Efficiency in All Things

In case you haven’t noticed it before, we don’t really tend to post about items in any particular order. Last week, we featured a U. S. Food Administration publication from 1918. Next week, we’re going to look at a book from the 1930s. But today, we’re jumping backwards a few years, to 1915. Georgia Robertson, the author of Efficiency in Home-Making and First-Aid to Good Cooking, might find it, well, inefficient. However, if you ask me, it sure is fun!(We certainly hope you learn something, too, but we want to have a good time sharing with you!)

This book is all text (sorry, no illustrations this week) and it’s almost difficult to call it a cookbook. There are plenty of recipes, but this is primarily an instruction manual. A vast and moral instruction manual, at that. You can’t quite call it prosaic, since there a fair share of descriptive language (I recommend the section on cooking with alcohol on pages 56 and 57 above), and the question-and-answer style that most of the volume uses is quite unique.

Efficiency in Home-Making and First-Aid to Good Cooking covers topics like daily and weekly activities for household staff (it presumes you have at least two maids, a cook, a coachman, three bedrooms, and a library), what to serve, and how to serve it. You’ll find sections like “Labor Saving Devices that are Worth While” (the vacuum, the dish drainer, and the electric or gas iron among them) and underlying principles of bread-making. There are all kinds of helpful hints for storing kitchen items and kitchen organization,  as well as recipes (all without alcohol, of course). On the whole, it’s a practical, if dry, volume that clearly has a home with our collection of household management materials. You can find a full copy of the book online through the Internet Archive.

Next week, we’ll take a look at a book full of recipes and planned luncheons, dinners, and special occasion meals from the 1930s. It’ll be different from this week, so be prepared for a bit decadence, alcohol, and, of course, a few odd ingredients.

Meal Prep, Service, and…Design?

A title like How to Prepare and Serve a Meal: Interior Decoration had to catch our attention. After all, it’s food history related. But, in case you didn’t know, we are also the home to the International Archive of Women in Architecture. This group of manuscript collections and publications helps to document a field that wasn’t widely open to women until the last 40 years or so. You can read more about it here: http://spec.lib.vt.edu/iawa/. That being said, you can imagine how a book that combines these two areas might be of some interest to Special Collections. Written by Lillian B. Lansdown around 1922, this a household guide on two related subjects.

What’s interesting is that this publication almost feels like two books. There isn’t a real transition from the topic of meal planning to interior decoration, just the start of a new chapter. The decoration section is significantly smaller, and one wonders if it was sort of tacked on (perhaps it was too short a section to stand on its own?). It is cataloged as a culinary item, as opposed to a design one.

At the same time, this combination makes perfect sense for the time period. Both the kitchen and the home (management, order, and design) were considered part of the woman’s domestic sphere. I would guess we have more manuals like this on our shelves (and I know some of the large household management guides cover these and other topics), so I’ll be keeping an eye out for similar pieces in the future. They’re chock full of little lessons.

Happy meal planning and home decorating! Just remember: For afternoon teas, never use paper doilies (unless you have more than 100 visiting); Broken lines aren’t shouldn’t be part of permanent fixtures in a room; and drinking liquors in 1922 wasn’t illegal (so long as you found a way to legally obtain it…)

A Diet and a Patent Medicine, All in One?

Welcome to 2014! A new year means a new start and that means resolutions. (Whether we follow up on them or not, we’re always optimistic in January, at least!) I started thinking how many people’s resolutions including losing weight, and I wondered what sort of historical treasures we might have on that topic. So this week, we’re featuring one of the earliest “diet books” in our collection: How Phyllis Grew Thin. I’m not sure exactly what I expected when I opened this 32 page pamphlet, but this wasn’t it…

The pamphlet is full of practical and not-so-practical tidbits, but my favorite has to be from the letter of introduction at the beginning: “It is not necessary for you to know just what a calorie is so long as you remember not to eat foods containing too many of them.” It sums up all the diet advice and meal planning that follows.

Although it does contain a fair bit of advice about dieting and a significant amount of advice on meal planning, the pamphlet is, at it’s core, an advertisement for a patent medicine for women (actually, more than one). It is chock full of testimonials and advice for use. Still, Lydia Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound was a success for many years. There are even companies producing similar herbal remedies today.

Our catalog record dates this items to some time in the 1800s, but the art deco-inspired cover and clothing suggest it more likely comes from the early part of the 20th century. Lydia Pinkham herself died in 1883, but her family continued to run the business into the 1930s. Her patent medicines were advertised in cookbooks, newspapers, ladies journals, and dedicated small pamphlets like the one in our collection. During Prohibition, Lydia Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound gained an unexpected corner of the market–the original formula contained no small amount of alcohol and was, as a medicine, available for purchase. Lydia and her remedies even inspired a a folk/drinking song in the early 20th century (“The Ballad of Lydia Pinkham”) and later a modified version in the 1960s (“Lily the Pink”).

Clearly, “Phyllis’s” plan isn’t one for the modern dieter. However, these 32 pages offer some amazing insight into women’s medicine, dieting, and advertising in the early 20th century.

Wondering What to Eat? There’s a Book for That!

Actually, there’s more than one book telling you what to eat. If there weren’t, our collection would be pretty small. Instead, we have more than 4,000 volumes with a LOT of advice, including this week’s feature: What Shall I Eat? Written by Edith Barber and published in 1933, this book contains information for  housewives and mothers, dieters, and even businessmen dining on the go.

What Shall I Eat?  was not Edith Barber’s first book and it certainly wasn’t her last. Into the 1950s, she authored cookbooks, nutrition guides, meal planning/budgeting books, and volumes on etiquette and training servants. This is one of 6 books by Barber at Newman Library. Special Collections also includes editions of Nutrition and Health in Disease for Nurses from 1928, 1935, and 1947. The library at large is home to two other editions of that title from 1933 and 1943.

This book also features illustrations by Helen E. Hokinson (1893-1949). Hokinson was a cartoonist for The New Yorker and Ladies Home Journal, an illustrator for a variety of books, and illustrator of 6 books of her cartoons (three published posthumously). She was well known for her buxom, high-heeled ladies in The New Yorker.

Ann and Bob Learn about Eating, Cooking, Freezing, and a Theme Party!

When it comes to educating children about food, materials in our collection take all kinds of approaches: cookbooks, story books, advertisements, activity/resource kits, and even a few toys! This week, our blog features Learning to Cook and Serve Our Meals by Ada R. Polkinghorne. Published in 1946 by the National Dairy Council, this story book follows Bob and Ann Brown and their parents, as the children learn about helping in the kitchen, cooking and preserving food, and having an airplane themed food party at school (no joke!).

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Learning to Cook and Serve Our Meals is clearly designed for children, from its colorful illustrations to simple text. More importantly, the book includes representations of several themes we’ve talked about on the blog previously:

  • The World War II and just-post-World War II time in which this publication was written, the emphasis on home gardens and self-sufficiency lingers. Not only do Bob and Ann help harvest, they also help freeze and preserve fruits and vegetables for the winter. Food preservation obvious had value beyond the age of rationing, and it continues to play in an important role in many families today.
  • A story book can be educational for children. Or, conversely, an education book for children can have a fun story. This is a story children are intended to relate to, giving them a greater ability to incorporate its values into their own lives.
  • Kids can (and should) learn to cook! The kitchen shouldn’t be a foreign place. Rather, it’s a place for work, fun, education, and experimenting/creativity.
  • Vegetables are good to eat!

Unlike many “sponsored” publications, this one is free from advertising, which is a little different. Items from the Ann Hertzler Children’s Cookbook and Nutrition Literature Collection that we’ve look at on the blog to date have included varying degrees of product placement. Here, the National Dairy Council refrained from overtly forcing milk or cheese on the Brown family. And certainly not all children’s publications have an advertising agenda either (an idea we’ll come back in the future, no doubt).

While you may not be planning an airplane-themed party for a classroom of children any time soon, it is important to think creatively about food and family. There’s a lot you can do without the burden of reciting facts about flying or arguing over just who should be serving and why. Food really can bring people together, from preparation to clean up and everything in between–and a three day weekend holiday might be the perfect time to try it out!

Women’s History Month Profiles, Part 3: Marion Harland (1830-1922) and Christine Terhune Herrick (1859-1944)

This week, our Women’s History Month feature includes two women, a mother and daughter with LOTS to say on the topic of cooking and managing the home. Each was an author in her own right, though, as we’ll see, their efforts resulted in at least one collaboration.

Mary Virginia Hawes (later, Terhune) was born in Virginia in 1830. Writing under a series of pen names, she published articles beginning at age 14. Eventually, she adopted Marion Harland as her author identity. She married a preacher, Edward Terhune, a Presbyterian minister, and they had six children, three of whom survived infancy (and who all became writers!). For nearly the first twenty years of her writing career, she wrote novels and fiction, primarily aimed at women. In the 1870s, she added to her repertoire and completed a book on household management, full of recipes and hints. It was the first edition of Common Sense in the Household: A Manual of Practical Housewifery. Although she never gave up writing fiction, and even added some non-fiction to her bibliography, from the 1870s to the early 1900s, her focus seemed to have shifted to cookery and domestic guides in cookbook and narrative styles. She died in 1922, at the age of 91, leaving behind a legacy of fiction, non-fiction, articles, household advice, recipes, and more.

Our holdings in Special Collections are by no means complete. Marion Harland wrote on culinary, literary, and historical topics, as well as travel and fiction. We have half a dozen of her culinary and domestic related books, which represent only a small percentage her catalog of works. The gallery below contains scans from selected University Libraries’ holdings (in chronological order).

For more about Mary Terhune, you can check out her obituary in the New York Times; her autobiography online, and the Encyclopedia Virginia article about her.

Christine Terhune (later Herrick), was born in 1859, after her parents had relocated to New Jersey for her father’s work. Following an extensive education in the US and in Europe during family life abroad, she taught private school briefly. In 1884, she married James Herrick, a newspaper editor, in Springfield, Massachusetts. She began writing articles for newspapers and ladies journals. By 1888, her first book on household management was published (Housekeeping Made Easy) and she became quite successful. After her husband’s death in 1893, she wrote to support her family while she raised two young sons. In 1905, she edited a set of books, Consolidated Library of Modern Cooking and Household Recipes that included some her mother’s writings. By the time of her death in 1944, she had published more than 25 books on raising children, living on a budget, manuals for servants and housewives, cooking, and housekeeping in general.

Currently, Special Collections includes only four of Herrick’s books (don’t worry, we’re always on the look out for more!), highlighted in the gallery below.

For more on Christine Terhune Herrick, you can read about the entry for her in the Notable American Women, 1607-1950: A Biographical Dictionary, Volume 2 online.

Together, mother and daughter wrote more than 50 publications, the majority of which related to culinary history and domestic life. Their books, including editions and reprints, provided housewives, mothers, servants, and families with advice for almost 60 years. Clearly, they were an influential force to be reckoned with in the domestic sphere! (And one with ties to Virginia food and household history, too!)

A complete list of Marion Harland’s publications at the Virginia Tech University Libraries is available here. A list of Christine Terhune Herrick’s publications at the University Libraries (all of which are in Special Collections) is available here. If want to come visit and see more, be sure to check out both lists.

And if you can’t visit, you can still see more! Previous efforts to digitize some of the culinary history holdings in Special Collections resulted in five of Harland’s and two of Herrick’s publications being scanned. You can read, save, and download the pdf versions here.

Next week, we may return to the Boston Cooking School to talk about author and educator, Mrs. D. A. Lincoln (aka Mary Johnson Bailey Lincoln), or we may look at the work of Janet McKenzie Hill–author, culinary reformer, and food scientist. (With only one week left in Women’s History Month, it’s hard to decide!) You’ll just have to come back and see.

Until then, take some of Marion Harland’s advice: “Practice, and practice alone, will teach you certain essentials.” This week, cook something you’ve practiced and love. Those essentials will never let you down…

Dietary Computing in 1902

This week’s feature is about computing nutrition and dietary information by hand. And if you’re like me with math, thankfully, the calculating is already done for you!

The full title of this work, in typical lengthy style, is: The Dietary Computer. Explanatory Pamphlet; the Pamphlet Containing Tables of Food Composition, Lists of Prices, Weights, and Measures, Selected Recipes for the Slips, Directions for Using the Same. We are particularly pleased to have a first edition of this set. Although we often talk about our Rare Book Collection, it’s fair to say that not every publication in Special Collections is one of only 1,000.  Published in 1902, the authors describe it in a number of ways:

The aim of this little pamphlet is to familiarize settlement workers and progressive housewives with a few fundamental principles used in making out bills of fare according to food values…[a] concentrated essence of something more delicate, to be used with judgment and discretion as a wire fence to guide the learner to better sources…[t]his is no new cookbook, it is only a bald statement of a few facts to help those who really wish to learn…

It isn’t a cookbook per se, but it does have recipes, and a quite a range of them. Everything from soups and vegetables, meat and fish dishes, and savory breads and puddings. However, the focus is on economics–how to get the best nutritional value for your buck, as it were. The book itself contains tables devoted to foods constant in the diet, food values by calorie, cost of 1,000 calories of various recipes, the “cost of 100 grams of nitrogenous substance,” and composition of food materials Table V includes the actual recipes.

A supplement, Methods in Household Economics, consists of price lists and meal planning charts. Although blank price lists are provided, there is also a set of lists for Boston prices (presumably for comparison purposes). So, if you’re wondering about the average cost for moose (35¢/pound) and other meats or fish, as well as  a head of cauliflower in July (40¢) or other vegetables, we can help! Just don’t be disappointed when you realize how much prices have changes…

Be sure to check back with us for some more nutrition-oriented features in the future. And until then, keep on computing!