Six Little Cooks: Narrative, Recipes, and Culinary Instruction

This week, we’re looking at another instruction manual for cooks. This one, though, isn’t for adults–it’s for children. And while we have shelves of children’s cookbooks, each filled with recipes and directions, this one is a little different. It has elements of storytelling, a frame narrative that runs through each of the 14 chapters. Our edition of Six Little Cooks comes from 1891, but it was first published in 1887. Elizabeth Kirkland’s book tells the story of Grace, whose aunt and cousin come to visit. Grace, inspired by a story book, asks her aunt to teach her, her sister, her cousins, and her friends to cook. The 14 chapters cover the 14 days Aunt Jane spends teaching the girls recipes and etiquette for different meals, occasions, and events.

The recipes are usually grouped in the middle of each chapter, numbered and labeled, surrounded by the plot and often information about how to properly prepare, serve, or clean up from the particular focus of the lesson. Unlike many children’s cookbooks and like many manuals for housewives of the period, there are no illustrations. The book is written in simple language that the intended audience of young girls would understand, and it seems clear they are meant to learn by reading and practicing, rather than being provided pictures or images of “how to” (though the story IS entertaining). That being said, it does seem like a more effective way to spread the message of culinary instruction. It gives young readers something they can relate to, while hopefully making it fun to learn–which is a lesson we can still use today!

If you’d like to read more, you can always visit us. Or, you can check out a digital copy of the 1891 edition on the Internet Archive’s website.

What’s in the (Sugar) Bag?

This week, I thought we’d take a look at a “shaped” publication. (Also, I have plans to recreate an 1827 “Layfayette Gingerbread” recipe this weekend and I have sugar and molasses on the brain.) As we know from the wide array advertising materials we’ve looked at before, companies have all kinds of quirky strategies for attracting consumer attention. This booklet from W. J. McCahan Sugar Refining & Molasses Co. took a novel approach: they shaped the publication like a bag of sugar.

 

“McCahan’s Sunny Cane Sugar” was published in 1937, but as you can see from one of the images above, this was far from the first edition. The 88 pages are packed with information on the history of sugar, types of sugar produced by the company, recipes, and kitchen/cooking tips. The recipes primarily provide instruction for desserts (not surprising), but there are also sections for meat and vegetables. Because of course you’ll want to get sugar into every dish of your meal!

We have a couple other pamphlets from a different sugar company that are shaped like sugar bags (these are only about two pages long each) in the collection. My guess is, the sugar bag shape is relatively easy to create, since it involves the removal of the corners. I’ve also come across some can-shaped pamphlets and one strange booklet that’s square at the top, but features the image of a wooden salad bowl on the cover. The bottom of the booklet is rounded like a bowl. More recently, we acquired a book on peanuts shaped like–you guessed it–a peanut! Now, if only we had a bread-loaf shaped one to go with it, we would be part way to strange looking peanut butter sandwich…

Gelatine (Yes, that’s with an “e”) from Across the Pond

After several months of stockpiling new items for the Culinary Pamphlet Collection, I finally had a chance to add half a box worth of new materials. There were plenty of new additions to companies for which we already have folders and lots of new companies are now represented. The collection itself is now into Box 5! Among the additions are two advertisements for one our favorite topics–you guess it–gelatin. Or, in this case, gelatine. J. & G. Cox was an Edinburgh, Scotland, based company, so we have acquired an extra “e.” (You’ll also get some additional vowels in the some of the recipes below.)

Cox_ad1_a Cox_ad1_b Cox_ad2Unfortunately, I don’t have any hints as to when these advertisements were created. I know that the company was active in at least the first four decades of the 20th century, but it could have slightly earlier roots, too. Between the 1910s and the 1940s, much like Genessee Pure Foods Co. (later Jell-O Company and General Foods Corporation–Jell-O Division) and Chas. B. Knox Co., this company produced LOTS of small pamphlets with recipes. J. & G. Cox even published at least one pamphlet in French, as well: “Recettes choisies, Cox’s instant powdered gelatine.” I found two copies cataloged by universities in Canada. Lest we forget, gelatin was not an exclusively American product. Until it was commercially available in the late 19th century, it was made at home, by housewives everywhere.

The advertisement on the more orange colored paper is the one with recipes. It’s also the one that appears to have been marketed for American audiences. It has a small “U. S. A.” in the upper left corner and is labeled “specially prepared for exportation.” Yet, the recipes are clearly in British English and have a certain air of British cuisine about them. The other advertisement is more of a single-page essay praising the quality, benefits, and low cost of the Cox’s gelatine. It even includes a testimonial from a chemist. However, both make a reference to it being prepared for export, suggesting J. & G. Cox’s market may have been broad. Both ads are a little different from the pamphlet-type items gelatin companies also produced and gave away. And while these two ads do stand out a little more because of it, the audience and the intention was the same: selling product to consumers, whichever side of the Atlantic they were on.

Cooking with the Blacksburg Woman’s Club

For those of you who aren’t familiar with all the various areas of the History of Food & Drink Collection, one of our strengths is local community cookbooks. We do think about “local” a bit broadly, and while we look to gather primarily Blacksburg, Montgomery County, and Southwest Virginia community cookbooks, our shelves include plenty of titles from around the whole state of Virginia, as well as some of our neighboring Southern states (North Carolina, Tennessee, Maryland especially). By “community” cookbooks, we mean cookbooks produced by churches, schools, clubs and social organizations, historical sites, and other groups, usually created for sale and fund-raising purposes.

This week, I’ve put together a slideshow (I haven’t done one in quite a while!) including selections from My Stove and I, published in 1948. It was compiled by the Blacksburg Woman’s Club and includes recipes by the wives of VPI faculty and administrators, town residents (some of whom have familiar last names if you’re into Blacksburg history), and other sources (including one “Mrs. Harry. S. Truman!”). From what I can tell, this is currently the oldest of our Blacksburg community cookbooks and we’re lucky enough to have three copies. This one includes some handwritten notes and recommendation, some of which you’ll see in the slideshow, presumably put there by the previous owner.

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If you’d like to know more about the Blacksburg Woman’s Club, we can help with that! Special Collections houses a manuscript collection, Ms1960-002, Blacksburg Woman’s Club Records, 1907-1972. You can read more about the collection in the finding aid, and if you’d like to see materials, you can pay us a visit! We’ll be here!


On an unrelated note, we’ll be changing out the content in our public-facing display cases early next week. I’ll be putting together a picnic/grill/barbecue themed exhibit, featuring items from the History of Food and Drink Collection, which I plan to have in place by Tuesday (June 23rd). It will be up for about 4-5 weeks and if you’re in the neighborhood, drop by! Even if we aren’t open, you’ll be able to see everything through our glass wall.

Frosted Sandwich, Part 4: Return of the Son of Frosted Sandwich

I know. It’s the post you’ve been waiting months for…or dreading for just as long, wondering when I might find MORE frosted sandwich recipes to share. The long wait is over! (By the way, if you haven’t seen the previous posts in this series, you may want to check out #1, #2, and #3.)

Our first two recipes come from Sandwiches for Every Occasion, a booklet sponsored by Town Talk Bread. One looks like our traditional frosted loaf sandwich and includes recommendations for two ham loaf and egg-olive fillings. In the past, we’ve seen frosted sandwiches with one, two, or three layers and one of two “frostings”: cream cheese or mayonnaise. Here, we have a new frosting: cottage cheese. (I started considering whether cottage cheese would have the strength to stay on sides, or if it would sort of start to slide off. Then I stopped myself–some things are best left un-pondered.)

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Our second example from this booklet is a holiday-themed frosted sandwich! And a timely one, at that. I mean, what 4th of July celebration would be complete without cucumbers, tomatoes, and mayo rounds with a cream cheese shell, right? (It’s all very…round.) The best part is, these can be adapted to other parties and holidays. Just swap the flag on a toothpick for a piped heart-shape colored red or a baby shower decoration…

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After considering alternative decorations, I started thinking about color. If you really wanted to get into a theme, you could color your “frosting.” It turns out, despite the fact that we haven’t seen it in previous posts, I wasn’t the first to think of this idea.

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This party loaf from the Betty Crocker Recipe Card Library is frosted with yellow-tinted cream cheese (thinned with light cream). It has three layers that caused a few of my coworkers to give it strange looks. I toyed with launching a new guessing game called, “Name That Filling!,” but thought better of it. If you’d like to guess, you’re welcome to do so. I’ll list the fillings at the bottom of the post. :)

Next up isn’t a frosted sandwich exactly. It’s a bonus frosted item–an appetizer I found while looking for the party loaf above. That’s deviled ham, rolled into logs, and frosted with cream cheese. It seems close enough. Put it between to crackers and voila!

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Our next frosted item comes from another pamphlet, “Sandwich Secrets,” sponsored by Dreikorn’s Orange Wrap Bread. I scanned the whole page, since I thought any of the “sandwich pastes” at the top could also be potential fillings. We’re back to black-and-white images, which leaves much to the imagination, for better or worse. I did notice this version seems to have a far larger bread-to-filling ratio. And, it seems to have less frosting than many other variations. Perhaps that for the best?

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The last image in this week’s fascinating/terrifying post isn’t a sandwich, either. I’ve bombarded you with enough of those for the moment. It’s more…something to think about. The frosted sandwich isn’t something you’ll see on tables these days (no doubt we can guess why). But it seems there should have been more recipes during the height of its popularity. Besides the use of food coloring, “frostings” could have been adulterated in all kinds of way, including the addition of other flavors. So, this week, I’m leaving you with a selection of flavored mayonnaise recipes from Best Foods, Inc. (and the picture of a salmon salad mold that you could mistake for a frosted sandwich, unfortunately–I did at first).

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Just imagine the possibilities for your next party! Got olives in a filling? Use an olive mayo. Try a chili sauce mayo on that ham and chicken salad filled sandwich. Using (gulp) fish/seafood fillings? Maybe it needs sour cream mayo. There’s even the potential for a sweet(er) frosted sandwich, coated in fruit juice mayonnaise!

All my making fun of frosted sandwiches aside, I think they make a great example of a past culinary trend that materials in our collections can help you learn more about. There are foods that come and go, some once and some in waves. Other trends survive decades or even centuries. Researching culinary history is fascinating, fun, and a great way to come up with some strange facts to share with friends and colleagues. Whether you’re curious, scholarly, or both, you’re always welcome to visit us in search of recipes.



*Fillings (from top to bottom) in the Betty Crocker Party Loaf: “Golden Cheese Spread” (shredded cheddar and cream cheese with seasonings); chicken and olive; salmon salad

Bitters: Thinking Inside AND Outside the Glass

For those of you who follow the cocktail scene, this week (June 1-7) is “Negroni Week.” It’s a relatively new tradition from the people at Imbibe magazine that celebrates the cocktail and is a chance to give back to charity. Bars around the globe serve their own variations of the drink and donate to their favorite causes. It’s also my inspiration for this week’s blog post. (I promise there is a point to the introduction that follows, we’re just taking the winding road–Like any good cocktail, the road to a good blog post should be savored!)

The Negroni is a cocktail, like many, with a somewhat uncertain origin, though it most likely was invented in Italy in the 1910s or 1920s. While you can find all kinds of variants with different names that have developed since then (much like the Martini’s many, many variations), the classic Negroni is simple: 1/3 gin, 1/3 sweet vermouth, and 1/3 Campari. For the moment, we’re interested in Campari…sort of.  Campari is an herbal-and-fruit-based liqueur made in Italy. In other words, it’s a type of bitters. Bitters are basically botanicals pickled in water and alcohol used in small quantities to flavor cocktails. (The origin story and history of bitters are far more complex, but those are topics for another blog post.) As a cocktail ingredient, there used to be a few specific brands that were common, including the Angostura bitters you can still buy today. The rise of the craft cocktail in the last decade has led to flavors of bitters just about anyone can dream up (I can speak from personal experience, having made a few batches myself). However, it’s Angostura bitters we’re featuring this week.

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Our copy of For Home Use is from 1937, and the publication was already in its 8th edition at that point. Angostura Bitters, originally called “Aromatic Bitters” by their creator Dr. Johann Siegert, were first sold in 1824, though they wouldn’t exported beyond South America until 1830. From the book’s own pages, you’ll see that like others, Angostura bitters weren’t intended to be a cocktail ingredient (they predate the cocktail by a long shot–pun intended).

Toward the end of the publication, there are two pages of “Healthful Hints,” which take bitters into another part of the domestic sphere. The root of bitters (another pun intended) comes from more medicinal angle. One branch of the bitters evolution went in the direction of patent medicines, “cure-alls,” and the like, which were popularized in the 19th and early 20th century. But it didn’t stop there. From the cocktail glass to the dessert glass and from the soup bowl to punch bowl, Angostura bitters continue to be a versatile ingredient today.

Stay tuned for more about bitters, cocktails, and more in future posts. And, as always, if you’re in the neighborhood, pay us a visit. We love to share everything on our cocktail shelves, from Angostura bitters to recipes for Zombies.

 

The Garland Cook Book (Ovens, not Decorations, of course!)

Waaaaaaay back in 2011, when “What’s Cookin’ @Special Collections?!” was born, I talked about how our collection included materials relating to food technology. More specifically, we have historical books, publications, and ephemera which depict changes in food technology over time. This week, I tracked down a cookbook on our shelves that comes from a corporation. Rather than pushing a food product, like some other titles I’ve blogged about before, this one is pushing what we might call a food technology product: oven heat control.

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The Garland Oven Cook Book isn’t quite what I expected. I imagined this was a company that made ovens. I was sort of correct. In fact, it’s a cookbook designed around/for a specific oven part: heat control. The full title is actually The Garland Cook Book: Containing Tested Recipes for Cooking by Controlled Heat and Instructions for Operating the Garland Oven Heat Control. In other words, it’s a cookbook designed for process, based on a product. The introduction has a lot to say on this:

The subject of cooking by controlled heat is one that is engaging the attention of the best cooks and domestic science experts everywhere, and the verdict is unanimous that it not only makes much lighter the task of preparing the daily meals, but gives even the experienced cook a certainty of good results for cooking any particular dish desired…

The control automatically holds the flame of the oven steady at this desired temperature. It is not necessary to watch it, or even think about it, for the control keeps the heat constant and steady, without your having to touch the gas cock, or even go near the oven until the time is up to take the food from the oven.

I don’t know much about The Garland Cook Book. In fact, the only copy that shows up cataloged for public or academic libraries in WorldCat is ours, so it seems to be pretty scarce. There’s no clear date, but the cookbook was probably created by the Detroit-Michigan Stove Company, which produced Garland stoves. Lucky for us, the Detroit Historical Society knows more than I do, and there’s a short article on the Garland stove online. The stove dates back to the 1860s and the company to 1872. This item doesn’t have date, but is possibly from the very late 19th century, but more likely the early part of the 20th century.

However, probably the most important thing about this cookbook is the mechanism behind it. In terms of gas stoves, even temperature control was a huge leap forward in technology, kitchen efficiency, and home cooking. It meant less time being tied to the kitchen, less guesswork, and less need to keep a constant eye on the food.  I know we have some more publications in the collection (and some ephemera, too) dealing with stoves, ovens, and their changes over time. So, if you’re interested, you should pay us a visit and we’ll do some digging. You never know what we might uncover!

Corn: The War Edition

I realized that while I’ve written a bit about World War II and food/food substitutions for victory, I haven’t really shared as much about World War I and food. I did post about bread and World War I earlier this year, but this unobtrusive little volume struck me this morning (not literally, of course, though falling books can sometimes be a danger in this job). It’s The Corn Cook Book [War Edition] written by Elizabeth O. Hiller and published in 1918.

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I image you can guess what kinds of recipes this book has. (If you said anything but “corn,” I’d be shocked.) It’s primarily corn meal, but there are a few items that use actual corn kernels, too. I’ve included the preface, along with some sample pages, since it gives a nice introduction to this particular edition and to the cause it supports.

One of the things I like about this item is the advice at the bottom of each page. It starts at the bottom of the introduction, which features specific directions on how to do things like mix, stir, beat, cut and fold, as well as notes on how to measure. This note reads: “IMPORTANT–The foregoing instructions must be carefully followed; the ingredients called for in the recipes must be used, to insure success in the finished product. Each recipe in this Corn Cook Book has been carefully tested by an expect–a graduated teacher in household economics.” The rest of the book contains the same advice about skim milk and butter substitute. I wish there was a little bit of something else, but we can’t say Hiller wasn’t consistent.

I’ve done a little research and it actually appears this might have been the only edition of The Corn Cook Book–in other words, there doesn’t seem to have been a non-war edition. Hiller wrote a number of books in the first 20 years of the 20th century, primarily calendar or 365-day type meal planning cookbooks.

If you’d like to see the full version our feature text this week, you can check it out on the Internet Archive. Today is graduation, so our summer is about to kick off. Special Collections may not have as many students in the reading room, but we’ll be here and we’ll have plenty of visitors. We encourage you to be one of them!

Salads: “A Necessary Luxury?”

As is often the case when things are busy (like at the end of the semester), and your loyal archivist/blogger Kira is, well, less likely to plan her blog posts in advance, the best option is wandering the shelves. With more than 4,400 books and nearly 100 manuscript collections, there’s a lot I don’t know about and always something new to discover. I’m getting into the habit of training myself not to look only at eye level, which led me to today’s feature item: How to Make Salads from 1894.

I was intrigued by the title on the small envelope that houses this 121-year-old publication. I mean, in general, how difficult can be it? Put ingredients in bowl. Mix. Serve. Then again, I have gotten used to finding directions for the seemingly obvious (Lettuce sandwiches or hot cocoa, for example). Then, I took it out of the envelope and saw this:

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“A Necessary Luxury” Salads? “By all means, let’s see where this goes,” said the little voice in my head. It went here:

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Quotes by Sidney Smith and Shakespeare, a collection of elves, and what can only be described as a chicken, a lobster, and a bottle of salad dressing dancing in a circle? How…interesting.

All kidding aside, this is a rather neat little pamphlet. It’s easy to joke, but these 16 pages are full of practical recipes. There isn’t much variation of the secondary ingredients (celery, salt, pepper, vinegar, and the occasional other vegetable or garnish) and of course all the recipes include Royal Salad Dressing (the booklet’s sponsor). And there is a surprising range of primary ingredients from classics like chicken, lobster, cabbage, egg, or potato to the more exotic/unexpected ones like oyster, frog legs, sweet potato, or cauliflower. So, no matter what your salad needs, there’s something here for you.

According to WorldCat, Virginia Tech is one of only four academic or public libraries with copies of this, and it doesn’t appear to be digitized, which suggests it is relatively rare. I’m hoping to get the entire item scanned and online in the not-too-distant future.

Food AND Fun? In One Book? :)

Food & Fun for Daughter and Son was published in 1946. We acquired a copy last year, but it slipped off my radar until recently. I must not have had the time to take a good look, or I undoubtedly would have shared it sooner!

As you can see, this book is a blend of “how-to/advice for parents,” meal planning guide, nutrition manual, and cookbook. Typically, we have a wide range of recipes and menus, some more intriguing that others. (I’m curious about a lunch of beef broth, potato salad, and cake…but also not saying I’d turn it down.) What I found more interesting, though, was everything else. The intended audience is adults, but it sometimes results in seeming non-sequiturs like:

“To limited degree and in a kind, friendly way, table manners should be taught at an early age to avoid embarrassment when he comes in contact with older, well-behaved children.

Your immaculate, regular care of the refrigerator will prolong its efficiency and life.”

There are a few more pieces of advice about the kitchen, then it jumps to advice for caring for a child with a cold. I see the general connection, but the first couple chapters are a conglomerate of advice on a range of subjects that contribute to raising healthy children.

We’ve definitely looked at books for/about children that featured party themes and planning, but I think this is the first time we’ve come across a book with section devoted to “Diversions for an Only or Lonely Child.” The suggestions themselves may seem outdated or silly, but it was neat to see the topic addressed in conjunction with entertaining kids who are sick or stuck in bed.

So, until next week, if you’re missing us, don’t worry! There’s an imaginary pony of your own that needs training!

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