Dining on Words, Part 1: Fruits

April is National Poetry Month. I know, you’re probably asking why I’m even bringing that up a blog devoted to culinary history materials. The truth is, it might just surprise you how much poetry there is on the subject of food, eating, and everything that goes along with it. Or maybe you aren’t–after all, food is so much a part of our lives. And we have touched on this subject before, with specific, culinary-focused literary items. Whether you’re surprised or not, for a couple of posts this month, I thought we would look at some poetry from other publications in our collections that somehow involve food. (And not just because both of those things have a special place in my heart.)

When it comes to the topic of fruit, there are a lot of poems. Seriously, a LOT. While looking for a specific on by D. H. Lawrence, I found five other ones, each dedicated to a specific fruit. The pomegranate has a long history as a symbol and plays a part of many-a-poem (and story), so it seemed a good place to start.

from The Collected Poems of D. H. Lawrence, v.2, 1928.

Lawrence talks briefly about pomegranates growing on trees, which got me thinking about Robert Frost’s “After Apple Picking.” Although it does describe apples, it also focuses on the act of acquiring them from their trees.

from Collected Poems of Robert Frost, c.1930

From pomegranates and apples, we’re switching to stone fruits for our final poems. Wallace Stevens’ “A Dish of Peaches in Russia,” peaches are repeatedly tied to images of places for the speaker.

from The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens, c.1954

Last up for this week is probably the most well-known of this group. These days, you’re likely to find it used on the Internet as a meme, but William Carlos Williams’ poem about plums has been iconic for a long time!

from The Collected Earlier Poems of William Carlos Williams, c.1951

In our next post, we’ll look at what do to once you have some food gathered (in other words, poetry about invitations to dine and the act of eating).

Although we don’t have a copy in our collection, my favorite poem laden with fruit imagery is Christina Rossetti’s “Goblin Market,” which part poem, part instructive lesson for young women in the Victorian era. It’s more than a little creepy as the poem continues, but the first part reads like a trip through the produce section! Did I miss your favorite “fruit” poem? Feel free to share in the comments!

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Vegetables…in Your Pocket

This week I went perusing the shelves for a feature item. Some bindings, colors, book shapes, spines, or titles can jump out at a person. The Vest Pocket Vegetable Book popped this morning for it’s size/shape and partial alliteration. Also, for it’s concept.

front cover of The Vest Pocket Vegetable Book
In the past, we’ve talked about at least one “vest pocket” type book: John Goins’ The American Waiter. Like that one, this item is tall, thin, and short in length, designed to fit in a vest or apron pocket for reference. (Though WHY why might need to carry a pocket guide to vegetables is something we’ll come back to shortly.) Anyway, it’s just over 6.5 inches tall, 3.5 inches wide, and at 134 pages, about .75 inches thick.

Not surprisingly, this book talks about vegetables and also supplies recipes for some, but not all, ingredients. The author uses “vegetable” in the broadest sense, as you’ll find fruits, herbs, spices, and even some grains throughout.

On the title page, the author, Charles Moore, informs would-be readers that:

The Vest Pocket Vegetable Book is not, as its title might infer, an advocate of the vegetarian theory, but rather, is an earnest plea for a more general recognition of the vegetable kingdom, as a prolific source of supply of appetizing, wholesome and nutritious foods for mankind.

Although the concept that vegetables are “wholesome and nutritious” certainly isn’t new (we have LOTS of volumes of nutrition and dietetics history to prove that), it’s interesting to see Moore defend his position so quickly and on the first page. It gives us (and any possible readers) what its intention is–and is not. If we jump back to the idea of the “vest pocket” guide, we get a sense of intended audience, too. It is not the housewife or home cook–it’s more commercial.

The object of this book is to popularize vegetables in hotels and catering establishments….The writer is of the opinion that the vegetable kingdom compares favorably with the animal kingdom in food value, and affords equal scope for preparing epicurean dishes for the table. The writer is also of the belief that where close attention is given to the vegetables the per capita cost may be reduced without detracting from the quality of the menu.

This guide is meant to inform and education owners, cooks, and staff of places that serve food. In that context, it’s actually quite helpful. While there are recipes, but the emphasis is on information about vegetables and the book does include some unique items like cardoons, truffles, even uses for oats. That doesn’t mean the home cook can’t also learn from this handy little volume. You might just have to wear a vest to carry it. 🙂

Lettuce Talk Salads

May is National Salad Month. I know, not everyone loves their veggies, but historically speaking, “salad” can mean a lot of things. From dressed lettuce to frozen cheese and fruit, there are a ton (probably literal and figurative) of recipes in between, some more traditional than others. I’m currently working my way through a generous donation of 27 boxes of culinary materials–the first cart load of items is parked outside my office to prepare for cataloging and there are a range of titles relating to salads. This #foodfriday, here are a few ideas for the classic and the experimental salad fan.

First up, some fruit salads, courtesy of the Southern Living Cookbook Salads including Appetizers (1968). I was super-excited to catch the pages of recipes below because they include one from Rural Retreat, Virginia! Though I’m still working out the flavor profile of that fruit, greens, and cheese combo…

Next up, some more substantial meat-filled salads from The Salads Cookbook (1979), also from Southern Living. Since the front cover didn’t have a title (but does have a lovely caesar!), I included the title page below. Also, some rather interesting chicken options. Chicken and bananas? Pineapple & chicken in tomatoes? Well, at least I could totally get on board with all the avocado options!

Although perhaps I should have put this one first (because of the back cover image), the idea of picnic salads fit in better here, after the substantial/heartier options. So, this is the Better Homes and Gardens All-Time Favorite Salad Recipes (1978). The front cover features a “bowl” salad, a salad with its own edible bowl, and something more, well, freestanding. (Yes, there’s gelatin ahead.) The second page include some great picnic options, as well as advice on transporting salads for your outings. The back cover is also a handy guide to lettuces!

And, since we all know I can’t leave gelatin alone, here’s a page from The Knox Gelatine Cookbook (1977). It seems they took a classic element, Green Goddess Dressing, and made it into something gelatinous. Also, I’m not at all surprised to see a gelatin twist on a classic garden salad. I’m sure it’s been done before, complete with lettuce, though this option seems to skip that main ingredient…

None of these books are cataloged yet, but once they are, you can visit us in Special Collections to give them a look. (Actually, if you’re really interested and you come by fast enough, you might still catch them before we send them off for cataloging!) In the meantime, we have PLENTY of other salad books in the collection. Books with leaves (pun intended, of course) full of recipes, just waiting to be discovered.

The lesson for today is that salads come in many forms, some more traditional, others more…inventive. It’s also a great reminder of how the idea of a salad has changed and, in this particular case, gives us a sense of the trends in the late 1960s 1970s. And maybe it even offers us a little encouragement. Even if chicken and bananas don’t seem like an obvious pairing, someone liked it enough to publish it. So next time you’re wondering if you should put two ingredients together in your salad bowl, take a chance. We’ve got your back.

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 2: Canning and Preserving

Picking up on the theme from earlier this month, I thought it might be fun to continue some cooking school lessons over the summer. So, this week, we’re looking at Ola Powell’s Successful Canning and Preserving; Practical Hand Book for Schools, Clubs, and Home Use, published in 1917.

Each chapter includes a LOT of informational content, but each is also punctuated by photographs and illustrations throughout. Since the book is really designed to be a lesson book, though not exactly a text book, it does come complete with built-in quizzes. The end of every chapter includes a list of questions about the content, so you can make sure that learning has really soaked in and been preserved (pun intended, of course). The chapters cover the foods you would expect: fruits, veggies, pickles and relishes, jellies, preserves/conserves/marmalades, and fruit juices. But it also includes chapters on the history and safety of canning and preserving, techniques, drying foods for preservation, canning as a business, and teaching canning.

The diversity of this content is an important reflection on the significance of canning and food preservation. It was a necessity for feeding a family, but it was also a social activity, a profit-making opportunity, and clearly integrated into many aspects of domestic and home life, whether rural or urban.

Ola Powell was an extension agent by training and that surely shows. In addition to the many editions of Successful Canning and Preserving; Practical Hand Book for Schools, Clubs, and Home Use, between the mid 1910s- and the early 1940s, she also authored or co-authored works on a variety of other topics, including making and caring for mattresses and bedding, sewing, plants and plant diseases, home demonstration work, and farm and garden management.

You can find Successful Canning and Preserving; Practical Hand Book for Schools, Clubs, and Home Use in its entirely among the scanned books from Special Collections online. You know, in case you’re looking for a good mushroom ketchup recipe or a few trivia questions on the advantages of canning in tin versus glass.

Until our next summer school lesson, stay cool and enjoy something tasty…

Feeding en masse, 50 at a time!

2016 is off to a start and next week, our students return for the spring semester. Campus will be filling up with busy, hungry students. And there are a lot of them to feed. Of course the History of Food & Drink Collection has some advice on this topic! This week, we’re featuring Food for Fifty, a 1937 book with recipes for feeding groups of people. (Now, if we just multiply that by 142,200, we’ll reach the number of meals served by Dining Services on campus each year…)

As you may notice, it’s not just recipes. The book includes several pages of dictionary terms for cooking and foods, pages of cookery terms, a menu planning chapter, sections on how to best prepare ingredients, and some illustrations and photographs. However, there are plenty of recipes for every food group, too.

Food for Fifty was published and re-published with multiple editions: a 2nd edition in 1941 (in our collection), a 3rd edition in 1950 (in our collection) and a 5th edition in 1971. [I wasn’t able to find a date for the 4th edition.] It appears that, after a long absence, the book was adapted by new authors, and our collection also includes 3 editions of this version: 9th (1993), 10th (1997), and 11th (2001). Feeding crowds, whether in institutional settings or in more informal ones, has long been a trend in food history, and Food for Fifty isn’t our only example. If you check out the catalog record for the 1937 edition, you’ll see a subject heading “quantity cooking.” If you follow the subject heading down the rabbit hole, you’ll find we have 127 books in the libraries (25 of which reside in Special Collections) with that heading and more titles with similar or related headings. Some are aimed at specific types of quantity cooking, like for schools, restaurants, hotels, hospitals, community kitchens, or military. Others target a specific ingredient/set of ingredients like meat or baked goods, or focus on quantity cooking that’s cost-effective or for-profit in nature. In other words, there’s more than one reason and way to write a recipe book for quantity cooking.

So, whether you’re looking to fry frog legs for 50 or supply cake for 100 in your boarding house, keep in mind that Special Collections might just be the resource for you–and not just historically speaking. Some of the earlier publications may seem out of date in some ways (boarding houses are certainly less common in 2015 than in 1915), but that doesn’t mean we don’t all still want a slab of apple cobbler at our next family reunion. 🙂

Resolving to Dissolve and Reform?: Festive Salads & Molds; Plus, Looking Ahead to 2016 on “What’s Cookin’ @Special Collections?!”

Happy New Year! It’s hard to believe we’re already a week into 2016! It’s the time of year when everyone starts putting their resolutions into practice. Me, I’m not much of a “resolution-at-New-Year’s” kind of woman. I just have an on-going resolution to keep at least some part of the surface of my desk visible under the notes, paperwork, and new acquisitions at all times. In early January, before our student employees come back and before classes start up again, my goal is usually to create MORE of the that visible space for a couple of weeks so everyone else can cover it up by February. This week had been relatively successful until yesterday when a bunch of new items arrived (with paperwork), I talked to two potential donors (scribbling notes as I went), and I found a spreadsheet inventory of some architectural drawings from a collection I’m trying to do some processing work on (that I had to print out and start marking up). In other words, I’m back to my usual organized chaos (yes, I firmly believe it CAN exist). And I’m okay with that.

More important for our context, my goal is to continue to blog and tweet professionally (and personally) when it comes to our favorite shared topics: food, cocktails, agriculture, nutrition, etc., and all the history that goes along with those subjects, as well as in some other relevant areas for Special Collections. So, while I start thinking ahead (and backward), here are some Festive Salads & Molds for your post-holiday/getting back to normal entertaining. 🙂

Festive Salads & Molds, 1966
Festive Salads & Molds, 1966

In case the title doesn’t give it all away, Festive Salads & Molds is a focused recipe book. It was compiled by Evelyn Loeb  and decorated (not “illustrated”) by Maggie Jarvis. More than that, the publication capitalizes on the diet AND entertaining trends of the time. The preface includes a whole paragraph about salads as the “boon to the diet-conscious!” While there is some variety of recipes, the book is only 61 pages long. P.S. It was published in 1966, so I hope you’re ready for some gelatin…


With it only being Week One of 2016, we’ve got at least 51 more blog posts in this year’s future! Hmm, maybe I shouldn’t have typed that–it’s an intimidating number now that I see it. On the other hand, with 297 posts behind us, 51 is only 17% of that-so, it should be easy, right? Anyway, I have a series of posts planned for Women’s History Month this March and I may try to come up with a few more themed series as we go. I also have a running list of topics or items for posts. However, this is also a great opportunity for YOU to tell US what you’d like to learn more about or how we can help inspire you. “What’s Cookin’ @Special Collections?!” has been running for more than 4 years and we have a small (but growing) group of followers, between WordPress, Twitter, email, and RSS feeds.

So, do you know about a particular item or collection we have but want to know more? Are you curious about a food-related topic and wondering if we have any relevant books or manuscripts? Love a particular recipe, cookbook author, educator, culinary figure, food trend, or even agricultural process? Do you have a favorite food or drink you’d just like to see us share something about? Let us know (today or whenever the mood strikes you)! You can comment on this post, tweet at @VT_SCUA, or use any of the options on the Contacting Special Collection page of the blog–We’ll be here!