Appalachian Oral Histories at JMU

I’m thinking about a post for this week (welcome to 2017!), but in the meantime, something awesome happened this morning. Through the power of social media and happenstance, I discovered a resource I didn’t know about (but really should have). It relates in part to food, drink, agriculture, cocktails, medicine and other aspects of Appalachia, so I though I’d give a shout out to the great work of the folks at JMU! What is this amazing collection? The Shenandoah National Park Oral History Collection! There’s a page for the collection, that includes short summaries of interviewees/topics, along with transcripts and audio files. And for those of you who love a finding aid, there’s a larger description of the collection, too. Whether you’re interested in food preservation, education, or folk life, you might find something about Appalachia you didn’t know before!

Just Noggin’ Around

This week, with some holidays looming, rather than feature a single item, I thought it might be more fun to do something I’ve done before (though without explicitly pointing it out)–feature variations on a single recipe. Putting aside my own reservations about this seasonal favorite, this week is all about EGGNOG! There are as many variations as there are people who make it, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy a short, historical tour of this culinary and cocktail treat.

As a side note, there’s actually a whole family of what we might consider eggnog drinks or “nogs” as they are sometimes referred to, which also includes things like the “Tom and Jerry,” the egg/ale flip, and zabaglione (aka zabajone aka sabayon aka zabaione, which can be either an egg-based dessert or an egg-based drink), but for the sake of simplicity, I’m sticking with the classic concept. Even with the classic, there’s plenty of ambiguity and one struggles to define what the classic recipe is. Some people describe eggnog as a milk punch (not to be confused with the more appropriately termed “milk punch” that doesn’t contain eggs) or an egg milk punch (which is accurate in this case)! Okay, before this gets any thicker than eggnog itself, let’s look at some examples…

Egg Nogg variations from Jerry Thomas' How to mix drinks, or, The bon-vivant's companion (1862)
Egg Nogg variations from Jerry Thomas’ How to mix drinks, or, The bon-vivant’s companion (1862)
Egg Nogg variations from Jerry Thomas' How to mix drinks, or, The bon-vivant's companion (1862)
Egg Nogg variations from Jerry Thomas’ How to mix drinks, or, The bon-vivant’s companion (1862)

Jerry Thomas is something of my cocktail hero and, if I had lived in his era, I would like to think we would have been cocktail buddies. I would definitely have enjoyed his spirit (and spirits!), stories, and personality! He had a handful of eggnog (or as he calls them “egg nogg”) recipes published in 1862. What they have in common is eggs (or some part thereof) and sugar. But he offers nog(g)s spiked with sherry, cider, brandy, rum, madeira, or some combination of several. Some include milk or water and while most are cold, he does include a hot variation, which we’ll see come up again shortly. If the first bartender’s manual published is this complicated about eggnog, drawing on the existing history, it’s easy to see how everyone has a version…

Egg nog recipe from Harriet De Salis' Drinks à la mode (1891)
Egg nog recipe from Harriet De Salis’ Drinks à la mode (1891)

Harriet Anne De Salis‘ recipe includes brown sugar (not white) and ginger and cinnamon (along with nutmeg). There’s no milk, and it’s spirituous base is a combination of rum and hot beer. Hers is a hot drink. (This is a bit closer to the partial origin of eggnog–the egg flip–which also appears in her book. While I’m really not going to get into that comparison, the egg flip/ale flip is a really fascinating drink. You can read about it’s process and see it being made by food blogger and author Sarah Lohman. It involved a fire poker–seriously!)

Egg nog recipe from Dexter Mason's The art of drinking (1930)
Egg nog recipe from Dexter Mason’s The art of drinking (1930)

In 1930, with Prohibition in full swing, it may seem surprising that cocktail manuals were being published in the U. S. But believe me, they were very popular (a topic I’ve covered elsewhere on the blog before). Dexter Mason’s book features a single egg nog recipe intended to serve 50 people. Mason includes the trending eggs, sugar, and nutmeg, as well as milk AND double cream. His choice of spirits: rum and whiskey. Talk about rich!

In 1952, David Embury published The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks. It was popular in its one time and is still at least a well-known title to cocktail historians today. Embury not only gives us recipes, but also sage advice on the topic of nogs…

Pages on nogs from David A. Embury's The fine art of mixing drinks (1952)
Pages on nogs from David A. Embury’s The fine art of mixing drinks (1952)
Pages on nogs from David A. Embury's The fine art of mixing drinks (1952)
Pages on nogs from David A. Embury’s The fine art of mixing drinks (1952)

Embury’s “Individual Egg Nog” can be made with virtually any spirit (he adds port, applejack, gin, and cognac to the growing list). Like Jerry Thomas, he also has a “Baltimore Egg Nog,” but his includes cognac, rum and peach brandy (rather than brandy or rum and Madeira, as Thomas suggests). Embury also add milk and cream and uses both egg yolks AND whites. It appears to skip the nutmeg, but it’s actually listed as part of his advice for all eggnogs above–don’t skip it! He also gives us both hot and cold options.

Pages on nogs from David A. Embury's The fine art of mixing drinks (1952)
Pages on nogs from David A. Embury’s The fine art of mixing drinks (1952)
Pages on nogs from David A. Embury's The fine art of mixing drinks (1952)
Pages on nogs from David A. Embury’s The fine art of mixing drinks (1952)

Embury gives us five versions of eggnog and while the similarities are clear, the variations are just as telling. (And yes, I let a version of the Tom and Jerry sneak in for the curious.) There’s no one way to make eggnog, no matter what one might think. Best not to argue–just enjoy!

Even corporate sponsored pamphlets can get in on the eggnog action…

Eggnog from The Bacardi party book : recipes for drinks, punches, snacks, hors d'oeuvres, entr'ees (1973)
Eggnog from The Bacardi party book : recipes for drinks, punches, snacks, hors d’oeuvres, entr’ees (1973)

This variation is from the Bacardi corporation, so we should only be surprised if the base is anything BUT rum. However, by the the 1970s, we also see the use of pre-made eggnog, rather than homemade, as in the party version above. Or, other creative substitutions like ice cream. The Eggnog for one uses ice, which doesn’t appear in any of the previous variations (Embury is explicitly against it and while Thomas and De Salis would have had some access to ice, both avoids this addition). Even without eggs as an individual ingredient, Bacardi does include nutmeg….I’m beginning to suspect true eggnog is really just a vehicle for nutmeg consumption…

Our last examples bring us into the modern age of cocktails. These variations are from The Kentucky Bourbon Cocktail Book (2009).

Eggnogs from The Kentucky bourbon cocktail book (2009)
Eggnogs from The Kentucky bourbon cocktail book (2009)

The eggnog recipes here are mixed in with some other bourbon-filled holiday treats, but the general idea is clear and it reflects some more modern craft cocktails/bartending experimentation. In the days of the appletini, chocolate martini, the cosmopolitan, and a variety of other “martinis” (don’t get me started!), it’s not surprising to see some new eggnogs, too. In this case, it’s chocolate and pistachio (as well as candy cane, pumpkin, and traditional versions on other pages). All five rely on ready-to-drink eggnog, dressed up with bourbon and some other items, but all five are also topped with nutmeg (and candy canes and whipped cream).

While I specifically went hunting through cocktail manuals of the last 150+ years, it’s also important to point out that, of course, your eggnog need not be alcoholic. The early homemade recipes published by Thomas, De Salis, Mason, and Embury can be made non-alcoholic and if you’re looking for ready-to-use, these days, it even comes dairy-free. My point with all this meandering through eggnog history is that no matter what your preferences and tastes, there’s probably an eggnog for you out there somewhere–or in your very own kitchen, waiting to be invented. Plus, it’s just really, really fun to follow the historical path of a drink with such a long history (dating back to the 1770s, at least) through time. It’s a good reminder that the contents of every glass have a story to tell and that not every path has a clear, straight evolution. Eggnog recipes are more like branches and twigs of a tree, shooting out in all directions, in variations and themes. And, like every recipe, every branch and twig ends with a nutmeg seed.

Cheers!

Summer (Cooking) School, Part 7: Here’s How (to Make an End of Summer Cocktail)

The “end” of summer has arrived in Blacksburg. No, it’s still a month till the solstice, but the great event has begun: move-in! Students are coming back (though, if you ask anyone in Special Collections, we don’t know how time passed so fast!) and we’re getting back into a semester way of thinking. But, there’s time for one last hurrah and one last lesson before the real classes begin. 🙂

TX951H461900z_00fc

Okay, okay, so the front cover of this small publication doesn’t tell you much. “Curb service,” by the modern definition, is  basically service from a restaurant provided to customers remaining in their parked vehicles. Or, in this cases, on their horses. The reason the cover may look a little odd in the scan is that is actually has a fuzzy fabric texture to it and it’s beginning to show a little wear. Let’s get to the fun part…

TX951H461900z_1 TX951H461900z_2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, this is Here’s How: A Handbook of Recipes of Spirituous and Non-Spirituous Drinks Gathered from Authoritative Sources. It dates from some part of the early 20th century (possible the 1930s). The back cover has a stamp from a jeweler in Allentown, PA, so it was likely something given away to promote the business (and a good drink). Some of the recipes between these two covers are drinks you’ve seen on the blog before from other historical manuals, in modern bars, or out in the ether, but sadly, we don’t get any clues as to what “authoritative sources” were actually used. Since this is our last summer cooking school lesson, I’ll be sure to point out the other page I’ve added above: the standards of measure for the recipes that follow. Not that we need follow these kinds of directions exactly–There’s a lot of fun in experimenting with proportions and substitutions…in most cases. As we’ll see below, it’s not recommended you mix vichy water with wine if you’re considering a variation on the “Kir.”

One of the interesting things about this little booklet has to do with the jewelers store information on the back (sort of). If you go looking for other copies of this little work, you will find a few, but with some differences. There are at least 3 other cataloged editions out there in academic or public libraries, but they have different places of publication and publishers–yet all of them appear to be companies or corporations of some sort. So, basically Here’s How: A Handbook of Recipes of Spirituous and Non-Spirituous Drinks Gathered from Authoritative Sources was a booklet with a set text block that a company could label with its own name as a promotional item. There aren’t any other copies digitized, so we don’t know if the front cover varies by edition. At any rate, it’s just one part of what makes this rare item even more intriguing!

When I sat down this morning to start scanning pages, I made the decision to scan the entire item. After all, it is only about 40 pages, out of copyright, and a quick scan due to its small size. I’m in the process of adding it to our digital collections site, where the entire item will be available for reading (and mixing)! In the meantime, hopefully there’s still something to strike your fancy in the pages above, whatever your tastes! UPDATE: You can view the item online here: https://digitalsc.lib.vt.edu/items/show/4894!


On a related note, your usual archivist/blogger Kira will be installing a new exhibit in the Special Collections display cases over the next few days. Hopefully it will be done next Monday at the latest. It’s going to feature items in our collection relating to the history of patent medicines and bitters, and will include a bit about their role in the development of the American cocktail. It should be up for the next 4-6 weeks, so if you’re in Blacksburg and want to check it out, you can view our cases on the first floor of the library whenever the building is open!

Summer (Cooking) School, Part 5: All About the Bubbles

This week’s lesson is a sweet (and bubbly) one! If you’re remotely into food history, you’re probably aware that perspectives change, often rapidly. What’s good for us one day is bad the next (and may be good again next week). When it comes to carbonated beverages (aka soda), well, there’s definitely some history there. This week, our post features two pamphlets from American Bottlers of Carbonated Beverages. Admittedly, they have certain bias, but they also offer a fascinating perspective on a time when soda didn’t have the reputation it might today. First up, there’s “Delightful Recipes with Carbonated Beverages.”

While “Delightful Recipes” isn’t dated, it’s probably from around the same time period as our second pamphlet, “Sparkling Party Recipes,” which comes from 1955.

There are a lot of interesting things to note about both of these pamphlets. We can start with the obvious–the recipes–which go beyond what you might expect. There aren’t just punches. You’ll also find salads (with and without gelatin, our constant friend), desserts, and even a sauce or two. There are also a handful of others recipes that don’t contain carbonated beverages–probably a good thing, since I’m not sure I want to know how one works ginger ale into a frosted sandwich…

There are plenty of party hints and party themes for the hostess looking to impress, too. Bringing bottled drinks on a picnic? Put a dish full of ice at the bottom of the basket to keep them cold. Want to coordinate your food and drink? Try dressing up your sandwiches and drink bottles (though that image of grinning food and beverages is a little creepy)! Want to confuse your taste buds? Freeze cubes of one flavor and pour another flavor over them!

And then there’s the health information, which was my point from the beginning. Both of these pamphlets spend time on the benefits and nutritional value of carbonated beverages. “Sparkling Party Recipes” includes a page about how carbonated drinks are used in hospitals. “Delightful Recipes” notes that:

Carbon dioxide has a peculiar dietetic value. Medical authorities point out that, when taken internally, it acts as a digestive stimulant, increases appetite and promotes absorption of food…The energy in bottled carbonated beverages comes from the pure sugars used.

This pamphlet also offers a list of “noted authorities who have put on record their statements as to the health value of carbonated beverages.” The statements were available by writing to the sponsor, the American Bottlers of Carbonated Beverages. And, no doubt, solicited by them for just this purpose. In any case, this touting of the health benefits seems a bit different from arguments today about the high amounts of sugar and sugar alternatives in modern sodas.

Both of these pamphlets are part of the Culinary Pamphlet Collection (Ms2011-002), which we’ve highlighted before. However, it’s an ever-expanding collection and there are always new items to share. With about a month before the students come back, our “Summer Cooking School” lessons will continue for a little longer. Then I’ll have to find some new historic items to share. Until then, remember carbonated beverages aren’t just for the glass. They can be the highlight of any party…or hot weekend (like the one we’re headed for here in Blacksburg).

Forty Famous Cocktails: A Recipe Card with a Twist

This week’s feature is a cocktail item that we acquired back in 2013. About that time, I planned to write a post about it, but first I was waiting for it to come back from cataloging. Then I cam across it again, but I had written a recent post about another cocktail item, so the timing was wrong again. Two weeks ago, I pulled it from the shelves to display at an event in Special Collections and was reminded it was tucked away. Somehow, this week, the timing felt right. I’m happy to present Forty Famous Cocktails, probably published in the 1930s, either during Prohibition, or shortly after the ban was lifted.

As you can tell, Forty Famous Cocktails isn’t a traditional publication. It’s not a book (though it is in our catalog) and it’s not exactly a piece of ephemera that belongs Cocktail Ephemera Collection (which I hadn’t started building just yet). Rather, it’s a two-sided sleeve within a two-sided card. The outside sleeve features some outlandish caricatures with strategic spaces. (You can click on the any of the images above for a closer look.) In two the images above, when the inner card is flush,  you’ll see phrases, images, bottle labels, and even eyes on the bartender, depending on which side you’re viewing. In the other two images above, you get a better sense of how the card is actually used. As you pull the inner card up, you can see a drink name appear under the word “Orders” on each side. Moving across card, appearing on bottles and in paintings, you can see the ingredients and the instructions for the drink.

Historic cocktail books are great and I love all of the ones in our collection. Seriously, you can’t ever ask me to pick a favorite–you either get a different answer every time, or just a strange look while I’m unable to make a decision. However, I think cocktail ephemera and interactive items like this one, which often times weren’t designed to live long lives (you can see some damage at the top of our card!), are equally important to cocktail and social history, too.  (Note the directions for the Harvard state “Shake well and down with Yale.”) They can offer comedic or practical insight into the view of alcohol at a given era and a sense of what was popular. While Forty Famous Cocktails does contain recipes for still-popular drinks like the Whiskey Sour or Side Car, it also includes drinks rare (if ever) heard of today. When we bought this item in 2013, it was the first time I’d seen a reference to the Nassau Beach or the Serpent’s Tooth (I have seen recipes for the latter since, dating from roughly the same time period, but still not the former).

Our copy measures 29 x 19 cm, but there was another “edition,” for lack of better word, that was produced at about half the size, so I know there are other ones out there. However, scans can’t do this item justice, so if you’d like to see more, you may need to pay us a visit. We’ll be here and while we can’t promise you a friendly bartender with a cool cocktail waiting, we can promise you some friendly archivists, some cool cocktail history, and maybe even a little mixology advice.

 

Women’s History Month, Part 10: Mrs. (Harriet Anne Bainbridge) de Salis (1829-1908)

This week, we’re taking a look at the work of Harriet Anne (Bainbridge) de Salis (or, as she usually published, “Mrs. de Salis”). She was a prolific British writer in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, authoring more than 20 books (many of which went through more than one edition). While most were about cooking and household management, she also wrote a book on dogs, one on raising poultry, and her first publication was a history of kissing! Harriet Anne Bainbridge married William Salis in 1872, the year before her kissing book was published. Coincidence? I’ll let you decide.

Although it isn’t explicitly clear why she added the “de” to her moniker, one wonders if she wanted to add a little something extra to match her “a la Mode” series of books. While her “reference” type books had a broad audience, her tastes (and topics) often ran to the higher end: she produced an entire volume on oysters, even her “small” meal plans were complex, and her main ingredients were unlikely to be found in homes of those on a limited income. However, that failed to detract from her popularity!

Currently, we have only two of her titles in our collection, and until I started researching this post I had no idea quite how active she was. Now, however, I know to be on the lookout!First up, there’s Drinks a la Mode from 1891. This title includes cups and punches, as well as cocktails, notes on beer and wine, and simpler drinks for invalid.

Our second of her titles is The Housewife’s Referee: A Treatise on Culinary and Household Subjects from 1898. This is reminiscent of the many household management guides in our collection. It includes sections on what you have in your kitchen (and why), plenty of recipes, and a variety of meal plans for every season and occasion.

Bibliography:

  • Kissing: Its Origin and Species, 1873
  • Entrees a la Mode, 1887
  • Dressed Game and Poultry a la Mode, 1888
  • Dressed Vegetables a la Mode, 1888
  • Oysters a la Mode, or, The Oyster and Over 100 Ways of Cooking It: To Which are Added a Few Recipes for Cooking All Kinds of Shellfish, 1888
  • Soup and Dressed Fish a la Mode, 1888
  • Sweet and Supper Dishes a la Mode, 1888
  • Cakes and Confections a la Mode, 1889
  • Tempting Dishes for Small Incomes, 1890
  • Wrinkles and Notions for Every Household, 1890
  • Drinks a la Mode: Cups and Drinks for Every Kind of Every Season, 1891
  • Floral Decorations: Suggestions and Descriptions, 1891
  • New-Laid Eggs: Hints for Amateur Poultry-Rearers, 1892
  • Dogs: A Manual for Amateurs, 1893
  • Puddings and Pastry a la Mode, 1893
  • New Things to Eat and How to Cook Them: Fancy Dishes and Relishes Not to be Found in Ordinary Cook Books, 1894
  • Gardening a la Mode: Fruits, 1895
  • Gardening a la Mode: Vegetables, 1895
  • Savouries a la Mode, 1894
  • National Viands a la Mode, 1895
  • The Art of Cookery Past and Present: A Treatise on Ancient Cookery with Anecdotes of Noted Cooks and Gourmets, Ancient Foods, Menus, etc., 1898
  • The Housewife’s Referee: A Treatise on Culinary and Household Subjects, 1898
  • A la Mode Cookery: Up to Date Recipes, 1902

If you’re looking for more information, I found a couple of helpful links along the way. Cooksinfo.com has a short biography, bibliography, and even includes some quotes about and reviews of her works. The Internet Archive has about 15 of her books available in digital form (including Drinks a la Mode and The Housewife’s Referee in their entirety).

Next week, we’ll be talking about Malinda Russell, a freed slave who authored the first African-American cookbook, published in 1866. In the mean time, find a reason to cook something “a la mode” this weekend…or you could settle for some ice cream and pie, if you prefer the modern use of the phrase. 🙂

And You Thought Straws Were Just For Drinking!

How to Make Parties and Gifts Sparkle with Glassip Transparent Drinking Straws

Once in a while, food related products aren’t just for food (or in this case, drinks). We recently acquired this little gem full of craft projects you can do with a box full of drinking straws. And while the options aren’t endless, they are certainly…festive.

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How to Make Parties and Gifts Sparkle with Glassip Transparent Drinking Straws does include a few drink recipes at the start. But the majority of this pamphlet is devoted to some–let’s call them “creative”–opportunities to think outside the box and cellophane wrapper. In addition to pompoms, pumpkins, and parasols, you can also make things that don’t begin with the letter “p.” There are the strange stick figures in the slide show, but how about Easter bunnies, Valentine’s heart, Christmas trees and stars, and an pair of Mardi Gras dolls? Not enough? You can create boutonnieres, faux potted plants, little baskets, and even placements. Although the booklet is published in two-tone color, from the content, it seems that “Glassips” came in a variety of colors and even some striped designs. (If you’re curious, try a Google image search for “glassips straws”–there are lots of pictures of the straws in vintage packages.)

This is another one of those unique items in our collection that makes you wonder “why?” At the same time, the techniques are timeless. So if you have a box of straws and a few minutes this weekend, How to Make Parties and Gifts Sparkle with Glassip Transparent Drinking Straws has a project or two for you.