It’s All in Good Form, Isn’t It?

First, a quick update on a previous post, A Tiny Post for Some Tiny Books: We have acquired The Tiny Book on Home Candy Making! It looks much like its counterparts, and we’re still waiting for it to return from cataloging, but we’re very excited. That leaves us with the only the elusive The Tiny Book on Cocktails. We’re keeping our eyes peeled and our fingers crossed that we’ll turn up a copy one of these days.


This week’s feature is one of those strange discoveries that hide on our shelves. I was perusing a slightly different call number range without much luck (I guess I wasn’t inspired by manuals on feeding children this week) when I sidestepped and looked down. (Hint: When shelf browsing, it’s important to look below eye level, not just above it.) I suddenly found myself sitting on the floor where an unlabeled, thin green spine caught my eye. The cover was even more curious.

Front cover, Dinners, Ceremonious and Unceremonious and the Modern Methods of Serving Them, 1890
Front cover, Dinners, Ceremonious and Unceremonious and the Modern Methods of Serving Them, 1890. (The lion adds panache, doesn’t it?)

This turns out to be a somewhat eclectic manual, probably due to the fact that is relatively short and still seeks to cover a lot of topics. The book jumps from types of dinners to invitations, from dress to table habits, and from planning the dinner to arranging the table.

The whole of the book is text heavy, so there are limited number of pages in the post, but it makes for great reading. (If you want to read more, you can check out a copy online: https://archive.org/details/dinnersceremoni00longgoog.) Not sure how to eat an olive that was served on a piece of silverware versus with fingers? Wondering if you should pick up strawberries served without stems or lettuce leaves without dressing? Dinners, Ceremonious and Unceremonious and the Modern Methods of Serving Them can help!

Interestingly, though, this book seems to have at least three audiences–people invited to dinner parties, people hosting them, and wait staff. It integrates tips on creating invitations with directions on how to reply to invitations. Chapters move from table manners (for guests and hosts alike, presumably) to planning the meal with household staff. Parts of the book address said staff more directly in terms of how to “read” the way someone places silverware or when to serve what. While the blog has featured manuals before, very often, they are aimed at one of these groups. It’s uncommon to see one that addresses all three, especially in only 80 pages. Of course, it does leave a few questions unanswered. Reading aloud to a colleague resulted in the question of what one does if one drops food on the table: Do you cover it with a napkin, try to retrieve it, or simply ignore it? Dinners, Ceremonious and Unceremonious and the Modern Methods of Serving Them doesn’t say. Which means I guess I have a new research question in hand for this week…

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Frosted Sandwich, Part 3: Son of Frosted Sandwich

As I sat here contemplating a blog post for the week, I had a sudden realization: The blog turned two on September 14 and the day snuck right past me! So,

HAPPY SECOND BIRTHDAY, WHAT’S COOKIN’ @SPECIAL COLLECTIONS?!”

That being said, I can’t think of a better way to celebrate than with some festive, monochromatic (and occasionally polychromatic) party recipes…and the return of the frosted sandwich (It’s been a while, I know)!

Today’s images are from Good Luck Color Scheme Parties. Published in 1931, this 32 page pamphlet features creative recipes in a range of colors and flavors. It covers not only holidays, but also card and occasional parties, all while, of course, promoting John F. Jelke Company products like Good Luck Margarine and Evaporated Milk.

This plain cake is separated by layers of jam. Sad marshmallow clown aside, we needed a (belated) birthday cake image to celebrate the blog.
This plain cake is separated by layers of tasty jam. Sad marshmallow clown aside, we needed a (belated) birthday cake image to celebrate the blog.

So, here’s looking forward to another year of posts and LOTS more learning about the History of Food and Drink Collection! It may just be your year to pay us a visit, too!

“An Ideal Home”: A Scrapbook Guide to Setting Up Roots

Last December, we found a catalog description that intrigued us. When the item arrived, it was better than we imagined. A scrapbook filled with cut out images from newspapers and magazines, depicting everything you might need to get started as a new homemaker.

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This scrapbook, wonderful as it is, reflects one of the challenges for archivists. Sometimes, when we acquire an item or a collection, it’s obvious. We know the who, what, where, why, and when of it. Sometimes we think we know, discover we’re wrong, and find out something new. And other times, we get, well, a scrapbook like this.

As you may notice, the images in the gallery do not indicate anything about identity. Unfortunately, neither do any of the other pages. There’s no name of the compiler, who took the time to find and place the clipped items, no name of the person who came up with the lists and prices, and no name any owner. Without a clue to the creator, we’re left with the other questions of “why?” and “when?” This item may very well have been a gift to a new bride, a scrapbook full of advice about setting up a household for the first time. Alternatively, it may have been a school project, perhaps a home economics assignment for a student. Not all mysteries can be solved, but that doesn’t mean we can’t glean a few interesting facts or lessons from the scrapbook, either (though sadly, you won’t be able to buy a house and fill it for $12,500 today!):

  • Kitchen appliances and items never go out of style. (Well, they might go out of style, but whether it’s avocado green or stainless steel, you still need a refrigerator these days, as well as pots and pans and knives.)
  • Organized closets make it much easier to find things.
  • It never hurts to be over-prepared for the cocktail hour.
  • Plan your menu, especially if you’re having company.

We hope to be posting the whole scrapbook for online viewing in the near future, as we’re experimenting with some new software. (Currently, you can view the finding aid here.) Once it’s all set, we’ll be sure to post an update! Or, come by and see it in person!

Sweet (and Sour) Drinks and the “Sweet Science”

After one year from the ratification of this article the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes is hereby prohibited.

Section 1, Amendment XVIII, Constitution of the United States

Earlier this month (January 16th) we passed the 93rd anniversary of the day the Volstead Act went fully into effect. Of course, as history tell us, passage of the Eighteenth Amendment did little to prevent drinking in the United States. Rather, it created a booming underground (or bathtub or garage or shack or hillside…you get the point) business. When it comes to Prohibition history, there are some amazing pieces of cocktail ephemera out there. Today’s feature is a playful example, and a a recent addition to our collection. 

The front of the card includes a list of cocktails common in the 1920s and 1930s across the top and a list of ingredients down the left side. The clever design allows you to select a drink and display the contents (spirits, flavors, and garnishes) in the visible column. Although the columns don’t line up perfectly, you can get the general idea. The Fedora includes 1 part Bacardi (or other rum), 2 parts brandy, 2 parts curacao, 1 part rye, 1 dash of lemon juice,  and 2 teaspoons of powdered sugar served in a medium glass with a straw and fruit garnish. But, of course, since this item dates to about 1931, as the card carefully states, the ingredients “are flavors and non-alcoholic.” In the second image above, you can the complexities of the tiny card.

Our example of the Fedora has come a long way since the 1930s. In the modern era, you might see this drink called Fedora Punch (and even that could lead to a lengthy debate on whether it qualifies as a traditional punch or not!). There are many variations of a modern drink called the Fedora (either Scotch or bourbon based, for the most part) and most with fewer ingredients, but all appearing to stem from our 1931 example and its predecessors.

And of course, like many pieces of cocktail ephemera, it has some kind of tie to the a world of fun and frivolity. The image on the front, depicting groups of festive, singing gentlemen ( imbibing non-alcoholic flavorings ONLY, you recall) is just the kind of crowd who might be in the market to see a fight. Precisely the kind of entertainment a boxing promoter might be able to provide.

When your next social event arises, Hazel 7022 may no longer be in service, but at least you can have a good cocktail in hand. Cheers!

A Smorgabord of Culinary Pamphlets

The core of our History of Food & Drink Collection is books, no doubt about it. But we’re working hard to add a variety of materials. In the last three years, we’ve acquired half a dozen handwritten recipe books from around the country, as well as personal compiled recipe collections, advertising and promotional materials, and papers of people working in food and nutrition. The increasing pile of pamphlets, whether advertisements, recipe booklets, “how-tos” for appliance, or a combination of all three, led to the creation of the Culinary Pamphlet Collection, Ms2011-002, in early 2011. Since then, we’ve added nearly 300 pamphlets to the collection. This week’s feature post is a sampling of the latest batch of materials, which just arrived last week!

We have 16 new acquisitions from a recent purchase, with topics including flavor extracts and condiments, canned juice and fish,  advice for feeding children and infants, and kitchenware. There’s a range of technicolor and black and white images which make some of the finished dishes a little less appealing, but it’s not all bad. It’s hard to go wrong with 9 variations of macaroons! (Although the fruit cake made with tomato juice might give you pause…)

The “Food and Fun” from Star-Kist Tuna was a particularly neat discovery. In addition to a variety of tuna recipes and household hints (not necessarily tuna related hints, either!), it contains suggested party games for adults and children–optical illusions, word puzzles, and number games. We also have a pamphlet for a new (to us) gelatine company: Gumpert’s Gelatine Dessert! And there’s the “A Mother’s Manual” from Ralston Purina Company, which includes growth charts for children, meal plans, and nutrition information on a range of products. Yes, before they started in the pet food business in the late 1950s, they made breakfast cereals.

The full finding aid for this collection, with a list of companies and pamphlets, is available online through Virginia Heritage. The newest materials haven’t been added just yet, but they’re on their way. And there should be lots more to come! This collection contains an amazing variety of little gems and it’s bound to surprise you.

The “Silent Hostess” Treasure Book, or the Delights of Electric Refrigeration

For some reason, The “Silent Hostess” Treasure Book sounds like it could double as a horror movie title. Good for us, it isn’t! Published by the Electric Refrigeration Department of the General Electric Company in 1931, this little book is “arranged to assist you in making the greatest use of your General Electric Refrigerator.”

With hints on organizing, using, cleaning and cooking with your fridge, this is one helpful pamphlet! Kitchen appliances have a long history, but you can almost always (at least partially) chalk their invention and improvement up to efficiency. Whether less time in the kitchen for women in the 1930s meant more time with children, more time outside the home, or more time working, the idea was simplification and better use of time.

About half of this volume contains recipes and meal planning, some of which is shown in the gallery above.  In general, there’s a lack of particularly unsettling recipes, despite the overabundance of gelatin dishes (stuffed eggs in gelatin mayonnaise and ham mousse, for example). Instead, the focus is on relatively easy-to-prepare/store dishes, and somewhat flexible meal planning. A little preparation and it’s simple to go from an informal family dinner to feeding unexpected company with a few ingredients that you can, of course, store in your electric refrigerator.

The other half of the publication is more on the “household hints” side of things.  Unsure how to arrange food in your fridge? Want to defrost it? Lack the proper storage for foods in your fridge? Have leftovers in need of a makeover? The “Silent Hostess” Treasure Book can help with pictures, diagrams, advertisements for containers, and leftover meat and vegetable uses.

There was at least one more addition of this pamphlet produced, but the 1931 is the most common among libraries. Check it out when you’re planning your next Washington’s Birthday Dinner! (Yes, there is a suggested menu for this event, complete with hatchet-shaped bread and butter sandwiches…) Happy chilling!

1 Book, 3 Bottles

Our feature this week comes from the relatively new sub-collection on the History of the American Cocktail. 3 Bottle Bar  (1943) by H.i. Williams includes advice on buying, storing and stocking your home bar, as well as a few recipes. The idea, as the title suggests, is that the home bartender and entertainer can succeed with a few basic ingredients.

The three bottles Williams recommends are whisky, gin, and dry white wine. While he doesn’t have too much to say on the first two, other than to leave it up to your taste preference, he devotes a little more time to wine. When it comes to storing your white wine, Williams tells his readers that if the stopper to the bottle is “cork, lay the bottle on its side…like your favorite baby. This keeps the cork constantly wet…not like your favorite baby!” A colorful metaphor, indeed!

Of course, the three bottle bar requires a little more than three bottles. Williams talks about bar tools and other “indispensables”  like bitters, simple syrup, and the “hard working citrus twins,” lemon and lime. He suggests standardizing measurements and sticking to it with every drink you make (a rule I find hard to follow at home, since I’m always looking for one more improvement here and there).

There is something appealing about the simple style of the recipes in 3 Bottle Bar, though. Three bases and a range of additions limits a person to a finite number of drinks. On the one hand, it may mean a small repertoire. On the other, it could mean a more perfected drink.  Since there is a limit to what gin, whisky and wine might make, there are only a handful of recipes in the book, from the classics (old fashioneds, collinses, and rickeys) to some less common (Colonel’s Quickie, the Jeep, and the Carbro).

For the more adventurous and those looking to provide more variety, Williams ends with recommendations for a five bottle bar by adding rum (for which he lists several uses) and scotch, the latter to satisfy “Scotch and soda addicts.” This is Williams only use for scotch, it seems, as he spends the last paragraph of the book talking about how to make the perfect scotch and soda: “those who like Scotch and soda want just that–not Scotch, melted ice and soda.” He reminds readers to always ask a guest how strong they want their scotch and soda and leaves us with a helpful “little jingle for gauging the amount of seltzer or water: One to two is strong/One to four is light/One to one is wrong/One to three is right.”

We can hardly end on a better note than a jingle, so perfect your favorite cocktail and enjoy. Cheers!