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. 🙂

New Pamphlet Round Up #1!

We’re revving up for the new school year here at Virginia Tech, so it seems like a good time for pamphlet round up this week. There are always lots of new items to share, but we haven’t had a large collection pamphlets lately. It makes selection a little easier, though not by much. So many great recipes!

Selected Banana Recipes for Appetizing and Nutritious Dishes
Selected Banana Recipes for Appetizing and Nutritious Dishes, 1923

Selected Banana Recipes for Appetizing and Nutritious Dishes
Selected Banana Recipes for Appetizing and Nutritious Dishes, 1923

So, the thing about bananas is that they seem to have almost too many uses. Baked, fried, or sliced? Breads, pies, puddings, and salads? Okay! Pickled, hashed, or used as stuffing? Ummm, perhaps not this time.

Wartime Recipes That Taste Good (Sun-Maid Raisins)
Wartime Recipes That Taste Good (Sun-Maid Raisins), c.1941-1945

Wartime Recipes That Taste Good (Sun-Maid Raisins)
Wartime Recipes That Taste Good (Sun-Maid Raisins), c.1941-1945

From bananas to raisins, it’s a logical leap, right? The raisins in this pamphlet hit every course, from breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, and snacks. The wartime nature of the publication, as any of our readers know, means we should be prepared for anything. Like using raisins as a filler in meat loaf or the creation of “Raisin Spaghetti Ring.”

Adventures in Herb Vinegars, 1944
Adventures in Herb Vinegars, 1944

Adventures in Herb Vinegars, 1944
Adventures in Herb Vinegars, 1944

“Adventure” isn’t generally a word one might use in conjunction with food. Well, unless you’re taking on the challenge of preparing certain mid-20th century dishes containing words like “surprise” or “piquant.” Flavored vinegars (and oils) are a great ingredient to cook with though. This adventure turns out a bit less frightening than expected, at least on the page. (No strange vinegary desserts in sight!)

Dressy Dishes from Your Victory Garden, 1945
Dressy Dishes from Your Victory Garden, 1945

 

Dressy Dishes from Your Victory Garden, 1945
Dressy Dishes from Your Victory Garden, 1945

(I promise, I didn’t actually intentionally select mostly World War II era items today! But they are so much fun!) We’ll finish up with a veggie-based booklet. You can do a great deal with vegetables, which isn’t surprising. (Much like bananas, apparently?) Recipes in this publication have them in jams, butters, pickles/slaws, salads, sweet and savory pies, and cakes, in addition to as main dishes. There are even potato doughnuts, stuffed and baked cucumbers, and chocolate potato cake!

So, if you’re feeling selective, victorious, adventurous, or dressy this weekend and looking for a recipe to try, you might just look back. Historical recipes aren’t just for reading and research. They might just be worth a nibble, too.

Family, Kitchens, Gardens, and Language

Despite the cold temperatures in Blacksburg (or perhaps to spite the cold), my brain is on warmer seasons. As a result, our feature this week is an 1850 tome by Robert Buist about gardening: The Family Kitchen Gardener; Containing Plain and Accurate Descriptions of All the Different Species and Varieties of Culinary Vegetables with Their Botanical, English, French, and German Names, Alphabetically Arranged, and the Best Mode of Cultivating Them, in the Garden or Under Glass; with a Description of Implements and Medicinal Herbs in General Use. Also, Descriptions and Characters of the Most Select Fruits, Their Management, Propogation, Etc. So, if that’s not a mouthful about fruits and veggies, I don’t know what is!

There are some interesting illustrations of garden tools and of some gardening techniques, and a great deal of information for the gardener starting out. And a surprising amount may be of interest to modern gardeners, too! I like the focus on the practical and the home–the herbs included are “medicinal,” since home remedies would still be very common in 1850. The other element that caught my attention was the “Contents.” With a title that long, I didn’t take everything in before glancing ahead. So the tri-lingual list of veggies, fruits, and herbs intrigued me. You’ll notice all of the plants do have names in all three languages throughout, as well as the Latin.

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If you’d like to read further, but can’t visit us (or can’t wait till Monday), the Making of America project has the full text of the 1861 edition online.

So, remember to eat your veggies this weekend (or at least read about them), and maybe we’ll treat you to dessert next week!

A Treatise of All Sorts of Foods: Or, The 1745 Book with the 93-Word Title

Back in the early days of the blog, we profiled the oldest food-related publication in our collection, the short selection of a larger publication with the lengthy title, A pocket-companion, containing things necessary to be known by all that values their health and happiness : being a plain way of nature’s own prescribing, to cure most diseases in men, women and children, by kitchen-physick only. To which is added, an account how a man may live well and plentifully for two-pence a day / collected from The good housewife made a doctor, by Tho. Tryon  (1692). You can that view that post online here: “Advice from 1692.”

However, it seemed about time we go back and show off another early publication from the History of Food and Drink Collection. This week, we’re featuring a slightly more recent publication from 1745, with, if you can believe it, an even longer title: A treatise of all sorts of foods, both animal and vegetable: also of drinkables: giving an account how to chuse the best sort of all kinds; of the good and bad effects they produce; the principles they abound with; the time, age, and constitution they are adapted to. Wherin their nature and use is explain’d according to the sentiments of the most eminent physicians and naturalists, ancient and modern. Written originally in French, by the learned M.L. Lemery. Tr. by D. Hay. To which is added, an introduction treating of foods in general. (When you look at the title page below, you may notice there is actually a great deal MORE that someone wisely thought to leave out, when cataloging the item.)

As much as we’d love to have you visit us, the good news is, if you want to read more from this treatise (and it’s well worth it!), you can see it online. A pdf is available through VTech Works, the library’s institutional repository (http://hdl.handle.net/10919/10325). If you’re not used to the style and font of mid-18th century publications, don’t worry. Like handwriting, it won’t take long for you to understand those long “f”s and strange, archaic terms.

And whether you’re wondering what people thought about gooseberries, “sea-dragons,” milk, wild boar, or brandy in the 1740s, this is a great place to start. The book’s descriptions about melancholy Humours may be out of date, but the desire to give good advice about food is timeless.