Tea Room Recipes for Hot Tea Month

During the fall, I wrote a series of posts about processing the Education Cookery Collection (#1, #2, and #3). That collection also includes a bunch of associated books and publications. Although those titles haven’t been cataloged yet, I pulled one of them to write about today. January is National Hot Tea Month and while it’s actually supposed to be around 60 degrees in Blacksburg today, that doesn’t mean we can’t talk tea-related food!

Tea-Room Recipes: A Book for Home Makers and Tea-Room Managers was written in by Lenore Richards and Nola Treat in 1925.  As the subtitle suggests, its purpose was two-fold: recipes for the home and recipes for food-serving businesses. Richards and Treat, it seems, ran a cafeteria, and in their previous lives, were on the faculty of the College of Agriculture, University of Minnesota. So, they probably both had an extension service background.

From the preface:

This book contains what the authors have come to call tea-room recipes. These recipes are richer, more expensive and designed to server fewer people that those in “Quantity Cookery.” [more on that in a moment] They are especially for the use of home makers entertaining at luncheon, tea and dinner, and for the use of managers of tea rooms, clubs and similar institutions.

Tea-Room Recipes is about half desserts, so we can see the distinct emphasis on the “entertaining” element. There are a sea of pies, cakes (with icings and fillings), cookies, ice creams, puddings, torts, and gelatins. But before you get to those treats (unless you’re hosting an event that goes straight for the good stuff), there are several chapters on the more savory side. These sections cover soups, some surprisingly hefty entrees (lamb chops, nut loafs, macaroni bakes), a few quick-and-easy to prepare vegetables sides, salads (with dressings and garnishes like cheese balls), and one of my favorite topics, sandwiches. The sandwich chapter begins with something called the “Tombeche,” which took a moment to decipher, but makes sense when you see the ingredient list: tomato, dried beef, and cheese. Plus, there are some strange ground/melted chocolate or orange fillings, lots of cream cheese/nut combinations, and a hefty dose of olives. A bread chapter covers the savory (including a bacon bread!) and the sweet (muffins and other breakfast sweets).

In addition to this book, Richards and Treat also wrote Quantity Cookery, which seems like a logical companion piece to this one. Tea-Room Recipes can be used to feed a family of, say 4-6, but it can also be used to feed a restaurant full of people. A book like Quantity Cookery takes that to the next level (though it has a more specific, commercial audience).

Oh, and in case you’re curious, since I started this post talking about Hot Tea Month? Tea-Room Recipes does not contain any recipes for tea. I guess the assumption is you can handle that part on your own…


Military Menus for the Holiday

Our Military & Wartime Cookery Collection (Ms2017-029) includes a wide variety of military/food related ephemera, as well as a collection of associated cataloged publications. Among the materials, we found a 1935 menu from the Christmas Dinner aboard the United States Ship Nevada. The cover includes a color illustration of a decorated ship and a lighthouse, both of which are producing lights that create a Christmas Tree pattern on the water.

The inside includes information about the officers, the date, and the menu itself, which tells us some interesting things about the time. It’s always interesting to see cigarettes, for example, as part of a menu.

We also have a small collection of menus from American forces in Iceland during World War II. Two are for Thanksgiving and the third, below, is from Christmas 1943. The 824th Engineers Aviation Battalion was stationed in Iceland and worked to build airdromes and airfields, as well as provide improvements to the port at Reykjavik.

This menu is actually eight pages long, and contains five pages with a complete list of soldiers in the battalion. In addition, it has the “signatures” page and, at the very end, the menu itself.

Although they are eight years apart, the menus have a fair amount in common: fruit cake, mince pie, candy, nuts, cigarettes, rolls & butter, turkey & gravy, potatoes of one or more kinds, and cranberry sauce. And, in the 21st century, these are things we still associate with the holidays this time of year. The latter menu’s emphasis on “fresh” as a word, though, is a reminder about how special some food items would have been in Iceland in December 1943, as well as a reminder of how rare they might have been at home during rationing of the time.

We at Special Collections hope you have a good holiday season and don’t worry: We’ve got plenty of blog posts planned for 2018!*

*(Your usual archivist/blogger Kira may even get back on a weekly schedule!)

Charles Fellows: Menu Maker…and Menu Collector!

This week, we’re looking at a title that had been on my running list of things to share on the blog. I don’t remember how it got on the list or indeed, how I came across the title in the first place, but, with more than 4,700 titles in the History of Food & Drink Collection, that can be the case a lot of the time. If you look at the catalog record for this week’s feature, it reads Fellows’ Menu Maker; Suggestions for Selecting Menus for Hotels & Restaurants… When you get to the title page, we may have a new competitor for longest title:

Fellows' Menu Maker; Suggestions for Selecting Menus for Hotels & Restaurants..., 1910
Fellows’ Menu Maker; Suggestions for Selecting Menus for Hotels & Restaurants…, 1910

So, that’s Fellows’ Menu Maker; Suggestions for Selecting Menus for Hotels & Restaurants, with Object of the Changing from Day to Day to Give Continuous Variety of Foods in Season. A Reminder for the Breakfast, Luncheon, Dinner, and Supper Cards, Together with Brief Notations of Interest to the Proprietor, Steward, Headwaiter and Chef. An Exposition of Catering Ideas Calculated to Popularize Public Dining Halls…A Chapter Devoted to the Most Popular Soups, Fish, Boiled Meats, Roasts and Entrees. Also a Department for Banquet Bills of Fare and Suggestions for Dinner Party Menus…The Book Supplemented with an Exposition of Menus and Editorial Matter Relating to Menu Compilation Reprinted from The Hotel Monthly.  

Fellows compiled a book that contained notes on menu planning from his experience combined with menus from other restaurants, short articles of food related interest, and even a few cartoons. On the whole, an interesting mix.

Although Fellows’ Menu Maker; Suggestions for Selecting Menus for Hotels & Restaurants… is the only of Fellows’ titles in our collection, he was the author of two other books: A Selection of Dishes and the Chef’s Reminder: A High Class Culinary Text Book and The Culinary Handbook. (On a side note, this Charles Fellows shouldn’t be confused with Sir Charles Fellows, an archaeologist and traveler who was somewhat more prolific, which WorldCat kept trying to do to me, when I well knew the difference!) Fellows did his research and must have reached out to many colleagues to solicit content.

While we don’t know much about its reception at the time, from a historical perspective, this book gives us all kinds of exciting background. It tells us about what restaurants were serving and how, it can give us a comparison between restaurants whose menus were printed here, it gives us insight into some business practices (there’s a short article about how to keep wait staff from “short checking,” for example), and it shows us an economic snapshot of different types of restaurants from the period. Plus, it’s just plain interesting!

Since it was published in 1910, it is out of copyright now. You can visit us to look at our copy, but if you’re not nearby, you can also find it online through Cornell University’s Home Economics Archive: Research, Tradition and History (HEARTH). You know, for all your hotel menu planning needs. 🙂

What’s on the Menu?: Hotel Roanoke

A number of our archivists (myself included) are attended a conference this Thursday, Friday, and Saturday (or some combination of those days). Lucky for us, it’s being held in our own backyard, just up I-81 in Roanoke. More specifically, it’s at the historic Hotel Roanoke (you can read some highlights of its history online). Special Collections includes a few resources that can give you more information on the Hotel Roanoke, from architectural plans to local history. We can also tell you a little something about dining there! We have a small collection of menus, including the below.

This particular menu is the most “mysterious” of the bunch, in that it doesn’t have a date. Judging by the photograph in the menu, one might guess 1920s, but I’m still not sure of that. (The collection also has a menu from 1942 and several from the 1990s.) As you can see, it’s a wide-ranging menu for any meal–though to be honest, I kept fixating on the recurrence of “kraut juice.” Seems like an interesting item, but someone must have enjoyed it! While I don’t expect to be dining for those prices on my visit, it’s nice to know that the Hotel Roanoke is still around and continuing to build on over 130 years of tradition.

We have a few other collections with menus, as well as a other menus in this particular collection, so stay tuned for future posts on dining history. You’re welcome to visit us for a menu (prix) fixe, but if you can’t, there are also some amazing digital menu collections online. Visit our Food & Drink History Resources guide and scroll down to the bottom of the page for a list. Until next week, good dining!

Dining on the Rails: Menus from Norfolk & Western

Dining on the railroad can be quite an experience…from a historical perspective, of course. In 2012, Special Collections acquired a collection of Norfolk & Western menus. They range from the full-color, glossy-covered, multi-course meal to the single sheet, ephemeral list of snacks you might find on a shorter journey. And they don’t just cover food. Our collection includes a beverage (with cocktails!) menu that feature drinks, cigarettes, playing cards, AND aspirin. The collection even contains two unused checks for dining car service. Although we can’t date the collection (or the items) specifically, the contents suggest that they start around World War II and may go through the 1960s.



The finding aid for this collection is available online. The entire collection has been scanned and I hope to have it up on the web soon, but until then, enjoying this sampling. Whether you were in the mood for an omelette, a steak, a salad (the “famous salad bowl,” of course!), or Virginia apple pie (baked on the train!), N&W had you covered. It’s interesting to see how complex some of the meals and meal choices were and one wonders about the challenges of preparing food on the train.

So, until next week, hop on board with the “Nation’s Going-est Railroad” and check out your choices!

Thanksgiving at VPI

This week, I thought I’d share something related to the Culinary History Collection, though not actually part of it. Food seems to permeate so much of our lives, it doesn’t seem like too much of a diversion.

Thanksgiving is just a week away. And while these days, our students get time off, that wasn’t always the case. This is one of several Thanksgiving menus from the University Archives (which seeks to document the history of university). From 1924, it includes a picture of the football team, who would have had a big game on or around November 30. Cadets were treated to a special meal for the holiday.

Some of the dinner is familiar and still traditional today (turkey, cranberry sauce, dressing and gravy, etc.), but there are a few things worth noting. First, the Grimes Golden apple is now considered an heirloom variety and unlikely to be in grocery stores (though if you can find it, it is rumored to make a wonderful “pie” apple). Second, instead of pie, our cadets were treated to lady fingers, ice cream, fruit, and nuts. And fruit punch! Third, there was a band!

So, this year, consider hiring a live orchestra and replacing pie with cookies, if you’re feeling adventurous. Or stick with the modern traditions—we DO love them for a reason. Expect another “turkey day” post or two before the big day, but here’s an early Happy Thanksgiving! from us to you.