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!).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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!

The “Silent Hostess” Treasure Book, or the Delights of Electric Refrigeration

For some reason, The “Silent Hostess” Treasure Book sounds like it could double as a horror movie title. Good for us, it isn’t! Published by the Electric Refrigeration Department of the General Electric Company in 1931, this little book is “arranged to assist you in making the greatest use of your General Electric Refrigerator.”

With hints on organizing, using, cleaning and cooking with your fridge, this is one helpful pamphlet! Kitchen appliances have a long history, but you can almost always (at least partially) chalk their invention and improvement up to efficiency. Whether less time in the kitchen for women in the 1930s meant more time with children, more time outside the home, or more time working, the idea was simplification and better use of time.

About half of this volume contains recipes and meal planning, some of which is shown in the gallery above.  In general, there’s a lack of particularly unsettling recipes, despite the overabundance of gelatin dishes (stuffed eggs in gelatin mayonnaise and ham mousse, for example). Instead, the focus is on relatively easy-to-prepare/store dishes, and somewhat flexible meal planning. A little preparation and it’s simple to go from an informal family dinner to feeding unexpected company with a few ingredients that you can, of course, store in your electric refrigerator.

The other half of the publication is more on the “household hints” side of things.  Unsure how to arrange food in your fridge? Want to defrost it? Lack the proper storage for foods in your fridge? Have leftovers in need of a makeover? The “Silent Hostess” Treasure Book can help with pictures, diagrams, advertisements for containers, and leftover meat and vegetable uses.

There was at least one more addition of this pamphlet produced, but the 1931 is the most common among libraries. Check it out when you’re planning your next Washington’s Birthday Dinner! (Yes, there is a suggested menu for this event, complete with hatchet-shaped bread and butter sandwiches…) Happy chilling!

On Table Settings and Party Games

As the table of contents suggests, The Perfect Hostess covers a lot of bases: tableware, table settings/decor, menu planning, meal parties, and theme parties. I suspect 1946 was a popular year for entertaining, following the war. Since I am away at a conference this week (likely indulging in some good food!), I’m hoping the book will keep you all adequately amused…

With all the variety, I did chose to scan two specific types of pages: table decorations and settings and party games.

When it comes to table decor, we aren’t in new territory. We’ve seen strange arrangements with and without food, dolls and other figures, flowers, and candles. In The Perfect Hostess, we are given LOTS of details: which silver and plate settings one might want to own, how many candles a table should have at a formal event, the necessity for careful planning, sample menus, how to serve a multi-course dinner with only two trips to the kitchen…Many of these little details are the things that caught my attention. For example, when it comes to centerpieces:

Right: Few fruits chosen for their color relationship. Wrong: Too much fruit, too great a variety…Right: At least four candles tall enough to be out of the line of vision. Wrong: Only two candles, burned down so they shine in the guests’ eyes.

As regards this last point, we can only assume you must encourage your guests to eat quickly, before the candles burn down. Or hope for a lull in conversation while they burn at eye level.

While there are lots of details about creating table decor to match the party theme (and presumably you should own the tableware and linens to coordinate, as well), the “Special Decorations for Special Occasions,” I admit, sent me into some giggles (except for the clowns). I can’t decide if the Halloween scarecrows are involved  in an interpretive dance or if they’re just stepping over fallen corn. Who has this many wooden or porcelain dolls, waiting to be re-purposed for seasonal and themed displays? And if you are throwing a Mother Goose party, do you have artificial turf on hand, or do you dig up the lawn? Maybe that’s part of a game…

We haven’t talked too much about party games yet. We have a new acquisition for the cocktail collection that includes some drinking games, but this is the first discussion of party games for adults. But, as author Nancy Prentiss informs us:

Time was when party games were restricted to the teen-age group but grown-ups are rediscovering them as a sure fire method to keep a party going. In the following group you should find enough ammunition to pep up even the dullest affairs.

I’m not sure what kinds of the games the teen-agers were playing in 1946, but watch out for these grown ups! Card games, musical chairs (with music played on the piano–non piano owners, this may not be the game for you!), scavenger hunts, celebrity quizzes and more!

The post this week is a little indulgence in social history. While our party games may not be the same and our table decorations a little less creepy, the spirit is the same: A few guests and some good food can make for a pleasant evening. And if you’re lucky, those guests will be sure to compliment your exquisite taste in tableware and linens or your choice of games. Besides, even a game of “Know Yourself” is all in good fun…right?

Recipes with a Dash of Hospitality

This week’s post includes a lot of recipes with canned or jarred goods, interesting color images, and a smattering of history. From Curtice Brothers Co. in Rochester, NY, the 1916 A Pictorial History of Hospitality with a Few Suggestions for Recipes contains illustrations of hospitality from different cultures throughout history.

There is a forward to the cookbook (not pictured) that includes a few statements worth sharing:

One always finds a fascination in history, be it the tale of a folk or the story of a food. In the world of foods Curtice Brothers Co., has a definite place…

…this booklet…will be found useful by helping to make the housewife’s daily routine less burdensome.

Pictorially portraying as it does by dainty illustrations (which are historically correct),–the history of, and changes in Hospitality,–this book will no doubt prove of added interest.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, just as the pamphlet does: our food has a story. Every ingredient and every recipe. They aren’t always the most exciting stories, but stories nonetheless. A Pictorial History of Hospitality with a Few Suggestions for Recipes reminds us that related aspects of food culture all have stories, too.

One of the emerging themes of the History of Food & Drink Collection is the idea of efficiency and ease of food preparation. Along with the recipes, you’ll see meal planning hints and menu suggestions. The very fact that the company produced primarily canned and preserved food was one step in that process.

Lastly, this small publication introduces a topic that we have not spent much time talking about just yet: hospitality. We’ve talked about meal planning for dinners from the simple to the formal, table settings and decor, entertaining, and cocktails and canapes, but the concept of hospitality is closely tied to all these things. It is a motivating factor behind much of cooking and baking, as well as authoring household manuals and cookbooks. It’s the common social act of offering something to a guest who drops by or having something ready when you know company is coming. And it’s an easy excuse to splurge on the good wine and cheese.

As the illustrations above remind us, stereotypical as they may be, hospitality has roots at least as deep as our food’s history…so expect to see more about it in the future.

The New Art & Convenience in the Kitchen

Convenience and efficiency are a common theme in the collection here. Growing middle classes in the late 19th and into the 20th century meant women were responsible for managing the kitchen and preparing food. In 1934, the General Electric Kitchen Institute offered this handy little home helper: The New Art of Buying, Preserving, and Preparing Foods. The book includes tips for home management, advice for how to modernize your kitchen, recipes and meal planning, and details on how to use modern appliances to improve feeding one’s family (especially the refrigerator, the range/over, the electric mixer, and the dishwasher).

“The most important room in the home has now become the most enjoyable. No longer is the modern woman tied down to monotonous hours of kitchen routine. Magic electric servants work for her, giving her new joyous hours of freedom–hours she can spend in any way she chooses.” The G-E Kitchen Institute was even offering personalized directions on how to modernize kitchens for women who sent a sketch of their current set up!

The book includes suggested menus for all kinds of meals, from family dinners to entertaining at a bridal shower, as well as recipes for every course. But there is an emphasis on convenience and speed (“Today in over 1,000,000 American homes, electric cookery does in minutes the work that hours did in years gone by”). There is a whole section on oven meals, in which the whole dinner goes into the oven and finishes at the same time. Many things can now be done in advance and stored in your refrigerator! Leftovers won’t be wasted, either! And the dishwasher will keep your hands out of that dirty water! A few of the recipes may make you wonder (like many of those in our collection) just who thought onions rolled in bread and spread with mayonnaise resulted in a tasty canape or chopped chicken needed to be embedded in gelatin, but that’s always what makes this collection and these publications special. They offer us a window in a food past we don’t see today.

It’s a bit challenging to pigeon-hole this publication into a single category. It isn’t just a cookbook, an advertisement for GE appliances, or a household manual. Rather, it’s a creative melding of all three–which is one of other reasons to highlight it this week. We’re gradually starting to think about our culinary collection in a new way here at Special Collections. Instead of defining it simply in terms of formats (books, manuscripts, educational kits, electronic resources, etc.), we’re trying to imagine it in terms of topics. While that could potentially be a long list, we’re noticing there are some distinct themes among existing holdings: receipts & recipes (including home remedies); dietetics, education/home economics & nutrition (children and adults); household management & social history; technology, food processing & preservation; and entertaining & the history of the cocktail.

We’ll be sharing more about some of these themes on the blog in the weeks to come, as well as serving up our usual fare of recipes, history, and a little gentle fun, so be sure to stick with us.

Presenting the History of Food & Drink at Special Collections

This week, I’m giving our loyal blog readers something a little different. Yours truly, archivist/blogger Kira, was invited to give a presentation on the culinary collection to library staff and faculty as part of an in-house training day. Happy (as always) to share the collection, I spent an hour yesterday sharing images of items, talking about how we’re re-imagining the collection, and poking a little good-natured fun.

We’ve spent a lot of time thinking about and describing all our collecting areas in terms of formats, but we’re trying to break away from that model. Instead, we’re beginning to talk about collections and collecting areas thematically. Whereas we used to talk about the culinary collection in terms of books and manuscripts, we’re now talking about it in terms of larger themes: receipts and recipes, domestic/social/economic history, the history of cocktails and entertaining, changing food technology and processes–just to give a few examples. The presentation I gave was almost entirely image-based, so I’m including it here. It has a nice cross section of the collection.

(Use the arrow buttons below the slides to click through. Clicking on the button showing four arrows pointing out in different directions will show the slides at full screen size.)

Cooking for the Sick Isn’t All Tea and Toast

Many of the cookbooks in the collection, especially those from the 19th century, include a section on cooking and preparing food for the sick. Others feature instruction on feeding children and infants. This week’s feature, Food and Cookery for the Sick and Convalescent, has a little of everything. A combination textbook for cooking school students and cookbook, it was written by well-known teacher/author Fannie Merritt Farmer. The book went through multiple editions between 1904 and the early 1920s (ours is from 1911), and it has been reprinted occasionally since then.

The book contains information on nutrition and food values, feeding children and infants, and a lengthy list of recipes. While many cookbooks include simple recipes for the sick (teas, gruels, and toast),  Food and Cookery for the Sick and Convalescent is much more elaborate, as you can see from some of the images above. Chapters have detailed instructions on preparing luncheon and dinner trays appropriately so they look neat and aren’t overcrowded. Recipes range from teas, soups, puddings/gelatins (it was too hard to resist the image of a carved orange basket!) and toast to chops, oysters, and custard souffles. The latter is not quite the simple fare you might expect.

However, if you look at Farmer’s list of things to consider when feeding the sick, the first two are appealing to sight and taste. “Never consult a patient as to his menu, nor enter into a conversation relating to his diet, within his hearing,” she advises, but “…the best means of stimulating the appetite is to have good food, well cooked, and attractively served.” (Admittedly taken to some strange extremes–see “Flowering Ice-Cream” above.) Chapters on specific types of food include notes on nutritive value, recommendations on the best ways to serve, and a variety of recipes.Contradictions aside (“Cream and Mayonnaise dressings, although highly nutritious, are so complex as to render them difficult of digestion” followed by recipes for both),  the fact that the book addresses different types and phases of illness, and, to some extent, transitioning back to a regular diet, is a change from many other publications from the time period. And it clearly had an audience for nearly 20 years!

And for those of you wondering what kind of stance the book takes on alcohol, there are cases of illness that justify its consumption, as “[t]he use of alcoholic beverages in some diseases seems almost imperative.” Before going on talk about when and why to drink a little brandy or  a lot of whiskey, however, Farmer includes the following statement: “Lives, without doubt, have been saved by the use of champagne.” There is a very brief explanation about champagne putting those with fevers into beneficial sleep, but either way, it might be my new favorite quotation.

And, on a vaguely related note, since it’s graduation weekend here at Virginia Tech, a little champagne might just be in order. Congrats and good luck, Class of 2012! Go out into the world…and find something good to eat. That’s my advice.