Cooking with Dromedary (NOT Camels, I promise!)

…Although the idea of cooking with a camel in one’s kitchen (not as an ingredient, but as a helper) is worth a giggle. Rather, our feature this week is from the Hills Brothers Co. of New York. Dromedary was the label of a variety of products, includes dates, figs, coconut, fruit butters, and tapioca. This particular cookbook comes from 1914. At 100 years old, it needs a moment in the spotlight.

Not surprisingly, then, the recipes in this little volume tend to highlight dates, figs, and tapioca. But, we can’t escape without our share of unique fillings (“Sweet Green Peppers Stuffed with Figs” and “Thanksgiving Squash Pie”), fried goodies (date AND fig fritters, plus croquettes), and curiously named recipes (“Golf Balls,” “Camel Fig Mousse”–named after the brand, and “Masked Apples”). Still, there are LOTS of great ideas for dried fruit in here and the recipes are diverse. It wasn’t all desserts, as I expected. So go on, try a “Delicious Sandwich”– It’s camel approved. 🙂

From Tiny Books to Chunky Books

You may recall A Tiny Post on Some Tiny Books that we shared last October, when we acquired three tiny books, one each on salads, sandwiches, and chafing dish recipes. The post ended with a note about the elusive 4th volume in the quartet, The Tiny Book on Cocktails. I’m happy to report that it took a couple of months, but we’ve had success…sort of. Each of the four volumes were published individually in 1905, but finding a copy of The Tiny Book on Cocktails is tricky, as they are few and far between. However, we were able to purchase a rare version of all four books, published together, alternately titled, The Chunky Book.

The Chunky Book spine
The Chunky Book spine
The Chunky Book front cover. The book used to have a strap.
The Chunky Book front cover. The book used to have a strap.
The Chunky Book side view. Yes, it really is chunky!
The Chunky Book side view. Yes, it really is chunky!

The majority of The Chunky Book consists of the three volumes we already have (The Tiny Book on Salads, The Tiny Book on Sandwiches, and The Tiny Book on Chafing Dishes), each one divided by a few blank pages. The last part, however, is our new addition: The Tiny Book on Cocktails. There are some that may seem familiar, some that are forgotten in today’s modern cocktail age, and some that just make you wonder. There’s a table of contents and a short introduction on cocktails and ingredients, with the following note: “A cocktail should never be bottled and should always be made at the time of drinking. A bottled cocktail might be likened unto a depot sandwich–neither are fit for use except in cases of necessity.” While not a unique perspective, it makes an interesting contrast to the work of some other early cocktail book authors, who often have recipes for bottling mixes. 

If you were to spend a little more time looking through the recipes, you’ll notice a trend of certain ingredients, namely gin, whiskey, and brandy, along with wine-based aperitifs, bitters, and lemon peel. Lots of lemon peel. There are other, more unique ingredients–specific types of rum or liqueurs, for example–but gin, whiskey, and brandy were at the core of cocktail culture in early 20th century America, so we shouldn’t be surprised. (Rum was gaining ground, but vodka was still decades away from filling the American market and glass.)

In any case, The Chunky Book makes for fun perusing, if you’d like to stop by and swap sandwich, salad, hot dish, OR cocktail recipes. And until next week, cheers and eat well!

A Tiny Post on Some Tiny Books

Cookbooks come in all sizes, and sometimes, in a variety of shapes (last year, we posted a book shaped like a cocktail shaker). This week, we’re talking size. It’s a tiny post on some tiny books! Just last month, we acquired three little books (and when we say little, we’re not kidding!). For scale, we’ve photographed one next to a standard paperclip:

Our three books are each devoted to one type of recipe. There’s The Tiny Book on SaladsThe Tiny Book on Sandwiches, and The Tiny Book on Chafing Dishes. All three were published in 1905 by the Livermore & Knight Co. in Providence, Rhode Island. Each book has sections for different main ingredients and you’ll see a combination of common and, by modern standards, uncommon recipes.

The first question many people ask when they first see these books is “why?” Is there a point to a cookbook this small? Or was is more a gimmick? We don’t have a clear answer. Despite the size, the font is surprisingly readable (which can often be the case with small books) and the recipes are simple, practical, and, for the most part, likely very tasty. The small size would make the books easy to store in a apron pocket (though good luck keeping track of them on a traditional bookshelf!).

Research suggests there are two more books in the series, The Tiny Book on Candies and The Tiny Book on Cocktails. We’ll keep our eyes open for these additional gems and hope you will, too! In the meantime, we invite you to visit us and check out the three we have on hand. We think you’ll get a kick out of them.

Frosted Sandwich, Part 3: Son of Frosted Sandwich

As I sat here contemplating a blog post for the week, I had a sudden realization: The blog turned two on September 14 and the day snuck right past me! So,

HAPPY SECOND BIRTHDAY, WHAT’S COOKIN’ @SPECIAL COLLECTIONS?!”

That being said, I can’t think of a better way to celebrate than with some festive, monochromatic (and occasionally polychromatic) party recipes…and the return of the frosted sandwich (It’s been a while, I know)!

Today’s images are from Good Luck Color Scheme Parties. Published in 1931, this 32 page pamphlet features creative recipes in a range of colors and flavors. It covers not only holidays, but also card and occasional parties, all while, of course, promoting John F. Jelke Company products like Good Luck Margarine and Evaporated Milk.

This plain cake is separated by layers of jam. Sad marshmallow clown aside, we needed a (belated) birthday cake image to celebrate the blog.
This plain cake is separated by layers of tasty jam. Sad marshmallow clown aside, we needed a (belated) birthday cake image to celebrate the blog.

So, here’s looking forward to another year of posts and LOTS more learning about the History of Food and Drink Collection! It may just be your year to pay us a visit, too!

From Root to Table: Raw Foods in the Early 20th Century

This week, we’re featuring Uncooked Foods & How to Use Them: A Treatise on How to Get the Highest Form of Animal Energy from Food: With Recipes for Preparation, Healthful Combinations and Menus by Mr. and Mrs. Eugene Christian. This particular volume is a recent addition to Special Collections. Published in 1904, it’s actually the 5th edition, so this husband and wife team seemed to be on a roll…

Eugene Christian was the more prolific of the pair, authoring a variety of books on food, diet, nutrition, and health in general between 1900-1930. His wife co-authored a several books with him, however. Uncooked Foods & How to Use Them features a little bit of everything: directions on how and what to eat, how to prepare foods (very little!), sample recipes, sample meal plans, and some about why the idea of eating raw foods was important to the authors. For Special Collections, this piece is a great new addition. While we have a number of volumes on vegetarianism in the 19th and 20th centuries, this is the first book we have on raw foods and the raw foods movement. (Now, we’ll be on the lookout for more!)

You’ll notice that there are a few cooked/prepared foods in the book, though they seem to be carefully chosen and few and far between. The section on soup, for example, is prefaced by the statement that: “We give here a few recipes for soups only because the soup habit is so firmly fixed in the mind of the housewife and the epicure that they can hardly conceive of a decent dinner without them. All soups may be warmed sufficiently to serve hot without cooking.” All but one of the few meat or fish dishes are smoked or dried. The others are all raw, including a beef tartare recipe.

So whether you’re hankering for egg-nog with fruit juice, raw carrot and turnips with (or without) salad dressing, or prune pie, this book could be for you. You’ll just have to come by and see. Until then, happy eating!

On Catering, Quality, Chickens, Eggs, and More!

This week’s post may not answer the question of which came first, but it does have a great day to say about quality chickens, eggs, and other poultry–not to mention meats, salads, and pastries.

The title of this publication, in full, is John Hill’s Book: The Culinary Art as Applied to Catering, Including an Abridged List of Cooked Articles Available for Home Service (c.1929). If that isn’t quite clear, don’t worry. Even once you unravel it, the contents aren’t quite what you might think. The title suggests is might be a catering menu–which it is. But that’s not all it is. It’s also a short treatise on quality ingredients, an advertisement for catering services, and, one might argue, a collection of food management/storage hints.

Most of right hand pages include some examples of items the caterer can provide. We see a wide range of foods, from cakes and pastry to sandwiches and salads. However, we are informed that this is only a small fraction of what the company can provide, though listing the full range “would be burdensome for [the company] and confusing to you, were we to list them all.” One wonders how a catering menu might prove confusing for potential clients–perhaps it’s because, as the publication later states, they have no “‘regular’ or stereotyped menus.” At the very least, it’s clear John Hill prefers to meet in person. The photographs of the business certainly suggest a desire to show off the fine supplies and capabilities it can provide.

Another portion of the text is taken up by a series of mini-essays on quality ingredients. On the one hand, they are a chance to talk about the high quality of foods used by the company in their catering efforts: “We will not talk bout eggs in the abstract, but of John Hill eggs, about which there is nothing abstract” and “There is no chicken quite like ours.” The publication also touches in kitchen processes and technology, spending two pages on cold storage and the disservice it does.

But freezing does more than ruin the flavor of meat and poultry–it is conceivably responsible for the prevalence of dyspepsia and kindred ills among Americans–so, if you want to avoid dyspepsia, avoid frozen foods.

(On a side note, according to the 1915 Jell-O and the Kewpies, you may also want to avoid pie: “Twenty years ago everybody ate pie and nearly everybody had dyspepsia. Jell-O had not been heard of. Now there is scarcely a housewife in America who does not make and serve Jell-O desserts, and stomach-ache is not so common as it used to be.”)

Perhaps most striking about this publication, though, is the quality of the item itself. It may not be obvious from the scans above, but this is by no means ephemeral. It has a nice paper cover, with a paper dust jacket, and large photos. It appears to have been printed on handmade paper that was folded, and the edges were not cut smooth. Was it merely a way to attract a certain caliber of customer? Was it intended to be something more than just an advertisement? Were the tidbits on quality meant to be taken as hints for the everyday household? Unfortunately, we don’t have answers to those questions, but John Hill’s Book, with its mix of advertising, lecturing, and menus makes for a unique addition to the History of Food & Drink Collection.

Oh, and just remember, “Speed is as incongruous in good cooking as it in in a good golfer’s game of golf.” Or if you prefer fashion metaphors to sports, menus should be “just as special as the dresses of the most fashionable couturiere.” Whether you’re cooking, eating, or both, the point is, take a little time and enjoy something special this week.

Celebrating the Sandwich, International Style!

As you may recall from last week, it’s National Sandwich Month. To wrap-up (pun intended) August, we have a wonderful pamphlet with nearly 100 pages of international sandwich delights.  Well, nearly 100 pages of international sandwiches, at least. This week, we present Frederic Girnau’s Sandwich Book of All Nations: Over 300 Ways of Making Delicious Sandwiches, Appetizers, and Canapes by Ruth Elizabeth Mills, published c.1945.

Amazing what you can do with a couple pieces of bread and just about anything you have lying around…Even if you don’t have a traditional filling. Just make a sandwich of bread and tartar sauce or pieces of fruit! In addition to the ones above, there is a whole page on cherry fillings, as well as other citrus fruits, dates, and prunes. If you’re seeking the more unique, there’s homemade peanut mayonnaise, tomato jelly, cream cheese and beet, or nasturtium sandwiches.

Our copy of Frederic Girnau’s Sandwich Book of All Nations: Over 300 Ways of Making Delicious Sandwiches, Appetizers, and Canapes is one of about 5 in public and academic library hands and is well worth a glance or two. The Frederic Girnau referenced in the title was actually the publisher and Mills wrote several books the company during the 1940s. She authored two books on preparing seafood and fish and game and waterfowl the “sportman’s way,” as well as pamphlets on cookies and international foods.

On a side note, if you asked me (archivist/blogger/foodie Kira, as usual!) in 2009, before I started working at Virginia Tech, before I encounter the History of Food & Drink Collection here, and before I spent 40% of my time thinking about food (back then it was only about 20%), the idea of a simple lettuce sandwich never occurred to me. Oh, how ignorant I was in those days! As regular readers may know, the lettuce sandwich has become a frequent guest on our blog, with a startling number of variations. This publication is no exception, with two recipes of its own…one of which starts with dipping the leaves in mayonnaise! (The other involves chopping leaves into strips with scissors, THEN applying the mayo.)

Lastly, it’s difficult to ignore the blatant and repetitive advertising going on in this publication. The bottom of every page reminds you to serve BEER with your sandwiches. It’s only fair to explain why this is the case, since it also gives me the chance to share the somewhat dated advertisement printed on the back. Without further ado, the front and back covers of our feature item:

Because nothing says “let’s picnic” more than a swell mustard-and-bread sandwich and an icy cold beer!

Until next week, when we give up bread and meat for some children’s adventures in the kitchen, keep making those sandwiches.