Women’s History Month, Part 24: “Doris’s” Manuscript Cookbook

This week, I thought we’d look at a manuscript cookbook. At the moment, this particular item is considered unprocessed, but by the time this blog post is over, I’ll probably have done half of the work of describing the collection. So, there may even be a finding aid by the end of the day!

Officially, this manuscript cookbook doesn’t have a title yet. It’s owner/creator, as we can tell from the inscription at the front, was someone named “Doris.” The cookbook was a gift from her mother in 1925. However, we don’t have many other clues as to the identity of Doris. Which, of course, can be the case with manuscript cookbooks. But more on that in a moment.

Front cover of “Doris’s” manuscript cookbook, c.1925
Inside the front cover

One of the first things you might notice about this item is the cover. It’s not the original. Rather, a blank notebook (with nice marbled end papers) has been covered with what seems to be wallpaper. It was hand stitched in at the front and back, probably to protect from food debris.

The cookbook has an index of recipes, which is always a fun trick. One never knows how many pages you might need for recipes of a certain type, so there are often blank segments or spaces. Or recipes for like items don’t end up together, when more get tacked on to the end!

If you’ve spent anytime looking at handwritten recipe books, trends and recipe themes emerge: There is often a preponderance of cakes, cookies, puddings (or, “pudgings” as it appears here), and preserves.

Because some of the pages are already loose and I didn’t want to stress the binding by placing it flat on a scanner, I decided to photograph the pages in today’s post. So, apologies for the addition of fingers and in some cases, less than perfect quality.

Recipes for rhubarb conserve, plum conserve, and orange marmalade

Despite my blurry photo, conserves, it seems, are quite easy to make. Case in point:

Rhubarb Conserve

2 Qts cut up rhubard

1 Large Pineapple

2 oranges

2 lbs sugar

boil until thick

One of our only clues about Doris also comes from a folded up sheet of paper stuck inside the cookbook. On one page, there is a recipe for the every-popular moulded salmon or tuna salad. In addition, there are some recipes from a 1964 Randolph Macon Alumnae Association luncheon.

The cheese strata is attributed to Doris Rogers. While I don’t like to make assumptions, it’s possible this is the same owner of the cookbook. Although the cookbook does have a section of cheese recipes, it doesn’t contain a cheese strata (I was hoping to find a match!). Still, this could be a clue I’ll need to follow up on, if I can find some Randolph-Macon history!

After page 165, the rest of this notebook is blank, which also isn’t uncommon when it comes to manuscript receipt books. Sometimes people lose interest, sometimes they begin collecting recipes in another way, sometimes it gets passed on to someone else (who may or may not continue to add to it). It seems that this particular cookbook did get use–there are loose pages from lots of turning and there are definitely some stains suggesting it spent time open in an active kitchen.

The other reason I chose to highlight this item during my 2018 Women’s History Month series is to play against the posts I’ve already done this month. We started with Betty Crocker who, while not an actual person, is an icon. Last week, we looked at some women’s contributions to cocktail history, some of which were obvious, others a little less so. This week was an opportunity to point out that contributions to culinary history do not have to be identified, attributed, or famous. Rather, anyone can create a piece of culinary history that might just have a longer legacy that you expect. We have no reason to believe that Doris was keeping this cookbook for us to be able to share, but now, 93 years later, we have the option to make her recipes once again.

Excuses, Excuses (Or, Why This Week’s Post is Short)

Most of our staff is out this week at the annual conference for our archives-oriented professional society, including your usual blogger, Kira (me!). I’m off “researching” food and drink one of my favorite cities (my custom google map has more places that I can eat/drink in a month, let alone in 4 days!) and discussing all things archival. Procrastinator that I can sometimes be, I wasn’t able to draft a full feature before leaving Blacksburg.

However, I can’t bring myself to skip a week. We’re coming up on the three year anniversary of “What’s Cookin’ @Special Collections!?” More on that in September. In the meantime, here’s one of the items that started the whole blog in motion (and serves as part of our header):

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This c.1880s handwritten 8 page manuscript is a copy of a late 19th century extended metaphor. It talks about the best way to find and care for a husband. I’ve written about it before on Special Collections’ other blog here (which includes a full transcript): http://vtspecialcollections.wordpress.com/2013/06/13/how-to-cook-a-husband/. You can also view the finding aid for the collection here: http://ead.lib.virginia.edu/vivaxtf/view?docId=vt/viblbv00731.xml.

Happy cooking until next week!


Cora Bolton McBryde’s Cookbook

Some of our readers may know (and some of you may not) that Special Collections has a second blog. Launched in January 2014, it highlights materials from all of our collecting areas and features contributions from all our staff. Last week, our university archivist wrote a post about a handwritten cookbook we acquired last year. It was kept by Cora Bolton McBryde, the wife of Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College president (from 1891-1907), John McLaren McBryde. It’s a very interesting piece of university history AND food history. So this week, our feature comes from our other blog. You can read about the cookbook, its preservation, and a little about the McBrydes here: http://vtspecialcollections.wordpress.com/2014/07/17/cooking-for-the-president-cora-bolton-mcbrydes-cookbook/. Enjoy!

Locating History of Food & Drink Collection Materials

Each week, Special Collections shares an item or two from the History of Food & Drink Collection with you. We keep showing you all this cool stuff, but we haven’t spent much time showing you how to locate materials from our collections yourself! This Wednesday is a diversion into a library catalog and finding aids tutorial, with an eye toward the History of Food & Drink Collection.

The University Libraries have a traditional catalog, Addison (fun fact: it’s named for the first registered student of VAMC in 1872, William Addison Caldwell), as well as a discovery system that searches the catalog and a number of other integrated resources, called Summon. Since the descriptions of materials in the History of Food & Drink Collection are located either in the library catalog or the finding aid database, Virginia Heritage, we’re going to save Summon for another day.

The easiest way to search for culinary materials in Addison is to check out the advanced search: http://addison.vt.edu/#form8. To pull up a list of all the items in the collection, located both in Special Collections and throughout Newman Library, you’ll want to search note fields for “Culinary collection.” (You can click on any of the images throughout the post to see a larger version.)

Once you hit “Search,” you’ll get a list of all the books and manuscript collections in the History of Food & Drink Collection! Caution: They’ll be more than 3600…. But if you’re looking for something more specific, trying putting a keyword or two in the second box above (the first one labeled “Any Field”). If you’re only interested in what we have in Special Collections, you can select “Special Collections” from the “Limit to:” box. The search below, for example, would pull culinary books in Special Collections with “Betty Crocker” somewhere in the record.

If you’re only interested in publications from a certain time period, try using the publication date fields to limit a search. Or if you’re only interested in books, you can scroll down the “Material type” field, locate “Books,” and highlight it.

When it comes to locating materials in specific subcollections, Addison can help with that, too. We have two subcollections that we are making a concerted effort to label within catalog records: the Ann Hertzler Children’s Cookbook and Nutrition Literature Collection and the new Cocktail History Collection. Books and manuscripts from these subcollections will be labeled as part of the History of Food & Drink Collection, but they’ll have an extra note, too. If you’d like to see the more than 400 titles in the Hertzler collection, search “ann hertzler childrens” in the note field. If you’re interested in cocktails, search “cocktail history” in the note field.

As for manuscript collection relating to food history, we’ve been working hard to build up our holdings. To date, we have more than 30 collections of personal and professional papers, handwritten receipt books, and advertising/promotional materials. And there’s more to be processed! We write finding aids (collection guides) for our manuscript collections and contribute them to state-wide consortia. The easiest way to learn about our manuscripts is through this site, Virginia Heritage: http://ead.lib.virginia.edu/vivaxtf/search?smode=simple.

On the main search page, simply search for “History of Food and Drink” (this is our own subject heading that we include in the finding aid text) and be sure to limit the search to Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Or don’t, and see what other culinary goodies are hiding across Virginia (though you may want to try a more general keyword search, since other institutions won’t be using our subject term)!

We hope this helps you a little bit, whether you have research in mind, or you just want to satisfy your curiosity. And if you have questions or problems, you can always contact us! That’s what we’re here for and we’re always glad to help you locate books, collections, and other tidbits in Special Collections.

Happy searching! And stay tuned for a second post later this week. A brand new exciting book arrived while this post  was in progress and we can’t wait a whole week to share!

Manuscript Cookbook, Just Where Are You From?

It’s been a while since we’ve highlighted a manuscript cookbook, so this week, it’s time for a brand new acquisition…

Sometimes, when it comes to manuscripts, the origins of an item remain a mystery. There is a name on the inside cover in this case, but a little research with the local resources on hand still left us unable to connect that name to a place.  While your usual archivist/blogger Kira is all for a good Scooby-Doo mystery, being an archivist often means knowing where to draw the line when it comes to research. There are plenty more collections waiting to be processed. And not knowing who created and/or compiled something doesn’t mean it doesn’t have research value.

This new addition our collection includes a diverse range of recipes, from cordials and syrups to cakes and baked goods to oysters. And, as if my usual interest in various preserved things isn’t bad enough, this week, I’m bringing you pickled cucumbers, oysters, and plums (at least they aren’t in gelatin…). The point to all this pickling repetition, though, is to show the common practices. Regardless of where this cookbook was compiled, it has recipes and ideas in common with manuscript receipt books we do know about.

Like many 19th and early 20th century handwritten receipt books, it does not have a neat order. (We did, for the record, just acquire a recipe book that does have an index!). Recipes for tallow candles are mixed in with apple pudding and cough syrup; a fruit syrup is next to “egg pone;” and the newspapers clippings are a blend of recipes, household hints, and remedies. Several pages have pasted in recipes on other paper, too. Very likely, it was a case of fitting the next recipe into the next available space…though there is a tendency among cookbook compilers to paste newspaper clippings in the back  pages.

Answers to questions about the cookbook’s organization are as much a mystery as its kitchen of origin, but this item does tell us that these recipes were significant to someone. This manuscript contributes to the larger discussion of late 19th and early 20th century food  preparation and preservation, the culture of recipe sharing (all those newspaper clippings came from someone else’s kitchen), and the overall picture of food history we are striving to create here at Special Collections. A little aire of uncertainty just makes it a little more exciting to research and ponder.

Plus, it has a recipe for blackberry syrup made with spices and brandy that I’d be willing to try, whether it was an effective cholera treatment or not…

1731 Book for Receipts (Or, You Want to Pickle WHAT?)

Acquired in 2005, the 1731 “Book for Receipts” includes handwritten recipes by at least two different people. In addition to extensive directions on pickling everything from walnuts to melons to pidgeons, there is also a large collection of baked goods, wines, and even a variation of cheesecake! Like many collections of the time, there are home remedies, too!

By the way, this is also the manuscript that inspired our “Snail Water” post several weeks back.

A finding aid (or collection guide) for this manuscript collection is available online. The entire book was digitized in 2005 for preservation purposes. A pdf version can be viewed, saved, and/or printed here.