic Encyclopaedia: From A-Z–Or at least from M-Sn

It’s been a LONG while since we talked about a dictionary or encyclopedia on the blog, so today seems as good a time as any to bring up the topic of reference manuals for the home. Specifically, The Domestic Encyclopaedia; or, A Dictionary of Facts and Useful Knowledge, Comprehending a Concise View of the Latest Discoveries, Inventions, and Improvements, Chiefly Applicable to Rural and Domestic Economy, published in 1803. There’s actually even more to the formal title: Together with Descriptions of the Most Interesting Objects of Nature and Art; The History of Men and Animals, in a State of Health or Disease; and Practical Hints Respecting the Arts and Manufactures, both Familiar and Commercial. (You really have to love those 19th century titles that contained every detail about the publication–at least you  know what you’re in for!) It was originally published in London, but ours is an American edition that includes, as noted on the title page, “Additions applicable to the present situation of the United States.” We don’t know for sure what the American editor added  Even more specifically, we’re going to look at Volume IV. Why, you ask? Because Volume IV is the only one we are lucky enough to have here.

This volume covers M-Sn (Mace-Snowdrops, in fact!). The pages from the index show you just how widely “rural and domestic economy” is defined. The entry for “roaster” is more than 5 pages long, including a history along with illustrations of different models and uses. Other entries, like the one for “red-ink” are short enough to fit several on a page. The topics vary from cooking ingredients to farming implements to diseases to geographical elements. While not too common, there are more pictures than one might expect for a dense reference book, some large enough to merit a whole page! But make no mistake, this is a text heavy series for those in search of an educated perspective.

You can view a pdf of the book in its entirety online through the University Libraries. And luckily, the U.S. National Library of Medicine’s Digital Collections has all five volumes online for your reading and reference pleasure. The NLM collection includes not only digitized books, but also videos, relating to biomedical history. I also want to take one last moment to point out another new online resource: the USDA National Agricultural Library’s Historical Dietary Guidance Digital Collection (HDGDC). It’s brand new this week and features “over 900 historical and contemporary federal dietary guidance publications.” This new resource is a subset of materials in the National Agricultural Library Digital Collections, which as additional digital publications relating to agricultural history.  Any and all of these resources are worth a few minutes of browsing when you have a chance, whether for research, fun, or both!

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).

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1759 Advertisement for merchant Joseph Webb of Boston. Printed by Paul Revere.
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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. 🙂