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!

Very (Cran)berry Goodness!

With Thanksgiving around the corner, it’s a good time to talk about a favorite seasonal berry: The Cranberry! Underrated and sometimes forgotten, it’s more versatile than it’s typical jellied or un-jellied sauce or relish. And we have the pamphlets to prove it! Two different folders in the Culinary Pamphlet Collection (Ms2011-002) have booklets from cranberry-centric companies. First, there’s “Cranberries and How to Cook Them” (1938) from the American Cranberry Exchange:

This pamphlet for “Eatmor Cranberries” (seriously!) puts cranberries in baked goods, sauces, salads, relishes and even–yup, you guess it–gelatin! It has tips for using cranberries as a meat tenderizer and a recipe for cranberries as an omelet filling. It also includes a little bit of detail about where the berries come from and how they are harvested. Although our last example (below) contains a lot more detail on the history of cranberries. But first, “Cape Cod’s Famous Cranberry Recipes” (1941) from the National Cranberry Association. This organization was also known early on as the Cranberry Canners, Inc., but most of you will probably recognize it by the company’s current name:  Ocean Spray Cranberry, Inc.

This pamphlet presents the clever idea of using cookie cutters to produce shaped decorations for a surprising number of holiday meals–not just Thanksgiving, but also Valentine’s Day, Easter, and even Halloween (cranberry-sauce shaped turkeys, hearts, bunnies, and pumpkins respectively). In addition, of course, it’s full of recipes…including some meat dishes with cranberry accompaniments and a few interesting desserts (Cranberry Nogg?). Lastly, also from the National Cranberry Association, there’s “101 All-Time Favorite Cranberry Recipes.” (That’s a lot of cranberries!)
 This pamphlet includes many of the expected items, but it also has “Cranburgers” (hamburgers with a cranberry sauce), a range of desserts, and some punches and cocktails. At this rate, you could work cranberries into every course of your Thanksgiving meal. Or your everyday meals, really. So, however you enjoy them, sneak some cranberries into your holiday. You won’t regret it!

Summer (Cooking) School, Part 4: Back to Basics

This week in our summer cooking school series, we’re taking a step back to the basics, encyclopedia-style!

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But don’t worry, it’s not just for grocers! This encyclopedia is packed with dictionary-definition terms and history, multi-lingual lists of foods, and black & white and full color illustrations. While it would certainly be useful for those in the food trade, it’s just as useful for the home cook who might be encountering something new or who wants to learn more about a common ingredient.

In addition to the strictly A-Z listing of grocery-related foods, the encyclopedia also includes 7 appendices. These include a 5-language “dictionary of food names,” short foreign language-to-English dictionaries (French, German, Italian, and Swedish), a list of culinary and menu terms, and a weights and measures table.

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Page from “Dictionary of Food Names in Five Languages”
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Sample page from Swedish-English dictionary of foods.

I’m still pondering the Swedish section. While I can see the common usage for the French, German, and Italian language sections, I’m curious about how much need there was for Swedish language food terms in 1911. Which sent me off to see if I could find anything out about the history of this publication. Artemas Ward, the author, first published a book in 1882 called The Grocer’s HandbookA desire to improve on this first work led to a nearly 30 year side project of expanding it into The Grocer’s Encyclopedia. Ward was an author of biographies, journal publisher, and advertising executive in his daily life. And, it seems, we can credit him with the idea of putting advertising on public transit vehicles. There wasn’t too much to find on Ward, though what there was suggests he was a man of many projects and occupations. But, it didn’t bring me any closer to an explanation for the Swedish-English section. Some publishing mysteries aren’t easily solved…

The entire encyclopedia is online through Special Collections–all 748 pages of it! (We could barely begin to represent it here.) Sure, it may not have EVERYTHING, but between abalone and zwetschenwasser (the German name for “slivovitz,” a European liqueur made from plums), there’s quite a bit to discover.

What’s in the (Sugar) Bag?

This week, I thought we’d take a look at a “shaped” publication. (Also, I have plans to recreate an 1827 “Layfayette Gingerbread” recipe this weekend and I have sugar and molasses on the brain.) As we know from the wide array advertising materials we’ve looked at before, companies have all kinds of quirky strategies for attracting consumer attention. This booklet from W. J. McCahan Sugar Refining & Molasses Co. took a novel approach: they shaped the publication like a bag of sugar.

 

“McCahan’s Sunny Cane Sugar” was published in 1937, but as you can see from one of the images above, this was far from the first edition. The 88 pages are packed with information on the history of sugar, types of sugar produced by the company, recipes, and kitchen/cooking tips. The recipes primarily provide instruction for desserts (not surprising), but there are also sections for meat and vegetables. Because of course you’ll want to get sugar into every dish of your meal!

We have a couple other pamphlets from a different sugar company that are shaped like sugar bags (these are only about two pages long each) in the collection. My guess is, the sugar bag shape is relatively easy to create, since it involves the removal of the corners. I’ve also come across some can-shaped pamphlets and one strange booklet that’s square at the top, but features the image of a wooden salad bowl on the cover. The bottom of the booklet is rounded like a bowl. More recently, we acquired a book on peanuts shaped like–you guessed it–a peanut! Now, if only we had a bread-loaf shaped one to go with it, we would be part way to strange looking peanut butter sandwich…

Celebrating the Food Encyclopedia

July is, among other things, National Culinary Arts Month* ! So, I thought we might look at some culinary arts reference books in the History of Food and Drink Collection–namely, some encyclopedias. They are from the more modern parts of the collection in terms of publication dates, but they represent hundreds of years of culinary arts history. So, it all works out in the end, right? 🙂

First up, The Encyclopedia of American Food & Drink from 1999.

Next, The Encyclopedia of Food and Culture, 2003.

And last, but certainly not least, The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America, 2013. (We also have the 2004 edition of this awesome set, which was issued in 2 volumes. It’s now up to 3!)

As you might notice, none of these volumes cover topics in quite the same way. The Encyclopedia of American Food & Drink includes hundreds of recipes scattered among its pages. The Encyclopedia of Food and Culture takes a broad, global look at food and its connection to general culture. And The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America focuses on food/drink items, technology, history, advertising, and more. These approaches are a good thing that reflect the multiple approaches many scholars take to doing research. Some are more comprehensive that others, but they all offer different perspectives on the foods and food cultures that play such important roles in our lives.


July is also National Baked Bean Month, National Bison Month, National Grilling Month, National Hot Dog Month, National Ice Cream Month, National July Belongs to Blueberries Month, and National Picnic Month. July 18 is also National Cavier Day. I promise, I don’t make these things up! There are SOOOO many fun food holidays to know about!

An Early Dictionary of Food

In 1830, Richard Dolby, cook at the Thatched House Tavern in London, wrote something “never hitherto attempted.” One might spend quite a bit of time pondering what Dolby produced that, in his own words, seemed so groundbreaking in the culinary world. It wasn’t a recipe/cook book (well, not exactly). It wasn’t an encyclopedia of food history (well, not exactly). And it wasn’t a guidebook for young housewives (well, not exactly). It was, however, The Cook’s Dictionary and House-Keeper’s Directory: A New Family Manual of Cookery and Confectionery, on a Plan of Ready Reference Never Hitherto Attempted.

Title page
Title page

From a historical perspective, we can’t speak to the accuracy of his claim that such a book was never attempted. For all we know, a work was finished, but never published. However, it’s entirely possible a work like Dolby’s was never published before. There certainly were food encyclopedias, guidebooks and household management books, and there was at least one botanical/medical/agricultural dictionary that pre-date 1830. Still, Dolby’s method of blending information about foods along with recipes in a dictionary-like structure seems pretty unique for its day. And it meets its goal of simplicity, as the introduction suggests:

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The meat of the book (pun intended, of course!) is an alphabetical listing of foods, food groups (classifications of recipes, rather than what we might think of as contemporary food groups), and recipes that are representative of foods. Even when an entry blends all three, it is provided as a straight narrative, recipe included, which is characteristic of many pre-20th century cookbooks.

Nor does Dolby abandon his readers after he finishes the “Zs.” His leaves us with two helpful additions: One, a short list of terms used throughout the book, and two, a calendar year list of when certain foods are available in season. While the latter may not be accurate today, nor overly helpful outside the UK, where growing seasons may differ, it’s easy to see how they could be useful to readers in 1830.

You can find the full text of Dolby’s dictionary online here. If you’re curious to see what he included, it’s very much worth the look. Plus, it’s in alphabetical order, so there’s no difficulty in finding an ingredient!

From Root to Table: Raw Foods in the Early 20th Century

This week, we’re featuring Uncooked Foods & How to Use Them: A Treatise on How to Get the Highest Form of Animal Energy from Food: With Recipes for Preparation, Healthful Combinations and Menus by Mr. and Mrs. Eugene Christian. This particular volume is a recent addition to Special Collections. Published in 1904, it’s actually the 5th edition, so this husband and wife team seemed to be on a roll…

Eugene Christian was the more prolific of the pair, authoring a variety of books on food, diet, nutrition, and health in general between 1900-1930. His wife co-authored a several books with him, however. Uncooked Foods & How to Use Them features a little bit of everything: directions on how and what to eat, how to prepare foods (very little!), sample recipes, sample meal plans, and some about why the idea of eating raw foods was important to the authors. For Special Collections, this piece is a great new addition. While we have a number of volumes on vegetarianism in the 19th and 20th centuries, this is the first book we have on raw foods and the raw foods movement. (Now, we’ll be on the lookout for more!)

You’ll notice that there are a few cooked/prepared foods in the book, though they seem to be carefully chosen and few and far between. The section on soup, for example, is prefaced by the statement that: “We give here a few recipes for soups only because the soup habit is so firmly fixed in the mind of the housewife and the epicure that they can hardly conceive of a decent dinner without them. All soups may be warmed sufficiently to serve hot without cooking.” All but one of the few meat or fish dishes are smoked or dried. The others are all raw, including a beef tartare recipe.

So whether you’re hankering for egg-nog with fruit juice, raw carrot and turnips with (or without) salad dressing, or prune pie, this book could be for you. You’ll just have to come by and see. Until then, happy eating!