Category Archives: Just for Fun

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Corn, Rice, and Beef Casserole & Blueberry Pie (1982)

This is the last post in our pre-Thanksgiving Rubenstein Library Test Kitchen series. We hope you’ve enjoyed exploring our collections through food and found some find some historical inspiration for your own Thanksgiving. If you’re local  join us on December 3rd from 3-4:30 in Perkins 217 for our tasting event and a chance to sample these recipes!

FullSizeRenderWhen I set off on my hunt for a recipe for my turn in the Rubenstein Library Test Kitchen, I knew only that I wanted a fun challenge. For a search that began with nothing in particular to guide it, I found a very lovely little book that seemed perfectly suited for me in my task. One thing I love about working in the Rubenstein Library is that I’m never sure what I’ll come across in a day’s work but I’m always delighted or intrigued by what I find, and this book was no exception! It is an artists’ book called Light and Flaky: Portrait of the Artist’s Mother: a Cookbook (1982) and was made by Lise Melhorn-Boe. The work combines Melhorn-Boe’s mother’s memories of experiences and adventures in cooking along with recipes from these stories and photographs of her mother throughout her life. And the handmade paper that covers the book is made from tea towels, aprons, tablecloths and dish cloths. The book was collected by the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture here at the Rubenstein.

In the spirit of the book’s many memories about cooking for a large family, I chose two recipes to make for the lovely family that lives next door to me. The recipes I chose also give a good sense of the work as a whole, since these recipes are accompanied by touching and silly remembrances and photographs. I made a Corn, Rice, and Beef Casserole and a Blueberry Pie for my friend, her parents, and her two boys (4 and 8 years old respectively).

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I began my cooking adventure as soon as I returned home from the Rubenstein one evening: I first made the pie crust. The recipe calls for an all-Crisco crust, and I just happened to have a very very old tin of it in my cupboard. Perfect! Also slightly disturbing, since I couldn’t figure out where it came from. I didn’t tell my guests that, though! I let the crust chill for a while as I assembled the casserole.

CasseroleDish2It’s an extremely simple recipe. I cooked up a cup of rice, opened a can of corn, browned a pound of ground beef, and threw everything together in a dish to bake for 20 minutes at 350. I thought I’d jazz up this plain casserole just a bit for my special guests, and added onions and a dash of ground cloves (a flavor sensation that I picked up from my own mom) to the meat, and threw a bunch of cheddar on top towards the end of its baking. When the dish was cooked, I also chopped up some parsley and chives from my porch for a tasty garnish. This was an easy and fast recipe to fix for a bunch of folks at a moment’s notice, and there could be endless improvisation depending on what you had on hand.

Back to the pie: When the time came during my preparations to roll out my crust, I had a lot of trouble keeping it together. My guess is that I hadn’t given it enough time to chill. But I was determined to have everything done in time, so I pressed shards of it into my pie dish anyway, in a slapdash and frantic fashion, and poured in 3 cups of blueberries that I’d frozen from the summer (tossed with flour, sugar, butter, lemon juice, cinnamon, and nutmeg, as the recipe suggests). Although the recipe noted that this crust would be enough for two, I didn’t find that to be the case, so I also whipped up a crumble topping with flour, brown sugar, butter, and spices.

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Things came together just in time after all. The casserole was warming and hearty, and a good reminder that cooking for friends doesn’t have to be complicated or fancy. I noticed that one of my young taste-testers ate it up in a flash and quickly disappeared under the table to begin tying guests’ shoelaces together. I took this as an excellent review.

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The pie wasn’t done until after the boys’ bedtime, which means that I had a lot leftover and have been enjoying it with ice cream for breakfast ever since. Despite small disasters in its making, and although it won’t supplant my tried and true butter-only pastry crust recipe, it was pretty delicious. It was also fitting that it would give me trouble since, in one of the stories in this book, Lise’s mother Pauline recalls summers when she would bake wild blueberry pies with her aunt; on one such occasion, her aunt mistakenly uses salt instead of sugar. Even in their attempts to hide the evidence of their error from an angry mother, they are beset with trials: “We tried burning [it] in a little old iron stove – we just had enormous clumps of large crystals, which we dragged out to the garden, and covered with earth and tears.” Luckily, no tears were shed in the making of my pie misshapen though it was.

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I looked at this book alongside another by Melhorn-Boe called Recipes (2001), also part of the Sallie Bingham Center’s collection. It is housed in an old recipe card tin, and contains memories and reflections of several women about family and food, typed on recipe cards and divided by topic — including “Atmosphere” (stern, relaxed, in silence, in front of the television), “The Cook” (stories about mothers and fathers and how they shared kitchen work, or didn’t), “Force-feeding” (thoughts about weight, body image, and abhorrent foods forced upon the writers – like lima beans!), and “Manners” (mouths closed, guests served first, elbows off the table).

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Both works are funny and sweet (and sometimes bittersweet), and contain much food for thought about women’s roles in the kitchen and in the domestic labour of family life generally, and how these have changed over time.

Post contributed by Dominique Dery, Research Services Intern

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Rubenstein Library Test Kitchen: Sweet Potato Custard (1870)

recipes cropFor this week’s test kitchen, I made a Sweet Potato Custard from a recipe in the November 1870 issue of The Rural Carolinian. The Rural Carolinian was “An Illustrated Magazine of Agriculture, Horticulture, and the Arts” published out of Charleston, South Carolina that provided advice and information on a number of topics that would have been of interest to farmers. Other articles in this issue include “How to Utilize Forest Leaves,” “Prickly Pear or Cactus,” and “How to Prune a Peach Tree” as well as more general interest reading such as “Anesthesia — What Is It? And to Whom are we Indebted for it?”

Each issue of The Rural Carolinian also included recipes, part of the magazine’s “Literary and Home Department,” which was intended to appeal to women, broadening the magazine’s audience. They sought submissions from women, asking them “Will not our dear friends, the ladies, interest themselves in our behalf and help us to make this department an attractive feature of The Rural Carolinian.”  The recipes included aren’t necessarily what we think of as recipes, under recipes this issue has instructions on how to make “family glue” and lamp wicks. However, this is in line with the older sense of the word which encompasses any “statement of the ingredients and procedure required for making something,” per the Oxford English Dictionary.

When I originally saw this recipe, I was interested, thinking, “I’ve never had sweet potato custard before!” Especially next to recipes like family glue, pumpkin chips, and apple water, it seemed unusual and intriguing. I didn’t read the recipe all the way through at first, and I missed the part where you put it in a pie crust, making it a not-so exotic sweet potato pie. Even still, I wanted to see how it compared to our modern sweet potato pies.

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Like a lot of pre-twentieth century recipes, the recipe is minimalist in its approach and doesn’t offer detailed directions. The recipe calls for four sweet potatoes, and I bought four originally, but I think the sweet potatoes sold at my farmers market are monsters compared to what was available in 1870, so I used only two of them.

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The recipe didn’t specify what to do with them beyond boiling and mashing, so I peeled and cubed them first before tossing them in a pot of boiling water until they were soft, about twenty minutes. After that I added the “two large spoonsful of butter,” which I interpreted as just over two tablespoons of butter, as well as a little salt. Then I got to use my potato masher, which only gets used at Thanksgiving. This gave me two cups of mashed sweet potato, which ended up being enough to fill my pie and then some.

Next four eggs “beat light,” sugar, spice, and milk or cream are mixed in with the mashed sweet potatoes. As Aaron noted in his post about rice apples, the lack of specifics in a recipe would have allowed for flexibility and improvisation based around what you had in your pantry. I appreciated this when the recipe called for milk or cream to thin it out, since all I had in the house was half-and-half. But I was a little flummoxed by the “teaspoonful of ground spice” called for. Was this referring to some particular spice that if I were cooking in 1870 would have just known? As a good librarian, I did some more primary source research and looked at other recipes from the era. As far as I could tell “spice” didn’t mean any particular spice, and there wasn’t one spice that dominated recipes of this time period. Cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, and cloves all come up frequently. I settled on half a teaspoon of cinnamon and half a teaspoon of nutmeg which was a tasty choice, but I think any common spices would be good.

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There was also the matter of a half-pound of sugar.  Before Fannie Farmer popularized standard and level measurements of cups, tablespoons, and teaspoons in her 1896 Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, recipes offered looser measurements (hopefully your household cups and spoons were similar in size to the recipe author’s!) or if you were lucky weights. But I don’t have a scale and had to do a little converting. According to Farmer, one pound of sugar is equal to two cups, so I added a cup of sugar to my potato mixture.

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After combining all this, it is to be poured into a “rich pie crust” that had been rolled thin and put in a pie plate. Interestingly, no pie crust recipe was offered, which makes me think the author thought everyone would have had a pie crust recipe at the ready. I went with a basic all-butter crust. Given the number of other recipes in The Rural Carolinian that call for lard, a crust with lard would have been more authentic, but I wanted my vegetarian friends to be able to partake.

The final direction is to “bake brown.” Grateful for a modern oven where I have the ability to set a temperature, I went with 350.  I kept waiting for my pie to get “brown” and it never quite got there, so I took it out after an hour. This may have been a little too long; it did crack once it cooled.  Next time, I’d check it at 45 minutes and if the center seemed cooked thoroughly, I wouldn’t worry about it getting brown.

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Despite the slight overcooking, this was a very good sweet potato pie. There was nothing that distinguished it from any more modern sweet potato pies I’ve eaten though.  I took a look at some modern recipes and they’re remarkably similar, though they usually have more butter and fewer eggs in them. I think I’ll actually fix this again for Thanksgiving, though I want to try pairing it with an ahistorical maple bourbon whipped cream.

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Want to make history this Thanksgiving? Every Friday between now and Thanksgiving, we’ll be sharing a recipe from our collections that one of our staff members has found, prepared, and tasted. We’re excited to bring these recipes out of their archival boxes and into our kitchens (metaphorically, of course!), and we hope you’ll find some historical inspiration for your own Thanksgiving.

Post contributed by Kate Collins, Research Services Librarian

Rubenstein Library Test Kitchen: Goblin Sandwiches (1946)

Adolph Levitt was the developer of the automatic donut making machine and father of the modern American donut industry. In 1920 he founded the Doughnut Machine Company to make and market the machine across the United States and to sell donuts under the name “Mayflower.”  Soon the company began preparing and selling standardized mixes for the machine, and acquired bakeries to produce the donuts. In 1931, the company opened the first Mayflower donut shop in New York City; 17 other shops followed across the country, making the first retail doughnut chain. The company changed its name to the Doughnut Corporation of America, dominating the industry with a range of products and equipment.

In the 1940s the Doughnut Corporation of America distributed pamphlet style cookbooks encouraging the use of donuts as the main ingredient in a variety of recipes recommended for serving at a Halloween party. I found one of these in the Nicole Di Bona Peterson Advertising Cookbook Collection entitled How to Run a 1946 Halloween Party. Looking for a Halloween themed recipe for the RL Test Kitchen, I was drawn in by the idea of using donuts in place of other bread products. There are several intriguing recipes included in this pamphlet, but the one that stood out above the others was for Goblin Sandwiches. It is worth noting that despite the fact that the company name includes the word “doughnut,” the recipes use the more layman spelling, “donut.”

Goblin Sandwiches

My only deviation from the core recipe was the substitution of toasted almonds for the requested Brazil nuts. Brazil nuts proved elusive in the two grocery stores I visited in preparation. A quick internet search showed that almonds (or most any other common tree nut) are an acceptable substitute. I toasted sliced almonds and chopped them using a small food processor rather than using the rolling pin technique described in the recipe.  Woe is the 1940s cook who has to roll her nuts finely using only a rolling pin.  Also worth noting is that an “avocado pear” is really just another name for avocado.

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Once the nuts were toasted and chopped this recipe came together very quickly with only five ingredients. I’ve always wondered what Deviled Ham was like having seen the cans in the grocery store.  Now I can tell you that the smell is not unlike dog food and the consistency is finely minced meat with a layer of yellowish water on top. I added the chopped avocado and almonds and mixed well.  The instructions said to “season highly” with Worchester sauce, which gave me a moment of pause.  I added a teaspoon, reasoning that more could be added to taste.  Once everything was mixed together it was quite green in color.  Cans of Deviled Ham are actually quite small at only 4.25 ounces each.  The cup of chopped almonds and an entire avocado actually were much larger in volume in this recipe, which probably diluted the pet food like taste of the ham. I imagine that the strong green of the avocado inspired the goblin name.  I spread the filling onto a typical plain cake donut sliced in half, making the traditional sandwich shape.

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My willing taste testers included my husband Steve and colleague Josh, both of whom profess willingness to try anything.  Steve said that the filling was quite bland and was over shadowed by the sweet taste of the donut. When he tried just a spoonful of the filling he reconfirmed its blandness and added several more shakes of Worchester sauce to the mix. Josh also confirmed that the sweetness of the donut overpowered the taste of the spread.  He acknowledged the crunch of the nuts and an occasional chunk of avocado, but felt that it was better suited for little rye toast rather than a donut. Should you decide to test this recipe at home, I recommend cutting and adding the chopped avocado as close to serving time as possible to retain the bright green color, which turns to an olive drab over time.

One other recipe to note is the Donut Fruit Salad.  I really wanted to make this recipe as well, but I have to admit that I could not follow the recipe and visualize what the end product should resemble.  Perhaps you, gentle reader, might have better luck.  We’d love to see if you can successfully follow the directions in this recipe and scare up a good time with this Donut Fruit Salad.  Tweet your pictures to @hartmancenter and @rubensteinlib.

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Besides the notable recipes, this small pamphlet also includes a number of Halloween Party activities to add spooky fun to your celebration.  Ideas include making place holders with donuts and donut horse centerpieces.  Both use quite a few toothpicks to achieve the desired effect, so make sure you have plenty on hand.  One game idea is called Donuts on a String and calls for contestants to try and eat a donut dangling on a string while their hands are tied behind their backs.  “First to finish and whistle the first two lines of ‘Dixie’ wins.”

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Perhaps these recipes and activities will give you some ideas for a last minute Halloween party tonight.  Just make sure you have plenty of donuts on hand and have a spooktacular night! Happy Halloween from the RL Test Kitchen!

 Every Friday between now and Thanksgiving, we’ll be sharing a recipe from our collections that one of our staff members has found, prepared, and tasted. We’re excited to bring these recipes out of their archival boxes and into our kitchens (metaphorically, of course!), and we hope you’ll find some historical inspiration for your own Thanksgiving.

Post contributed by Jacqueline Reid Wachholz, Director, John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising, and Marketing History

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Thursday, October 30th #AskAnArchivist Day

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Always wondered what is involved in processing an archival collection? Want to know the best things we’ve come across in our collections? Are you still hanging on to a very special mix tape from high school and want to make sure it stays well-preserved? Wondering what’s up with the white gloves? Or just curious about what goes on behind the scenes at archives?

Today is the day to ask! On October 30, archivists around the country will take to Twitter to answer your questions about any and all  things archives!

To participate, just  tweet a question and include the hashtag #AskAnArchivist in your tweet. Your question will be seen instantly by archivists around the country who are standing by to respond.  If you want to hear from us here at the Rubenstein specifically, include our handle @RubensteinLib.  We may not know every answer right away, but we’ll get back to you after we’ve had a chance to do some digging!

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Rubenstein Library Test Kitchen: World War I Soldiers’ Soup

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Grace Glergue Harrison. Allied Cookery: British, French, Italian, Belgian, Russian.  New York and London: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1916.

A century ago, the Great War was causing massive casualties and destruction in France. Allied Cookery, the product of an international collaboration, was written as a fundraiser. The proceeds were distributed by Le Secours National, the French organization created immediately after war was declared in 1914. The brainchild of banker and arts patron Albert Kahn, Le Secours raised funds to provide food and warm clothing to French soldiers and their families and to civilians in the country’s devastated regions. The cookbook’s introduction explains that any money raised will go to those areas that had been invaded by the Germans and subsequently retaken by the Allied forces. The impact of the damage was all the more horrific because these were France’s most fertile agricultural regions. With the buildings destroyed and the farm implements, livestock, and food stores seized, the surviving farmers could not produce food. With armies to supply, shortages were a real danger. Allied propaganda posters encouraged citizens to grow vegetable gardens and to restrict their consumption of wheat, meat, sugar, fats, and fuel. (French propaganda posters included the wine and tobacco products so badly needed by the military!) Fittingly, the recipes in this cookbook emphasize vegetables, beans, and soups. The section on meats includes many dishes using the less choice bits:  tripe, kidneys, sheep’s head and the like.

In addition to the countries listed in the title, Allied Cookery includes recipes from Commonwealth countries and Eastern Europe. Hence, there is a whole section on curries and dishes such as Pilau (pilaf) and Serbian Cake. I decided to try the Soldiers’ Soup (Soupe à la Battaille); it seemed altogether fitting when highlighting a World War I cookbook and also potentially tasty.

Soldiers' Soup Recipe

The ingredients were, for the most part, easily obtained at my usual supermarket. I was unable to find chervil for the garnish, and so simply left it out. The note at the bottom suggests that “a bone of ham or the remains of bacon improve this soup immensely.” I therefore purchased a bone of ham from our local HoneyBaked Ham. The instructions were extremely simple to follow and it is easy to imagine an army cook preparing the soup over an open fire using vegetables that had been requisitioned from nearby farms.

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There was a great deal of washing, peeling, and chopping and I needed to use my largest cooking pot. After everything was added, I left the soup to simmer, with only occasional stirring, for two hours. I pulled out the ham bone and skimmed the fat. The recipe says that the mixture should be quite smooth at that point, and if it is not, the cook should “beat it well with a whisk.” Mine was not smooth, so I cheated a bit and used my 21st century immersion blender. The result was a beautiful jade green silky concoction.

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The flavor was absolutely delightful—a fresh vegetable taste with a little smoky depth from the ham and a creaminess from the potatoes. I shredded the ham and served it on the side, but the soup was delicious without it. My husband ate three full bowls. I would rate this soup a five out of five. Without the ham, it would be a perfect vegan dish. It makes so much that I refrigerated enough for another two or three meals and froze several large containers for later consumption. Civilians were called upon to sacrifice for the war effort, but preparing and eating this soup was no sacrifice whatsoever!

You can explore Allied Cookery in the Rubenstein Library or on the Internet Archive.

 Every Friday between now and Thanksgiving, we’ll be sharing a recipe from our collections that one of our staff members has found, prepared, and tasted. We’re excited to bring these recipes out of their archival boxes and into our kitchens (metaphorically, of course!), and we hope you’ll find some historical inspiration for your own Thanksgiving.

Post contributed by Elizabeth Dunn, Research Services Librarian.

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Rubenstein Library Test Kitchen: Ice Cream No. 3 (1899)

Welcome back to the Rubenstein Library Test Kitchen! Every Friday between now and Thanksgiving, we’ll be sharing a recipe from our collections that one of our staff members has found, prepared, and tasted. We’re excited to bring these recipes out of their archival boxes and into our kitchens (metaphorically, of course!), and we hope you’ll find some historical inspiration for your own Thanksgiving.

With the warm North Carolina temperatures hanging on for dear life, now seems like the perfect time for a summer throw-back recipe, to take us back to moments hanging out by the pool and lingering over sweet, crisp ice cream. And what could better conjure up those images than a dairy free, nut based ice cream from Mrs. Almeda Lambert’s A Guide for Nut Cookery; together with a brief history of nuts and their food values?

I didn’t intend to make a dairy free recipe. When searching through our catalog, I hoped to find a rich, creamy dessert, preferably one containing my two favorite foodstuffs: heavy cream and sugar. While I did find lots of those, Almeda Lambert and her 1899 work ultimately piqued my interest. And once I noted the brevity of “Ice-Cream No. 3,” I knew there was no other recipe for me.

The story of how Almeda Lambert became a vegetarian cookbook author begins in Cereal City (Battle Creek, Michigan) and could fill an entire weeks’ worth of blog posts. Her husband, Joseph Lambert, worked for the famous John Harvey Kellogg (he of famous cereals) at the Battle Creek Sanitarium, a health and wellness center dedicated to Seventh-day Adventist principles. While there, Mr. Lambert saw the birth of peanut butter unfold at the Sanitarium. The Lamberts were quick studies and knew then what we all know now: peanut butter is delicious. They soon decided to strike out on their own, opening up their own nut mill business, “Joseph Lambert & Co.” (Smith, 2007.)

They were also fans of built-in advertising! An ad for “wholesome nut foods” created by the Lamberts can be found at the back of A Guide for Nut Cookery:

Advertisement from A Guide for Nut Cookery

Although peanut butter became the Lamberts’ bread and butter (I’m so sorry!), Mrs. Lambert also had higher ambitions for her 434 page tome:

“It is the object of the author [Almeda Lambert] to place before the public a book treating upon the use of nuts as shortening, seasoning, etc., to be used in every way in which milk, cream, butter or lard can be used, and fully take their place.” (p. 6).

Within her work, Mrs. Lambert tested out recipes for mock fish, for the exotically named meat substitute “nutmeato,” and for custards, pies, drinks, and many other imaginative takes on traditional recipes. And while I’m not sure that her recipes have taken the world by storm since 1899, I hope that the proliferation of nut butters, flours, and oils out there would be a balm to her soul.

And now, on to the recipe! Below are some glamour shots of the recipe and the main lineup of ingredients:

Recipe for Ice Cream No. 3

Ice Cream No. 3 Ingredients

Luckily for me, “Ice-Cream No. 3” only calls for six, very common ingredients: nut butter, water, sugar, vanilla extract, egg, and corn starch. While there are recipes for nut butter in A Guide for Nutcookery, I was not bold enough to make my own and instead bought natural peanut butter from my local store.

As noted in Aaron’s and Patrick’s blog posts, historical recipes don’t tend to provide a lot of context, and “Ice-Cream No. 3” stays true to that established form. After assembling all the ingredients and reading the directions, I was still a little confused but decided to go with my gut instinct. This was pretty easy to do when there were only six ingredients involved.

To create the nut cream, I boiled until the nut butter and water reached a thick, seemingly ice cream like consistency. A small snafu with the eggs and sugar ensued (I forgot to pre-mix them), but vigorous whisking saved the day and the ice cream. Vanilla extract and cornstarch were then added, and my cream(y) concoction was ready to go into the freezer. All told, the entire recipe came together in twenty minutes. Now, that’s my kind of cooking.

Only after I put the cream in the freezer did I begin to wonder about how the ice cream would taste. Some in my household speculated that it would freeze into a giant ice cube, and that it would only be edible after melting. My fervent hope was that the egg would lend the ice cream a custard-y texture, so that I would never have to buy custard again.

Sadly, my dream proved elusive. In texture and in taste, “Ice-Cream No. 3” bore a strong resemblance to an Italian ice. My spoon did not glide through the ice cream; rather, I chiseled away at the block, making small inroads until a suitable amount had accumulated. It was the best workout I’d had in quite a while, and by the end, I felt like I had really earned my dessert.

Finished Ice Cream No. 3

Verdict: Although not quite ice cream by today’s creamy standards, “Ice-Cream No. 3” is a deliciously easy variation. The peanut butter taste runs strong and true, and it tasted exactly what you would imagine something combining peanut butter, sugar, and water to taste like: wonderfully.


Does the thought of a Nineteenth Century vegetarian cookbook pique your interest? Good news, readers! Almeda Lambert’s A Guide for Nutcookery also lives on the Internet Archive. You too can try out any number of ice creams or even dare to be bold and make nutmeato sandwiches!


 Citations:

Lambert, A. (1899). Guide for nut cookery; together with a brief history of nuts and their food values. Battle Creek, Mich.: J. Lambert & Co.

Smith, A. (2007). Peanuts: The Illustrious History of the Goober Pea. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.

Post contributed by Liz Adams, our awesome Stacks Manager.

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Rubenstein Library Test Kitchen: Rice Apples (1777)

Want to make history this Thanksgiving? Every Friday between now and Thanksgiving, we’ll be sharing a recipe from our collections that one of our staff members has found, prepared, and tasted. We’re excited to bring these recipes out of their archival boxes and into our kitchens (metaphorically, of course!), and we hope you’ll find some historical inspiration for your own Thanksgiving.

For my shift in the Rubenstein Library Test Kitchen, I wanted to try something truly old-school. (When the idea for this series of blog posts was first proposed, one of the names we considered calling it was “Antiquarian Culinarian,” with the idea of recreating the flavors of times gone by.) Browsing the library catalog for cookbooks of yore, I came across a title that looked promising: The Young Ladies’ Guide in the Art of Cookery, Being a Collection of useful Receipts, Published for the Convenience of the Ladies committed to Her Care, by Elizabeth Marshall (T. Saint: Newcastle, England: 1777).

The 200-page volume is part of the collections of the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture, and it’s one of many titles the Bingham Center holds that offer a fascinating window into the domestic and social life of women in the eighteenth century.

Marshall (1738-?) ran a cooking school in Newcastle-upon-Tyne from 1770 to 1790. Such schools were not uncommon at the time and catered to women who aspired to work as housekeepers or cooks for the wealthier class. As Marshall explains in her preface, the book came about after frequent solicitations from her former pupils to put her most sought-after recipes in writing:

LADIES,

It is at your urgent and frequently repeated request that the following Receipts have at length come abroad. – You were sensible of the necessity of having an assistance of this sort to your memory; and the difficulty as well as expense of procuring the Receipts in manuscript, suggested the present form as the most proper and convenient for answering your intentions. – I hope this will be considered as a sufficient apology for the design. For its execution I have less to say. – The subject does not admit of elegance of expression, though I acknowledge the language might have been more correct. It was my wish to have rendered it so, but the various other duties in which I am engaged, would not allow me leisure sufficient for the purpose. – Such as the work is, I hope it will be received with candour, and consulted with advantage.

The eighteenth century wasn’t exactly the heyday of British cuisine, and many of the dishes in Marshall’s book hopefully won’t be making a comeback anytime soon. There are entries on how to make Herring Pudding, Calf’s Foot Jelly, Stewed Turbot’s Head, Eel Pye, and something called “White Soop.”

Inspired by the changing of the seasons, I opted for something a little more autumnal (and less zoological): Rice Apples! The recipe not only looked relatively easy and tasty, but it also presented a rare opportunity to use my apple-corer, a handy but sadly neglected implement in my kitchen that only gets a chance to shine once every couple of years.

Here’s the recipe, which I’ve transcribed below in case it’s difficult to read the old-fashioned ligatures:

Rice Apples Recipe

  • Boil a quarter of a pound of rice in three pints of water for a quarter of an hour
  • Strain off the water, and put to the rice, one pint of milk, one pint of cream, a stick of cinnamon, and lemon skin
  • Let them boil, and sweeten to your taste
  • Beat four eggs, leaving out two whites, put them to the rice, and let it stand on a slow fire a little
  • Keep it stirring till cool
  • Pare and cut the core out of your apples, put them in a dish well buttered, and strewed over with grated bread and sugar
  • Fill them with the above mixture, and cover them over with it
  • Strew it over with bread crumbs and sugar, and bake it a fine brown
  • Melt butter with sack and sugar, and cover them before they go to table

One thing you immediately notice about eighteenth-century recipes is their lack of helpful specifics. How many apples should you use, and what kind? Should the lemon skin be peeled or grated? (I went with grated.) Exactly how many minutes is “a little”?

Modern cookbooks don’t leave much room for interpretation. They give exact measurements, precise times and temperatures, and sometimes even brand-name ingredients, so that your dish looks and tastes as close as possible like the one in the book.

Not so with Mistress Marshall. Her instructions are more like general guidelines. A little this, a little that. But I actually appreciated that about her style. Cooking is more fun when it’s improvisational and you have to use your own judgment. In keeping with m’lady’s free-spiritedness, I even made a few modifications along the way, whenever I thought they might improve the final result. I’ll describe those here.

The recipe calls for three pints of water to cook the rice. That’s six cups of water, which is way more than you need for less than a cup of rice, and it would take forever to boil. I reduced the water to two cups, which was enough for the rice to absorb without having to strain any off.

I chose small snack-size Golden Delicious apples, the kind you can buy in a bag, instead of the jumbo-sized genetically modified ones you often see in the grocery store. The smaller ones seemed more historically authentic, closer to the size of apples you would probably find two hundred years ago. After coring and peeling the apples, I put them in a bowl of water with a little lemon juice to keep them from browning.

After adding the eggs to the milky rice mixture, you’re supposed to let it stand over low heat for “a little” and stir. I did this for about 15 minutes, until it started to thicken. Then I took it off the burner and stirred periodically for another 15 minutes or so, until it had the consistency of lumpy cottage cheese.

Instead of store-bought breadcrumbs, I bought a baguette and used a food processor to make fresh ones. And before popping the whole thing in the oven, I sprinkled a little ground cinnamon on top for good measure, because cinnamon and apples were made for each other. I think this was a good addition. I used a 350-degree oven and baked the dish for one hour.

The final step of the recipe calls for pouring over the apples a mixture of butter, sugar, and “sack.” I had to look up what sack was. Turns out it was a kind of sweet, fortified white wine from Spain, the forerunner of sherry. I’m not a big sherry fan, but I picked up a cheap golden variety in the wine aisle at the grocery store.

The verdict: Quite delectable, by Jove! The apples were tender and sweet, and the milky-rice-breadcrumb mixture was like an envelope of bread pudding. The sherry added a subtle boozy kick that seemed especially English. I would have no qualms serving this to company, however high or low their station.

 

Guest post by Aaron Welborn, Director of Communications, Duke University Libraries. Special thanks to Gwen Hawkes (T’16), Library Communications Student Assistant, for her help in researching this recipe and its historical context.

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Rubenstein Library Test Kitchen: Apple Kuchen

Want to make history this Thanksgiving? Every Friday between now and Thanksgiving, we’ll be sharing a recipe from our collections that one of our staff members has found, prepared, and tasted. We’re excited to bring these recipes out of their archival boxes and into our kitchens (metaphorically, of course!), and we hope you’ll find some historical inspiration for your own Thanksgiving.

Happy Oktoberfest!  To kick off our Rubenstein Library Test Kitchen series, I prepared a recipe to celebrate the German festival, which runs this year from September 20th to October 10th.

The Recipe and Duke History

I found a recipe for apple kuchen, or apple cake, in the Ted Minah Papers.  The recipe was grouped with a series of recipes apparently intended for Duke’s Woman’s College, [1] ranging from barbecued meatballs to a lemon soufflé pudding.  Although a sweet cake, interestingly, the recipe was labeled as a bread recipe rather than a dessert.

The recipe helped me learn more about some of the culinary history at Duke, especially about the influential Theodore W. “Ted” Minah.  Minah was the director of Duke University Dining Halls from 1946 to 1974. By his retirement in 1974, Minah had transformed the dining halls at Duke University from a small operation to 12 dining halls serving approximately 15,000 meals each day.

The context for the recipe collection wasn’t clear – the ingredient proportions were for smaller portions, usually 4 to 6 servings.  Since it was coming from the collection of the Dining Hall director, I expected the recipe to be scaled to serve large groups of students, but perhaps the recipes were designed for a Woman’s College cookbook?  I’ve seen university-related cookbooks in other collections, like the “Culinary Casebooks” in the Duke Law Dames records (possibly a topic for a future “Rubenstein Library Test Kitchen” post!).

Like many older recipes, it was short and to the point – no lengthy descriptions of methods or ingredients to coddle the home cook.  I did encounter an interesting culinary term I’d never seen before, but which continues to appear in other archival collections I’m processing: Oleo.  Oleo was a common colloquial term used to refer to margarine, whose full name is oleomargarine.  I admit that I strayed from the recipe and used butter rather than margarine, but that substitution didn’t seem to hurt the recipe.

The Results

As often happens in the archives, I learned a variety of interesting new facts that I would have never guessed I’d encounter – from the history of the university, to colloquial cooking terms!

AppleKuchen in pan

Overall, the recipe was perfect for fall – the tart apples, cinnamon, and somewhat unusual cake batter made a tasty seasonal treat.  The recipe was easy and quick to make, used common ingredients found in any grocery store, and should appeal to even the pickiest eater.

apple kuchen on plate

Rating:  4 out of 5 stars!

Stay tuned for more tasty recipes from our collections!

1. The Woman’s College was established at Duke in 1930 as a parallel to Trinity College for men. The Woman’s College fostered a community that allowed for shared university faculty, curriculum, and educational facilities with the men’s college, while giving women an opportunity for leadership through separate student government, social standards committees, and judicial board.  The Woman’s College merged with Trinity College in 1972.

Post contributed by Patrick Dollar,  Drill Intern, Duke University Archives.

 

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What’s on our accession shelf?

Every visitor to Technical Services likes to peek down the accessioning shelves and see what new collection materials have recently arrived. One of the most unusual accessions we’ve ever received is a birdhouse, which arrived this spring as part of an addition to the Evans Family Papers. It is a nearly identical miniature of the family’s Durham house, which is still standing (and occupied) on Dacian Avenue. According to the family, the original house was modeled on the style of Le Corbusier. It was built in 1938, making it one of the first examples of “modern architecture” in Durham.

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The Evans Family Birdhouse, with a photograph of the original house for comparison.

The family moved away from Durham in 1950, and kept the birdhouse as a fond token of their former home. We were relieved to learn upon intake that no birds ever took up residence. (That would have made for some interesting conservation concerns!)

Post contributed by Meghan Lyon, Technical Services Archivist.

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Milwaukee, Hawaii, Italy: Our Global Users

The unique collections held in special collections libraries attract researchers from all over the map, no matter if the map is local, national, or global. Those of us who work in special collections have always known this, and we frequently jabber about it to anyone who will listen. But we can’t often show it.

Recently, library staff at Duke’s Rubenstein Library, UNC Chapel Hill’s Wilson Library, and NCSU’s Special Collections Research Center combined the data we’ve collected in order to create some maps showing the home cities, states, and countries of our users from calendar year 2013. Special collections staff gathered this data, but it was Duke’s terrific data visualization coordinator Angela Zoss who used Tableau to create these excellent maps for us. Thanks Angela!

The data we gathered shows onsite users of the Duke and UNC Chapel Hill special collections libraries. That is, the blue and green shown on the maps represent researchers who visited our reading rooms to use our collections in-house. The red shown on the maps shows something slightly different – both onsite users and users who made use of NCSU collections remotely (through email reference, etc.).

Among other interesting points, the North Carolina map shows that – outside of the Triangle – the majority of North Carolina researchers are using UNC Chapel Hill’s Wilson Library. This makes sense, since they have the North Carolina Collection! [Note: the pie charts sit over zipcodes.]

 

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The US map makes clear what we all probably suspected – that most of our researchers come from east of the Mississippi and are clustered in the Northeast. Only Duke shows researchers from Utah, and this doesn’t surprise us. Duke holds two copies of the first edition of the Book of Mormon, and many visitors come to Duke each year to see them (the two copies were used a total of 33 times this past year).

 

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The global map shows that each of us – NCSU, UNC Chapel Hill, and Duke – had researchers from Canada, the UK, and Japan. UNC Chapel Hill welcomed visitors from China and Japan. Many international researchers came to Duke to use collections such as our economists’ papers. But only NCSU had a user from Bosnia-Herzegovinia!

 

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While we’ve only just begun to share our data with each other, this mapping project demonstrates that, taken together, the special collections libraries at NCSU, UNC Chapel Hill, and Duke have truly global reach and impact. Our collections are diverse and exciting, and the world knows it!

Post contributed by David Pavelich, Head of Research Services