All posts by Kate Collins

Almond Cake (1911) – Rubenstein Library Test Kitchen

When Kate—our fearless Test Kitchen coordinator—assigned me to the Friday, April 15th post, I was very excited. Not because I love the month of April so much, although a couple of my nearest and dearest count it as their birthday month. And not because I love doing my taxes, it’s definitely not that. What I do love is a theme, and Tax Day—although not this year for a very good reason— provides an excellent opportunity for a monetarily themed baked good: financiers.

A financier is a small cake made with almonds. Its distinct name bears testament to the financial market in 19th Century France: financiers were first created in a bakery near the financial center of Paris, where many a financier could visit; the cakes are also a crisp golden color and baked in small rectangular molds (Hesser). So at their heart, financiers are really just edible gold bars, which may be even better than real gold bars, as food resembling precious metals most likely can’t be subject to additional income taxes.

While the origin story of these gilt cakes can be found on websites and is recounted in a 19th Century tome (Mémorial Historique et Géographique de la Patisserie), recipes for it don’t make frequent appearances in cookbooks (Hesser). Some of this may be born from the fact that the recipe is fairly straightforward, mainly involving eggs, butter, flour, and sugar. Haute cuisine (fine food) was very much a part of the French cookbook tradition, dating back to the publication of La Varenne’s Le Cuisinier Francais in 1651 (DeJean, 2005, p.107-109). Or, it could be a recipe known very well to the French, and just little known to Americans. In fact, there was little interaction between French cuisine and North Americans until the mid-to-late 20th Century when Julia Child, Simone Beck, and Louisette Bertholle’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking was first published, bringing French cuisine across the ocean (DeJean, 2005, p.131).

All this is to say, a recipe for financiers proved too elusive for me, and so I substituted in a similar recipe from our collections involving almonds, conveniently titled “Almond Cake” and found in  Royal Baker and Pastry Cook published by Royal Baking Powder Company. There are only two notable differences between the almond cake selected and financiers: baking powder and brandy, which I didn’t have anyway, and so I just left it out.almond cake 1

Royal Baking Powder Company was based out of New York and copyrighted its cookbook in 1911. The company took baking powder very seriously, and in its cookbook included such sections as “General Directions,” which “must be carefully read by everyone using this book” (p.1) and “Facts worth knowing” (p.44). These sections pertain to the merits of different types of baking powder. Did you know that there were 3 kinds of baking powder in 1911, with 3 different main ingredients? These ingredients were 1) cream of tartar, 2) phosphate of lime, and 3) alum and alum-phosphate. Royal Baking Powder is made with the “wholesomeness of cream of tartar” (p.1), and the makers advocate using only those baking powders made with cream of tartar.

almond cake 2

The recipe I used was appealingly tiny and contained mostly familiar terms. I did learn a new definition for the word “gills.” Not only does it refer to a specific kind of fish tissue, but it is also “a measure for liquids, containing one fourth of a standard pint.” (Gill, n.3). Thankfully, the latter definition is the one referenced in Royal Baking Powder Company’s recipe.

almond cake 3

The ingredients in the recipe were all things that might normally be in a kitchen, which meant I made a couple trips to the store. And even though I’m truly enamored with the word “gills,” I did not follow this part of the recipe, instead choosing to grind my pre-sliced almonds with their skin still on. Because Royal Baking Powder so vehemently argued against aluminum based baking powder, I chose one that prominently advertised that it did not contain any:

almond cake 4

Whenever I read my colleagues’ Test Kitchen posts, I always envision the labor involved in cooking the food– whether that’s scooping up lard to fry Mexican ravioles or carefully molding meat into a box shape.Some of these activities undoubtedly look exactly the same as they did in the recipes’ heydays. Others feature new technologies and look decidedly different. My own activities fell into the latter category. I chose to use my blender and hand mixer to combine ingredients, both because of time constraints and because my arms just aren’t strong enough to mix in each egg individually, with 3-4 minute intervals for beating.  What would’ve taken me 12 minutes to do thus took me 5, and the recipe came together very quickly. Je ne regrette rien.

 

almond cake 5

almond cake 6Financiers are most typically baked in individual molds. Royal Baking Powder specifies a fluted pan, which I don’t own. I thus didn’t follow the recommendations for either financiers or the almond cake and baked it in a clear pan. This was probably a mistake, as glass pans do not conduct heat as well as metal ones (Lawandi, J.).

almond cake 7

As with other recipes of its time, Royal Baking Powder doesn’t specify a temperature, and so I arbitrarily chose 375 degrees. After checking on the cake at 20 minutes, and then again at 35 minutes, I decided to bump up the heat to 400 degrees. (You may recall that the recommended cooking time was 20 minutes.) Another 10 minutes resulted in a cake that would not poison eaters, and I called that success and took it out of the oven.

almond cake 8

I attempted to give my almond cake a more financial appearance and shaved the cake down into gold bars. The cake was quite crumbly and didn’t quite take to my tender ministrations. I quickly let go of my gold bar dreams (and taking pictures) and just started eating, which was a good thing to do. The cake was much better than expected, and I quickly helped myself to another couple slices. I imagine that it would taste even better with ice cream.

My quest for a financier recipe ultimately reminded me of a library aphorism: let the resources guide your research, meaning that it’s probably not a good idea to choose a topic (or theme) until you look at the resources available to you. If I had paid more attention to that rule of thumb, I might have chosen a slightly more accessible recipe and ended up with a delightful French pastry that more closely followed the instructions.

To be fair, I also ended up learning more about financiers, French cuisine, and baking powder than I ever dreamed of, and those are things certainly worth knowing. Just as importantly, I ended up with a delicious dessert to get me to the weekend.

Works Cited

DeJean, J. E. (2005). The Essence of Style: How the French Invented High Fashion, Fine Food, Chic Cafés, Style, Sophistication, and Glamour. New York: Free Press.

Gill, n.3. (n.d.). Retrieved April 15, 2016, from http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/78285?rskey=ObQoES

Hesser, A. (1999, November 24). The Pastry Chef’s Rich Little Secret. The New York Times. Retrieved April 12, 2016, from http://www.nytimes.com/1999/11/24/dining/the-pastry-chef-s-rich-little-secret.html

Lawandi, J. (n.d.). When to Use Glass Bakeware and When to Use Metal – We’ve Got Chemistry. Retrieved April 15, 2016, from http://www.thekitchn.com/glass-vs-metal-bakeware-is-there-a-difference-food-science-217961

Royal Baker and Pastry Cook: A Manual of Practical Receipts for Home Baking and Cooking. (1911). New York, U.S.A.: Royal Baking Powder.

Post Contributed by Liz Adams, Special Collections Cataloger

 

Nkisi Nkondi in the History of Medicine Collections

As the Josiah Charles Trent Intern for the History of Medicine Collections, I have the opportunity to work with closely with a number of rare books, manuscripts and artifacts spanning hundreds of years and several continents. Because I’m here for a brief period of time, I’ve had to immerse myself in the materials in order to become familiar with them. While learning about the breadth and depth of the collections, one item in particular stood out to me: the nkisi nkondi figure in the History of Medicine artifacts collection.

photograph of nkisin kondi sculpture

Nkisi nkondi figures come from the Kongo people, a Bantu ethnic group located in the present-day Democratic Republic of the Congo. Nkisi are spirits or objects that spirits inhabit, and nkondi are an aggressive subclass of nkisi that are used to punish wrongdoing and enforce oaths.

The figures were created collaboratively between sculptors and spiritual specialists called nganga. The wooden figure would be carved by the sculptor, and they could range in size from less than a foot tall, like the figure in the Trent Collection, to lifesize. The sculptor would create a cavity in the head or stomach, which then would be packed with materials chosen for their spiritual significance, such as dirt from an ancestor’s grave. The cavity would then be covered by a mirror or glass, which was believed to allow the spirit to peer through into our world. The figures were often created at the edge of a village because it was the borders and entrances that needed to be protected from outside harm.

The nails in the figure indicate the number of times the spirit was invoked. The spirit would then hunt down wrongdoers, such as thieves or an oath breaker. Nkisi nkondi were used publicly by entire villages and tribal leaders and were intended to protect the innocent. Use by an individual for private gain was considered to be witchcraft.

Although nkisi nkondi figures have been made since at least the sixteenth century, the nailed figures which are predominantly found in western collections were most likely made in the northern region of the Kongo cultural area during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Prior to the availability of nails, nganga would invoke the spirit through other means such as banging two figures together.

During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, colonizers from Belgium, France, and Portugal viewed the figures as weapons of resistance. Missionaries removed them through coercion, or force if necessary, in an effort to remove what was seen as their pagan influence over villagers. Most figures found in western collections were removed during this time period. Because of this history, provenance of the figures can prove to be elusive. Today, the beliefs that underlie these figures still exist, but they no longer take these elaborate forms.

exhibit case with items including nkisi nkondi sculpture

The nkisi nkondi figure is currently on display in the Josiah Charles Trent History of Medicine Room as part of an exhibit celebrating the sixtieth anniversary of the collection’s arrival at Duke University, which will be up through the end of June.

Post contributed by Amelia Holmes, Josiah Charles Trent Intern for the History of Medicine Collections

March 29: Wikipedia Editathon – Women of Science and Philosophy

When: Tuesday, March 29, 6-9pm
Where: The Edge Workshop room, Bostock Library
Wikipedia Meetup Page
Facebook Event

Please join us for an opportunity to learn how to edit Wikipedia articles for a global audience, and to help record the hidden history of women in science and philosophy. This event will help document women’s achievements in the fields of science and philosophy, drawing on the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection and Project Vox.

From labor, science and activism, to art and philosophy, the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection and Project Vox document the many ways women have been productive, creative, and socially engaged over more than five hundred years. A wealth of rare documentary materials in the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection sheds light on the long history of women’s involvement in a variety of scientific disciplines. Project Vox is an online platform developed by scholars at Duke for discovering and discussing the forgotten contributions made by women to philosophy and science during the early modern period. The goal of this Edit-a-thon is to raise awareness about the key intellectual figures whose works are featured in the collections by creating and contributing to entries on Wikipedia.

Put your knowledge and intellectual curiosity into action by creating, editing, or translating Wikipedia entries that document the lives and contributions of women in philosophy and science. By collaborating together we can disseminate this important information to the broader public. This event is part of a worldwide movement to increase the percentage of women editors and woman-focused articles within Wikipedia. Bring your laptop if you have one, or use one of ours. You can also participate from anywhere in the world!

Jane S. Richardson, a James B. Duke Professor of Biochemistry, who developed the ribbon-diagram as the first 3-D representation of protein structures, and a noted Wikipedia contributor, will inaugurate the Edit-a-thon. Refreshments will be provided.

 

Sponsored by Duke University Libraries, the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture, University Archives, the Italian Program at Duke, and the Duke Medical Center Archives.

Marshall Meyer and Argentina’s Jewish Movement for Human Rights

Today, March 24, 2016, marks the fortieth anniversary of the Argentine military coup that ushered in one of the Western Hemisphere’s most repressive regimes. Seeking to quash “subversion” and liberalize the economy, the coalition of military and civilian leaders who seized power in March 1976 instituted a vicious, secretive system of kidnapping, torture, and killing that claimed tens of thousands of lives and damaged countless more.

Each March 24, now deemed the Day of Remembrance for Truth and Justice, Argentina honors these victims and energizes the ongoing struggle for accountability. Yet this year’s commemoration has assumed an unusual character, as President Barack Obama’s ill-timed visit to Argentina has focused the lion’s share of attention on the U.S.’ own role in first encouraging and later opposing the dictatorship. The involvement of the U.S., however, is far from the whole story. Indeed, focusing on this topic alone obscures the pioneering work of the coalition of Argentine human rights groups that fought, at great personal risk, to denounce the dictatorship, demanding justice for its victims and punishment of its crimes.

In this post I turn away from the presidential-visit frenzy to focus instead on one of the less-heralded members of the anti-regime coalition, the Movimiento Judío por los Derechos Humanos (MJDH, or Jewish Movement for Human Rights). Founded in August 1983 by Argentine journalist Herman Schiller and U.S.-born Rabbi Marshall T. Meyer, the MJDH served as a pole of Jewish anti-regime activism. Yet despite its significance, the MJDH has received little attention in Spanish and virtually none in English. Fortunately, though, the Rubenstein Library’s Marshall T. Meyer Papers contain a wealth of documents that shed light on Meyer’s role in the organization and on its broader efforts on behalf of truth and justice in Argentina, enabling this brief and timely overview of its work.

The dictatorship that seized power on March 24, 1976 was a product not only of Cold War anti-communism, but also of Argentina’s long-standing nationalist ideology, an anti-modern vision of the world that combined ultramontane Catholicism and anti-Semitism with a violent desire to quash all opposition. Many within this movement saw Jews a key root of subversion in Argentina and the world at large (powerfully illustrated in the “tree of subversion” illustration below), so it is unsurprising that the country’s large Jewish minority found itself a disproportionate target of state violence. Yet the major institutions of the country’s Jewish establishment—including its umbrella organization, the Delegación de Asociaciones Israelitas Argentinas (DAIA, or Delegation of Argentine Jewish Associations) took a cautious and even cooperative approach to the dictatorship, leaving regime victims and their relatives with few places to turn for support. At the same time, international Jewish organizations like the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee fought valiantly to denounce the dictatorship, yet in centering their activism exclusively on the Jewish community, these groups at times divorced the Jewish-Argentine experience of repression from those of other regime victims.

Roots of Subversion

Building on Schiller’s ongoing anti-regime advocacy and Meyer’s longstanding work to support both Jews and non-Jews subject to the dictatorship’s terror, the MJDH came together in mid-1983 in order to advance a holistic vision of social justice that tied the defeat of anti-Semitism to the protection of human rights across all sectors of Argentine society. By this point, the country’s dictatorship was fast approaching the brink of collapse, having been fatally weakened by its humiliating defeat in the 1982 Malvinas/Falklands War with the United Kingdom. It was a moment, Schiller and Meyer understood, when a united opposition reaching across Argentine society could both extract real concessions from the regime and help to shape a most just democratic future.

The MJDH’s first public activity, as described in a November 1984 summary of its first year of organizing, was to convene a Jewish continent to participate in an August 1983 march against the military’s attempt to bestow amnesty upon itself for its many crimes. The success of this act emboldened Meyer and Schiller, encouraging them to plan their first independent rally for October of that year. Amid the political and economic tumult of late 1983, a new wave of anti-Semitism was washing over the country. While DAIA and other community leaders quietly lobbied the dictatorship to combat rising anti-Jewish sentiments, the MJDH took to the streets of downtown Buenos Aires. Despite DAIA’s attempts to derail the event, thousands of supporters gathered at the city’s iconic Obelisk to hear Nobel laureate Adolfo Pérez Esquivel and Hebe de Bonafini, leader of the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, denounce anti-Semitism and state terror as interlinked assaults on Argentines’ basic human dignity.

The MJDH’s work continued past the free election of civilian President Raúl Alfonsín on October 30, 1983. Throughout the transitional period, Schiller and Meyer organized rallies, speeches, conferences, and teach-ins, working with the Mothers and other human rights advocates to denounce ongoing threats to democracy and to demand the judicial punishment of regime crimes. Together with the efforts of other Argentine human rights groups, these efforts culminated in the precedent-setting 1985 Trial of the Juntas, which sent the dictatorship’s generals and torturers to jail and helped consolidate a new norm of criminal accountability in Argentina and in post-dictatorial societies far beyond. While the MJDH’s activities have diminished in subsequent decades, even today the MJDH continues to push for a full accounting of dictatorship-era abuses and for open discussion of the Jewish community’s complicated role in these difficult years. Spanning these decades of activism is a commitment to the plural vision of Jewish well-being, tied inseparably to universal rights, to which Meyer dedicated his life.

By examining the work of civil society groups like the MJDH, we can help to move beyond decontextualized visions of the dictatorship that present it as a narrow conspiracy, imposed on the country with aid from abroad. The experiences of leaders like Herman Schiller and Marshall Meyer, together with those of the MJDH’s supporters and opponents alike, help us to recover from Argentina’s recent history a measure of the nuance and complexity with which it was lived.

Post contributed by Paul Katz, PhD Candidate in History, Columbia University. 

Oatmeal Cakes and Baked Oatmeal (1917) – Rubenstein Library Test Kitchen

While processing the Slade Family Papers my colleague came across several delightful pamphlets from the US Department of Agriculture on economical and nutritious foods. One in particular caught my eye, “Do You Know Oatmeal?” which was published in 1917. Conveniently, it had already been digitized and was available through the Internet Archive.

oatmeal1
Do you know oatmeal?

As a long time fan of oatmeal, I was thrilled to see it get the government promotion it deserves. There were several recipes to choose from, and in a change from some past test kitchen experiences, all the recipes seemed edible to this oatmeal lover. Finally, I decided on “Spiced Oatmeal Cakes” which seemed to be a cross between a cookie and a muffin, and “Baked Oatmeal and Nuts.” As a vegetarian, I was especially intrigued by the direction “Instead of meat, cook this appetizing dish for your family.”

oatmeal 2
Part cookie, part muffin?
oatmeal 3
Savory oats

According to Wikipedia oatmeal can refer to ground oats, rolled oats in various forms (instant, quick cooking, “old fashioned”, etc.) or steel cut or Irish oats. The recipe did not specify a type, but the long cooking time given on the front page (1 hour in a double boiler) suggested the “old fashioned” variety rather than instant or quick cooking. However, I never cook my oats longer than 10 minutes on the stove top so I was a bit skeptical. In the end, I went with what I had in my cabinet, Quaker Old Fashioned.

oatmeal 4
The Face of Oatmeal

I started with the oat cakes. All the ingredients were things I already had in my pantry. The only oddities in the recipe were 3 tablespoons of unspecified fat and the lack of oven temperature. I chose canola oil and 350 degrees.

oatmeal 5
Mise en place

These were very easy to assemble, even with the extra step of precooking the oatmeal. The dough/batter was very dry and I had to add ¼ cup water in order to reach a stir-able consistency. I also did not get 12 cakes.

oatmeal 6
Into the oven they go!
Thirty Minutes Later
Thirty Minutes Later!

Verdict: They were super tasty warm from the oven. I ate 3. They also smelled delicious while they baked.

The “Baked Oatmeal and Nuts” was equally as easy to assemble. Sadly, this would not feed 5 people, despite what the recipe says. I regularly cook 2 cups of dry oats for 2 people for breakfast, and then add fruit, flax seeds, and sugar. 2 cups already cooked oatmeal, split between 5 people would be a snack at best, even with the addition of peanuts and milk.

I used apple cider vinegar, and I used soymilk instead of regular milk. I also reduced the salt to 1.5 teaspoons. I also accidentally added ½ teaspoon pepper instead of ¼ that the recipe calls for. Since the oven was already preheated, I stuck with the previously decided upon temperature of 350 degrees.

oatmeal 8
Ingredients for Baked Oatmeal and Nuts
oatmeal 9
The Final Product

Verdict: This was fairly tasty, although a little bland. I would also bake it longer than 15 minutes if I were to make it again.

Post contributed by Jessica Janecki, Rare Materials Cataloger

Rubenstein Library Test Kitchen: Mexican Ravioles (1947)

cookbook coverIf the E. coli outbreak at Chipotle has you looking for a new way to satisfy your cravings or if you are simply hoping to make a step up from those late night Taco Bell runs, then this post is for you. If you have a hankering for warm cheese and fried foods (and who doesn’t?), Josefina Velazquez de Leon and her Mexican Cook Book Devoted to American Homes are here to help.

Before I introduce you to the wonders of Mexican Ravioli, the woman behind this delicious (yet messy) dish deserves a brief shout-out. A famous figure in mid-20th century Mexico, Josefina Velazquez de Leon has been called the “apostle of the enchilada” by one food historian. A widow who began teaching cooking classes in the 1920s, Velazquez de Leon was popular with Mexico City’s middle and upper class women. These women came to class hoping to learn how to cook Mexican favorites as well as the secrets to European cuisine. She was a particularly sought after cake decorator and wowed her students with sugar sculptures of such Hollywood icons as Popeye the Sailor Man and Snow White & the Seven Dwarves.

author picture
“Apostle of the Enchilada” Josefina Velazquez de Leon

In addition to classes at her Mexico City cooking school, Velazquez de Leon took to preaching the word of the enchilada in magazines and books in the 1930s and 1940s. Initially submitting recipes and helpful culinary hints to women’s magazines, Velazquez de Leon published her first cookbook in the late 1930s with the release of Practical Manual of Cooking and Pastry. Velazquez de Leon would eventually publish 150 cookbooks and establish her own press. Quick to adopt new technologies, Velazquez de Leon worked to reach a larger audience through radio and television programming in the 1940s. Her first of many daily radio programs was called “Laziness in the Kitchen.” The show was intended to teach women to prepare appetizing meals with the modern appliances and packaged foods making their way into Mexican homes at the time. In the early 1950s, Velazquez de Leon made the jump to television with the launching of her show “The Menu of the Week.”

Through print, radio, and television, Velazquez de Leon worked to promote Mexican foods at a time when many of her contemporaries concentrated on international cuisine and traditional Mexican dishes were associated with lower social classes. Her work highlighted the diversity of Mexican cuisine as well as the culinary contributions made by each of the country’s regions to a national food landscape. Velazquez de Leon’s devotion to her nation’s cuisine did not preclude experimentation. She frequently fused culinary elements from other nations with traditional Mexican dishes. The recipe tested here is just one example of this. Another recipe, “Italian Enchiladas,” uses sardines, potatoes, and Parmesan cheese as enchilada filling.

Mexican Cook Book Devoted to American Homes offers a particularly interesting look at Velazquez de Leon’s promotion of Mexican cuisine. The book is tailored to the needs of cooks in the United States. In addition to providing text in both Spanish and English, the book explains the main ingredients and cooking equipment used in Mexican cooking. Instructions for preparing the essentials (such as tortillas and beans) in the mid-20th century American kitchen are also provided. Most of the recipes included are recognizable to the 2016 chef.  However, for the more adventurous American cook, Velazquez de Leon offers a chance to test your skills or possibly cause your dinner guests to flee. “Exquisite eggs,” “huevo rancheros,” and the tantalizingly named “Mexican Macaroni” are sure to delight. The somewhat oddly named “Horse Back Riders with Leather Overalls” seems like more of a gamble. But if you’ve got a radish, a ½ pound of lard, a pork loin, 12 eggs, and a laurel leaf cluttering the pantry it might be worth considering. Sadly, I lacked most of those. Nor did I have the 5 birds required to make “Old Fashioned Pigeon” or the “kid” necessary to cook “A Kid in its Blood.” I assume that this is a reference to a young goat. I also doubted that I possessed the technical abilities or the amount of bleach that would ultimately be needed to create the undoubtedly appetizing “Gut Stuffed with Blood.”

I was a bit less daring and went with the more sedate “Mexican Ravioles.” Despite the delectable end result, the teacher in Velazquez de Leon would probably have been horrified at the mess I made as well as the purple plastic spatula that I melted in a pot of hot lard. This was C plus work at best.  However, not all of the blame should go to the student.The cooking instructions, for instance, require the use of 2 eggs and tomato puree, neither of which made it into the ingredients list. Broth is listed as an ingredient, but fails to make an appearance in the recipe. The appropriate oven temperature is also omitted. I picked 375 degrees for no particular reason.

recipe

The ingredients (or, at least, the ones that you actually need) are basic and easy to find. I’ll take this opportunity to point out that lard is a key ingredient. The recipe lists nearly a ½ pound of this, but I used significantly more (a fact which would likely make my Southern grandmother immensely proud).ingredientslard!

The dough, a combination of flour, cornmeal, lard, salt, egg, and baking powder, was rolled out and then cut into medium-sized circles. Following the dough instructions provided in the recipe produced an extremely dry mixture. Upon reflection, I assume that this must have been what the broth was for, but hindsight is 20/20 and I simply added hot water at the time.

rolling

The dough circles are then filled with cheese, folded closed, and sealed along the edges with egg white.

dough

And now onto the frying! My experience creating fried foods is minimal so I was surprised at how easy this step was. (My experience eating fried foods, on the other hand, is not as I make a yearly pilgrimage to the North Carolina State Fair). I simply tossed a hunk of lard in a pot, waited until it seemed hot enough, and then dropped in the ravioli. I waited until the dough took on an attractive golden brown color and then removed the ravioli from the pot. While this was not the final step, I’ll admit that I “tested” 1 or more of these post-frying. It was a good decision. Warm, fried cornbread-like nuggets filled with melted cheese could never be a bad decision.

result

Making the sauce was the next step. Onions and green chiles are (that’s right, you guessed it!) fried in lard. Tomato puree is added and the mixture is boiled until thickened. While it thickens, you get to put away the lard and bring out the butter. Layers of ravioli, sauce, cheese, and chunks of butter are created in a baking dish and then put in the oven until golden brown.

pic 7
Going into the Oven
pic 8
And coming out of the oven

The end result was unsurprisingly delicious. The sauce was slightly spicy. The ravioli were flaky, warm, and topped with melted butter and cheese. It was similar to an empanada, but with a thicker, more cornbread-like dough. Would I make it again? Maybe. It was messy and took an unexpectedly long time to cook. That being said, the fresh-from-the-fryer ravioli were worth the effort.

pic 10

A lovely little biography of Josefina Velazquez de Leon was used for this post and can be found in Jeffrey M. Pilcher’s The Human Tradition in Mexico.

Post Contributed by Brooke Guthrie, Research Services Coordinator

Encountering Ghanaian Political History in Durham, North Carolina

The Rubenstein holds the archives of the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ), perhaps the single most important point of connection for communities who, in their desire to confront troubled pasts, have turned to the truth and reconciliation commission (TRC). The ICTJ archives reveal the workings of the global transitional justice crossroads, they spotlight an institution that carries forward the lessons, expertise, and experience of each commission to those that come afterwards.

In the year 2000, for the first time since the British ceded political authority over the territory they called Gold Coast, Ghana experienced regime change by ballot box. Subsequently, Ghana’s TRC was ushered in by the newly elected New Patriotic Party (NPP) government. For about 18 months, glimpses, recordings, and debates about Ghana’s history of human rights abuse, as rendered by its citizenry, occupied the body politic. But fifteen years later, a lot has happened in Ghana— and frustratingly, much has remained the same.

In the decade since Ghana’s National Reconciliation Commission (NRC) ended, offshore oil reserves in the country’s Western Region have been newly discovered, exploited, and are now flowing. A new colloquialism, dumsor, has been coined as a result of the electricity outages and power sharing which have inexplicably become de rigueur in 21st century Ghana. John Kufuor, the president who oversaw the formation of the Commission, has served his two terms as president, stepped down, watched his political party lose majority control of the presidency and the Parliament, and now spends his days fending off allegations about corruption. From today’s vantage point, the hopes attached to Ghana’s truth and reconciliation commission experiment seem quaint, aggressively optimistic, or misleading, depending on your political persuasion. The sheer difficulty of locating the artifacts of national reconciliation in Accra suggest that ‘Ghana’s TRC moment’ has long ended. It would be easy to dismiss the NRC as a frustrating political ritual, as all flash and no substance. That is—until you access the records of Ghana’s National Reconciliation Commission, many of which are preserved within the ICTJ archives.

The voices are clear and cutting; they are as relevant today as they were when the TRC captured the nation’s attention. In the audio archive, I find the crackling somber tones of Jose Aryee, a journalist whose NRC testimony describes the public execution of former head of state Akwasi Afrifa in 1979. “Up to now, I shudder to think of what went on that day. I never was a fan of Afrifa as such. Neither was I a fan of any of those executed people. But the way they died, particularly Afrifa, it was sad. I, at that time, what went through my mind was, I would never be a politician in Ghana. Never. Not for all the gold in King Midas’s palace because… I felt that Ghanaians, we’re like Kwaku Ananse; that is the mentality we have…” In the Rubenstein, these critical musings and stories are preserved, and thrown out across space and time, again, in the hopes that they might be heard, again. And thus, the too-brief afterlife of the Ghanaian NRC is extended.

Post contributed by Abena Asare,  Assistant Professor of Modern African Affairs  at Stony Brook University. 

Virginia Woolf: Writing Surfaces and Writing Depths, March 3

Woolf-Desk-700x500
Virginia Woolf’s custom-made writing desk, recently acquired as part of the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection, is currently on display in the Rubenstein Library’s Michael and Karen Stone Family Gallery.

What: Virginia Woolf: Writing Surfaces and Writing Depths, with Dr. Leslie Kathleen Hankins
Date: Thursday, March 3 Time: 4:00-5:00 p.m.
Where: Holsti-Anderson Family Assembly Room, Rubenstein Library

Hankins-head-shot-271x300
Dr. Leslie Kathleen Hankins

Dr. Leslie Kathleen Hankins is a professor in the department of English and Creative Writing at Cornell College and past president of the International Virginia Woolf Society. She will give a talk on the various writing surfaces used by Woolf throughout her life, including the desk now on display in the Rubenstein Library that was acquired as part of the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection. How did this desk shape the apprenticeship of Virginia Stephen into a writer? What did she write at this desk? How did it launch her career? In addition to the desk at Duke, Hankins will discuss Woolf’s decorated writing table in Cassis, as well as an overstuffed chair and lap board in a storage room at Hogarth Press and in Woolf’s writing shed. Along the way, she will consider how Woolf’s desk selections demonstrate a nuanced negotiation of gender performance and the writing profession as she crafted an innovative writing space through standing/walking/and shabby chic desk strategies.

Free and open to the public. Reception to follow.

Skip the Valentine’s Day Chocolates, I’d Like a Kelmscott Press Book in a Silk Pouch

Photo Feb 11, 4 42 10 PMThis beautiful copy of Of the Friendship of Amis and Amile, part of the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection, was given by May Morris to her beloved, John Quinn, in 1910. It was printed in 1894 at Kelmscott Press, which May Morris’s father William Morris founded. The green morocco leather  binding with delicate gold tooling is the work of May Morris’s friend Katharine Adams.

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On its own this would have been an touching gift for any book lover, as Quinn, a patron and collector of art and literature, certainly was. But  Morris went beyond that.  An accomplished needlework artist, Morris created a detailed hand-stitched silk book pouch to go along with Amis and Amile. The centerpiece of her work features a kneeling couple with angels flying above in a sunbeam lit sky. It is surrounded by foliage and birds, with hearts sewn along the top. The final details are seed pearls and glass beads at the corners. The back of the pouch is signed in stitching by Morris with a small “M” in a circle.

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Sadly, I cannot tell you that this is a love story has a happy ending. It was a rather one-sided relationship. Whatever romantic interest Quinn had in Morris quickly cooled, despite a gift like this and the loving letters she wrote him. For more insight into Morris and Quinn’s relationship, see On Poetry, Painting, and Politics: The Letters of May Morris and John Quinn edited by Janis Londraville (1997), or Londraville’s article “No Idle Singers of Empty Days: The Unpublished Correspondence of John Quinn and May Morris” in Journal of Modern Literature (Summer, 1994).

Post Contributed by Kate Collins, Research Services Librarian.

Meat Box, or, The Price of Butter Holds No Terror for Users of Swift’s Oleomargarine

This very special edition of the Rubenstein test kitchen is intended to build bridges between Duke and UNC, between a Digital Collections Program Manager and a Serials Access Librarian. Though both librarians, they live completely different professional lives. Until now…

Given the digital nature of Molly’s work, we decided to choose a recipe from those that had been digitized as part of the Emergence of Advertising in America digital collection. After looking at a handful of recipes we realized that Molly didn’t want to cook with beef tongue, Kurt didn’t want to bake, and neither of us wanted to deal with jello. So we settled on this “pretty and palatable” gem of a recipe from the The Kitchen Encyclopedia, by Swift & Company: “Spanish Minced Beef in a Meat Box.”

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We were excited about taking on the challenge of constructing a meat box to contain yet more meat that the title conjured in our minds, although we had no idea at all how it might work. It wasn’t until later, when we were about to start cooking, that we paused to ask the following: What exactly is Spanish about a recipe in which the only spices are salt and pepper? Why does the title refer to minced beef in a meat box when there is no minced beef listed as an ingredient in the filling? This last question particularly filled us with anxiety – did we miss something? Should we have assumed that since the recipe title refers to minced beef in a meat box, that we should put minced beef in the meat box, even if it’s not called for? (About the matter of a “meat box.” As our guests pointed out, can something with only four sides properly be labeled a box?)

Cooking can be so stressful!

Before we proceed, however, a question posed by the text: “Have you tried Swift’s Oleomargarine?” If you have not, permit the book to let you know, “It is worth trying” (p. 26).  In case that’s not enticement enough, consider that “The price of butter holds no terror for users of Swift’s Oleomargarine” (p. 27).

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Theses quotes are Molly’s favorites of the short, persuasive selling points on the benefits of oleomargarine that appear on every page of the book (and which had to be pointed out to Kurt, who overlooked entirely the margarine-filled pearls of wisdom in his single-minded focus on the meat box). Has it been mentioned that Swift & Company were leading the fight against the tyranny of high-priced butter circa 1911 with their “oleomargarine” and that this cookbook touts that revolution? Indeed, anyone interested in oleomargarine (or House-Cleaning Hints and Helps (p. 9), or The Practical Value and Use of Fireless Cookers (p. 17) … To the Wage-earning Woman (p. 21)) should consider this book a must-read. But we digress.

The recipe calls for the filling to be cooked in an “oatmeal kettle,” and we did not then nor do we now have any idea what that means. Without consulting any resources (bad librarians!), we decided it must be a double boiler, which we don’t own. This leads us to the night’s first derivation from the recipe, as we decided to saute the filling in a saute pan. This filling consists of sweet peppers (red bell peppers, in our case), tomatoes (canned, in our case, rather than whole tomatoes “cut in halves and the seeds squeezed out”) and onions cooked in (you guessed it) oleomargarine, which we substituted with regular margarine (do you know how hard it is to even find margarine at the grocery store these days?).

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Regarding the preparation of the filling, refer to these excerpts from our kitchen conversation: “peppers into strips – insanity!” “1 onion to 4 peppers – madness!” This from Kurt, a former student in the esteemed Johnson County Community College Hospitality & Culinary program.

With the filling sauteeing-rather-than-sweating away, we turned our attention to the “meat box.”  The only instruction given by the recipe is to “form into a box whose sides are about an inch thick.” This (relative lack of) instruction generated some pretty fundamental (and philosophical) questions: should the box have a bottom and a top? If it doesn’t have a bottom and a top, is it still a box (see above: guests)? How tall should it be? WHAT IS IT FOR ANYWAY?!?”

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Sidebar: When did cookbooks stop presuming any basic knowledge of cooking – as seems to be the case in the books we looked in for recipes – and become the step-by-step manuals they are today?   

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In the end we created a kind of meat enclosure, with no meat top and no meat bottom. We basted the box with melted margarine, as per the recipe, before and during cooking. Once it was cooked in a “quick oven” (we used our regular old, modern-day electric oven, which is pretty quick), we put the filling into the enclosure and served it to some fellow librarians who were employed as testers.

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Sidebar: Unlike the ongoing mystery of an oatmeal kettle, Kurt believes a quick oven to be one that’s pretty hot, i.e., 425 degrees. This “knowledge” comes from a search in the midst of constructing this post, and might have been more helpful in determining proper oven temperature in the moment (we went a slower 350 degrees), but then, that might have been cheating.

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The verdict? Everyone agreed it tasted like bland hamburger. Not bad, but not really flavorful in any way, either. Certainly not flavorful in any way, shape or form associated with “Spanish” cooking. If we ever do this again, we decided we would add sausage, not use margarine, and add some actual seasonings, maybe some paprika, a little garlic, and some rosemary. We wonder what might have been had we not missed the advice on the page opposite that “For … mince meat … the neck is best.” We might also try using potatoes for the bottom of a true box. We are still really unsure whether this dish should have a top, and why this involves forming a box in the first place. Some questions will just have to remain a mystery.

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Post contributed by Kurt Blythe, Serials Access Librarian, UNC, and Molly Bragg, Duke Digital Collections Program Manager