Category Archives: Just for Fun

Remembering Harold Feinstein

The Rubenstein Library has learned that photographer Harold Feinstein passed away on June 20th at the age of 84.   Feinstein was one of the original inhabitants of the “Jazz Loft” at 821 Sixth Avenue in New York City.  His singular photographic work, and his association with other occupants of 821 Sixth Avenue, including W. Eugene Smith, composer Hall Overton, and artist David X. Young,  led in 2004 to his being interviewed by Sam Stephenson for the Jazz Loft Project.  The Project was archived by the Rubenstein Library in 2012-2013, and includes streaming files of many of Stephenson’s interviews. We include the interview with Harold Feinstein here in its entirety.  See also the obituary in the New York Times.

Tape 1:

Tape 2:

Tape 3:

Post contributed by Craig Breaden, Audiovisual Archivist. 

Meet the Staff: Craig Breaden

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The Meet Our Staff series features Q&A interviews with Rubenstein staff members about their work and lives.

Craig Breaden joined the Rubenstein as our Audiovisual Archivist  three years ago. Prior to his time at Duke, he spent seven years at the Russell Library at the University of Georgia. He has a BA and MA in history from Texas Christian University and Utah State University, respectively, and an MLS from UNC .  He works on everything from small single-film collections to grant-funded preservation projects involving thousands of audiovisual items.  He facilitates preservation work, provides access to obsolete formats, processes (inventory and catalog) collections, and functions as the go-to oral history guy.

Tell us about your academic background and interests.

I started out interested in frontier history particularly, and how popular images of the American West inform the way Americans think about themselves, their creation myths, the rest of the world.  I’ve also had a lifelong love of music and a fascination with recorded audio and video.  Our audiovisual heritage provides a different, animated view of the past, and can carry a unique emotional weight.

What led you to working in libraries?

I’d had some experience working in a special collections library while in college, but it took a long while for me to come to the profession.  Some folks are late bloomers, I guess.  After years of working in corporate atmospheres unrelated to my academic background, I’d come to the point where I wanted to start making a difference and make a living.  It was the idea that work should mean something, make some kind of contribution to the society as a whole.  There are of course all kinds of ways to do this, but I thought I should play to my strengths.  I had a challenging and satisfying year of teaching 8th grade social studies, but knew that I could give more outside the classroom by focusing on what we might consider the raw materials of educators, those cultural heritage resources that give voice to the past.  It so happened that one of the best library schools in the country (UNC-Chapel Hill) was just down the road, and I applied and fortunately got in.  I decided to focus on my background and my interest in A/V, and while in school pursued audiovisual archiving as an emphasis of my library education.  I owe a big debt to the Southern Folklife Collection and its director, Steve Weiss, in helping me on my way, and to the great librarians at the University of Georgia for giving me a shot.

How do you describe what you do to people you meet at a party? To fellow librarians and library staff?

I usually tell people I’m an archivist in Duke Special Collections.  Sometimes that leads to further conversation, other times not.  I think in general there’s a real disconnect, a misunderstanding about what history really is.  It’s hard to say to most people that what we think of as history is what it is because of what we do in libraries and archives like the one here at Duke.  Colleagues get it, but I think usually the best introduction for them is when they get a CD or tape or film as part of a collection and wonder, at the very basic level, what to do with it.

What does an average day look like for you?

One of the great things about my job is that there aren’t many average days, but most days hold some combination of digital preservation, inventorying collections, answering reference questions via email, figuring out how to run a film or a video or audio tape so that we know what’s on it, and advising colleagues on portions of their collections that hold AV.  Then there are often questions related to policy creation and the changing landscape of digital preservation.  And let’s not forget the meetings….

What do you like best about your job?

I like figuring out problems that fall into my domain of expertise.  I do a ton of troubleshooting and tinkering to get AV to simply play back in a way that it can be accessed, and these nuts-and-bolts successes are always satisfying and really essential to what I do.  I also enjoy meeting donors and getting to know the personalities behind the stuff, just as it’s always great to help a researcher plug into something they might not have been aware of.  And of course my colleagues – every one of them brilliant in completely different ways.

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Craig with the Rubenstein’s newest flatbed film editing suite, the Steenbeck

What might people find surprising about your job?

The amount of time spent with spreadsheets and on email.  The first is part and parcel of what we do, that is, knowing what we have, the second is all about attempting to efficiently communicate (jury’s out on that, though).  Pleasantly surprising is that amazingly smart colleagues have something interesting to show or talk about every day.  Archives can be mind-blowing.

Do you have a favorite piece or collection at The Rubenstein? Why?

The H. Lee Waters Films for their big heart, the Frank Clyde Brown field recordings for all the secrets they hold in their wax cylinder and lacquer disc grooves (and that will soon be secret no longer), the home movie collections we have that tell a story beyond what’s happening onscreen, and all the fragile and forgotten bits of film and video that share our shelves equally and continue to have a voice.

Where can you be found when you’re not working? 

With my kids, cooking, strumming a guitar (sometimes all three at once).

What book is on your nightstand/in your carryall right now?

The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro; The Innkeeper’s Song by Peter S. Beagle; Hold Tight, Don’t Let Go by Laura Wagner; and Haiti: The Aftershocks of History by Laurent Dubois.

Interview conducted and edited by Katrina Martin.

Mad Men Monday – Season 8, Episode 12 “Lost Horizon”

The move to McCann is underway and a number of the SC&P staff are finding the transition challenging in their own unique ways.

Don is welcomed with enthusiasm by Jim Hobart, who expects Don to “bring things up a notch around here.” Later Don attends his first meeting in which Conley Research presents its findings on the market for a new Miller “diet beer.” Don seems out of his element in a room full of creative directors all taking notes. He watches a plane fly by high up in the air and walks out.

Joan was welcomed by two women copywriters who have interest in her accounts. They invite her to join them for drinks sometime.  Later she has conference calls with her clients and her ill-prepared colleague Dennis, who interrupts Joan and thinks he has better ways of handling her clients.  When she complains to Ferg about working with Dennis he promises to make it better, which means that she will work directly with him instead. His lecherous intentions quickly become clear.

Peggy’s move is thwarted by the fact that McCann has mistaken her for a secretary and did not reserve an office for her.  She refuses to move her belongings over until she gets an office and so spends a few surreal days in an empty SC&P working on Dow.

Don planned to drive Sally back to school, but found out belatedly from Betty that she got a ride from a friend instead. As he drives back to the city he impulsively takes a detour towards Pennsylvania and keeps driving all the way to Racine, Wisconsin. While his colleagues wonder where he is over the next few days, he tries to find out where Diana is from her ex-husband by posing as someone who has a prize for Diana. Her ex gets irate and sees through Don’s charade. He tells Don that Diana is a tornado who destroys everything.

Peggy and Roger drink too much vermouth and talk at SC&P before they make their official moves over to McCann.  Peggy is later seen walking confidently into the office with her belongings and Bert Cooper’s artwork that Roger gave her.

Joan meets with Jim Hobart and says she’d rather not work with Ferg on her accounts. Jim belittles her and her status at SC&P.  She says she’s willing to take the money she is owed and walk away, but he retorts that he will only give her fifty cents on the dollar. She threatens to contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the ACLU regarding the sexism at McCann. Later she finds Roger waiting for her and he tells her to take the offer and that he can’t help her. She dejectedly agrees to the deal and walks out with her Rolodex and a photo of her son.

Don keeps on driving and picks up a hitchhiker headed to St. Paul.

Last night’s show featured references to Ladies Home Journal, Tampax, Miller, and Westinghouse, among other things.  Enjoy our selection of highlighted ads that reflect the brands and themes that Mad Men characters interacted with last night.

A gallery of our selected images may also be found on Flickr.

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

1 travelers insurance001

2 tampax001

3 contraception001

4 bahamas001

5 cash register001

6 dow overn cleaner001

7 miller high life001

8 truth well told001

9 salem001

10 maxwell coffee001

11 westing house fridge 12 ladies home journal001

13 organ001

Meet the Staff: Liz Adams, Collections Move Coordinator

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The Meet Our Staff series features Q&A interviews with Rubenstein staff members about their work and lives.

Directly following the completion of her master’s studies in information science, Liz Adams joined The Rubenstein in 2013 as the Stacks Manager. Since January, she has served as the Collection Move Coordinator. She holds two degrees from the University of Michigan, a BA in English and an MSI.

We know you’re officially the move coordinator–what’s your unofficial title at the Rubenstein?

I’m a bit of a “gal Friday” in my attempts to alternately harangue or kindly beseech people to move forward on projects because collections can’t move without everyone’s involvement. No one would listen to me if I just said “move this!”

Tell us about your academic background and interests.

In undergrad, I worked in a public library. I couldn’t figure out what to do with my English degree and I knew I didn’t want to teach, but I liked books. I especially liked how tight-knit everyone in the library was and how we worked together to help people find what they needed. I went straight to grad school from undergrad, during which time I worked at a special collections library. Broadly speaking, my professional interests surround the idea of access and creating better, more useful access points for researchers and staff members alike. I think this can be accomplished through physical means—making things as physically accessible as possible– which is how my current job fits into that goal.

How do you describe what you do to people you meet at a party? To fellow librarians and library staff?

The people I meet at a party are generally familiar with the big construction project that’s happening on West campus and the Rubenstein. I tell them it’s my job to move our materials from temporary swing space to a permanent location and to figure out all that encompasses: good, bad, and ugly.

For people who might not immediately understand why there’s a whole position dedicated to this task, I’d highlight just how much material we have in our collection. Much like when you’re moving from one house to another, you find more things requiring your attention at every turn (and realize how much stuff you own!).  You have to decide what stays, what should move, and how you’re going to arrange things in a new space. No one likes moving and everyone else at The Rubenstein is so busy, there needs to be someone separate to help plot things out.

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What does an average day look like for you?

It’s a lot of Excel! One of the big headings under the umbrella of the move is the reclassification of all of our materials. We’re going from a system of 125 legacy call numbers (some more intuitive than others!) to Library of Congress. Part of what I’m doing now is sorting through a list of our 280,000 print materials that have been reclassified. I figure out which of those things should move on-site after being housed off-site during the renovation and before we had all this space. I ask questions like, which materials are high-interest? Which materials are high-use?

What excites you about the move?

When I was the stacks manager, I saw the confusion experienced by our student workers when retrieving materials.  At times, it really required a fine-toothed comb to find items. When the move is completed, everything will be in the same classification scheme and organized by size. Students and staff will hopefully be able to find materials more easily.

It’s also nice to think of moving into a brand new space that no one else has lived in. You get to really make your mark. In fact, you get to make the first mark, which as a competitive person, I love. I like to imagine that I’ll be the first person to walk in – my moon landing. Although I doubt it will be me!

What might people find surprising about your job?

I think my job is a lot of what people might expect. It’s a lot of organizing things, talking to people, and making sure things are done in a timely fashion.

Do you have a favorite piece or collection at The Rubenstein? Why?

I really like the Anna Schwartz collection. She was an economist who worked with Milton Friedman. It’s really interesting to see the personal and professional interplay of a female economist in the mid-twentieth century. She talks about comments made by a coworker and how she “took them to task” – you go Anna Schwartz!

Where can you be found when you’re not working? 

I enjoy a good picture show at the Carolina theatre. I can be found eating my way through the Triangle. You might see me huffing and puffing while running, and I sometimes pretend to be a yogi.

What book is on your nightstand/in your carryall right now?

In my bag I have New Introduction to Bibliography by Philip Gaskell.

On my nightstand, of a totally different flavor, is The Precious One by Marisa de los Santos.

 

Interview conducted and edited by Katrina Martin, Library Assistant in Technical Services. 

Shrimp Gumbo Filé (1916) – Rubenstein Library Test Kitchen

Last week, I saw a student production of A Streetcar Named Desire. The play, famously set in New Orleans, immediately ignited memories of my time in NOLA. One moment, I was sitting under the green and white striped awning of Café Du Monde where I eagerly waited for the arrival of a small mountain beignets. Then, I was savoring every morsel of a roast beef po’boy from Parkway Bakery, blissfully unaware that rivulets of au jus were trailing down my wrists. After that, I drifted off even further and was reliving my first slurpy spoonful of duck gumbo. That dish made my heart sing!

Gumbo is one of the oldest and most iconic dishes served in New Orleans. In its most basic form, gumbo is a soupy stew cooked slowly over a low flame. It is served in a bowl with a heaping spoonful of Louisiana long grain rice. The simplicity of that description is misleading, though. Recipes for gumbo are so diverse that it is nearly impossible to define the dish in formulaic terms. Peering into a simmering pot of gumbo, for example, you might see any combination of the following meats and seafood: crabs, shrimp, oysters, ham, chicken, duck, rabbit, and sausage. You might also spot roughly or finely chopped onions, celery, and bell peppers—the so called “holy trinity” of Louisiana cooking. Often, you’ll catch a glimpse of the swirling, willowy tendrils of okra slime. Or, you might see a bay leaf bobbing along the surface of the stew as it slowly releases its tangy, herbal flavor into the stock. Gumbo, then, is anything but formulaic and reflects the amazing complexity of New Orleans’ Creole food culture.

picayune cookbookGumbo is also a dish that invites experimentation. In fact, I might characterize it as a “playful” one. Inspired by the vivacious spirit of this dish, I chose to modify some aspects of the gumbo I found in the The Picayune’s Creole Cook Book (1916). I’ve included both the original recipe and my derivation of it below.

The recipe:

Shrimp Gumbo Filé
Gombo Filé aux Chevrettes

50 Fine Lake Shrimp
2 Quarts of Oyster Liquor
1 Quart of Hot Water
1 Large White Onion. 1 Bay Leaf.
3 Sprigs of Parsley. 1 Sprig of Thyme.
1 Tablespoonful of Lard or Butter.
1 Tablespoonful of Flour.
Dash of Cayenne.
Salt and Black Pepper to Taste.

Shell the shrimp, season highly and scald in boiling water. Put the lard into a kettle, and, when hot, add the flour, making a brown roux. When quite brown, without a semblance of burning, add the chopped onion and the parsley. Fry these, and when brown, add the chopped bay leaf; pour in the hot oyster liquor and the hot water, or use the carefully strained liquor in which the shrimp have been boiled. When it comes to a good boil and about five minutes before serving, add the shrimp to the gumbo and take off the stove. Then add to the boiling hot liquid about two tablespoonfuls of the “Filé,” thickening just as desired. Season again with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately with boiled rice.

(Ashley’s) Shrimp Gumbo Filé

¼ cup of vegetable oil
¼ cup of flour
1 large white onion, chopped
2 quarts of unsalted chicken stock
1 pint of oyster liquor
1 ½ pounds of unpeeled lake shrimp
1 pound chopped chicken thighs
1 smoked ham shank
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste

In New Orleans, there is a common phrase that marks the beginning of many gumbo recipes: first you make a roux. A roux is a combination of flour and fat (oil, lard, or butter) that is slowly toasted over a low flame, creating a rich, nutty flavor. For many people who are new to Creole cuisine, making it can be an intimidating process. After all, it takes at least 30 to 45 minutes to prepare a roux from scratch (no wonder people buy it in jars). The time investment is well worth it, though. The longer you toast your roux, the more complex and delicious the flavor of your gumbo!

I started off with a large soup pot (one with a thick bottom). Over medium heat, I combined equal parts oil and flour, stirring constantly (preferably with a wooden spoon). At first, the roux will be fairly thin and light yellow in color.

gumbo 1As the flour starts to toast, the roux will thicken slightly and air bubbles will begin to form on its surface. It will also appear slightly “gummy”—almost like mashed potatoes (if your roux is still thin, you can add another tablespoon or two of flour to thicken it). The key is to keep stirring.

gumbo 2After about twenty minutes, the roux will begin to smell like popcorn or toasted nuts. At this point, it will gradually begin to darken to a caramel color. Keep stirring! Over the next ten to fifteen minutes, the roux will become even darker. I always say that an ideal roux is almost the color of a Hershey’s chocolate bar (and that transformation can take over an hour). If you do not make it that far in the process, that’s OK. The most important thing is to cook the roux long enough to eliminate the “raw” taste of the flour.

gumbo 3Once you’ve reached your ideal coloring, add the chopped onion to the roux. You will hear a sizzling sound. Adding the onion stops the toasting process and will prevent your roux from burning. Allow the onions to cook for 10 minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally. You want them to sweat and begin to brown.

gumbo 4Add the chicken stock, oyster liquor, shrimp, chicken, ham shank, and bay leaf. Bring the gumbo to a boil and then reduce the heat so that you have a steady simmer going for two hours. Stir every 15 to 20 minutes. You want the stock to reduce by a third.

A few notes: I prefer using unpeeled or partially-peeled shrimp because the exoskeleton gives the stock a really wonderful, shrimpy flavor. I also use smoked ham shank over hocks because the former has more meat, which I later pull off the bone and incorporate back into the gumbo before serving. In addition, I like to use the dark meat of chicken because it has a richer flavor that works well with the nuttiness of the roux. Last, but not least, if you cannot find oyster liquor, you can substitute it with unsalted chicken broth.

After the gumbo has reduced, take it off the heat. Add salt and pepper to taste. (The stock will already be fairly salty because of the smoked ham shank, so you may not need additional salt).

I like to serve my gumbo over ½ cup of long grain rice. I allow my guests to add a dusting of filé powder to their own bowls before digging into their supper. I also encourage them to get up close and personal with their gumbo. I often find myself calling out instructions and encouragement: “Pick up that shrimp right from the bowl! Don’t be shy! You’re supposed to eat gumbo with your hands as well as your spoon.” At least, that was how I was taught to eat my gumbo when I lived in New Orleans. Laissez les bons temps rouler!

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Post contributed by Ashley Young, History PhD student and next year’s Graduate Student Intern for our Research Services Department.

Palette Play with Jennie Chambers

Are you interested in painting but aren’t sure how to mix your colors? The Jennie Chambers Papers might be able to help. The Chambers family lived in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, in the mid-nineteenth century. Jennie Chambers was an author and amateur artist who went on to write for Harper’s Magazine, publishing “What a School-Girl Saw of John Brown’s Raid” in 1902 (still available online today). Duke has held the Jennie Chambers Papers for several decades, but I recently revisited the collection to enhance its online description and update its housing to our current standards. Most of the papers are letters between Jennie and her family or drafts of Jennie’s writings. But I most enjoyed finding this kind-of-grimy paper that includes all of her notes about mixing paint colors. It looks like she frequently used these notes for her paintings. I love the spots of paint and the smears of oil that stain the page, and it was really fun to see what sorts of things she painted. For foliage, mix deep green, Prussian blue, and yellow ochre. Do you want to paint mahogany? Mix Indian red, vermillion, and Vandyke brown.

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My archivist’s heart also loves that she signed and dated the page. The only thing missing from the collection are her actual paintings.

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Post contributed by Meghan Lyon, Technical Services Archivist.

Mad Men Mondays: Season 7, Episode 8 “Severence”

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Mad Men is back!  This half-season premier felt like an extended dream sequence with Peggy Lee’s eerie hit “Is That All There Is?” bookending the episode.

The episode opens with Don holding a cup of vending machine coffee and a lit cigarette while posing a woman wearing nothing but a pricy fur coat—Don, the eternal misogynist.  The scene widens to reveal that he is in fact working a casting call at the office.

Mathis attempts to set up Peggy on a blind date with his brother-in-law.  After some initial resistance she eventually acquiesces.  While something of a milquetoast—he won’t even return an incorrect food order—the date goes well and, after some wine and a bottle of Galliano, the date nearly culminates in a spontaneous trip to Paris.  Instead, the couple settles for a phone call in two weeks.

Fearing the toll that the advertising industry is taking on his psyche, Ken Cosgrove’s wife tries to persuade him to get out of the advertising business and focus on his writing.  The following day, at the behest of a McCann-Erickson executive, Ken is fired by Roger.  While expressing some bitterness at Roger’s lack of loyalty, he chooses to interpret the moment as kismet, an opportunity.  Rather than focus on his writing he listens to his competitive instincts and accepts a position as director of advertising for Dow Chemical.  Rather than pulling Dow’s business from the SC&P he vows to be a difficult client to please in the future.

Peggy and Joan have an encounter of their own with the heavy-handed and none-to-subtle staff of McCann.  On behalf of SC&P’s client Topaz pantyhose, together they pitch the possibility of McCann introducing them to some of their department store clients.  After a few minutes of crude innuendo from the McCann reps, Peggy finally persuades them to take a look at the proposal.  Rather than a bonding experience the meeting results in an elevator argument between Peggy and Joan over the meeting’s takeaway lessons.

After a vision (dream?) of Rachel Katz, his brief fling from season 1, in Chinchilla fur, Don attempts to set-up a meeting with her under the auspices of a potential partnership between her department store and Topaz pantyhose only to learn that she has recently passed from an illness.  Perhaps it’s the memory of Rachel that informs his continued attraction to the mysterious waitress at the late-night diner.   With Rachel’s family sitting shiva, Don attempts to pay his respects only to be cast out.  Finding his way to the diner, he attempts to connect with the waitress only to be told that the tryst was merely just compensation for the large cash tip from a previous evening.

Last night’s episode featured references to toasters, L’eggs hosiery, wine stained carpet, veal, pop tarts, and Paris.

A gallery of our selected images may also be found on Flickr.

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2 Carpet009
3-McGregor010
4-Pop-tart011
5-Fleischmans012
6-Veal013
7-Galliano014
8 Paris015

Medicine Cabinet of Curiosities Quiz

How well do you know your old medical instruments? Take our quiz and find out!

 

medicine cabinet of curiostiy

The History of Medicine Collections has over 850 unique medical instruments and artifacts. These items compliment our incredible book and manuscript collections. Along with the largest collection of ivory anatomical manikins in North America, we hold numerous surgical instruments and devices, microscopes, and an assortment of other unusual items.

Check out our collection guide for descriptions and thumbnail images of these items. And stay tuned – as our renovation nears completion, a number of these items will be on display in the Josiah Charles Trent History of Medicine Room.

Post contributed by Rachel Ingold, Curator of the History of Medicine Collections

Shin of Beef Stewed with Wow Wow Sauce (1823) – Rubenstein Library Test Kitchen

“DINNER is the only act of the day, which cannot be put off without Impunity, for even FIVE MINUTES.”

William Kitchiner, The Cook’s Oracle, “Invitations to Dinner,” p. 39.

English cooking is a punch line. You don’t even need a joke to set it up. Just say, “English cooking,” and people start smirking, or chortling, even suppressing laughter. It hardly seems fair.

After all, Great Britain boasts its share of culinary scores. The Scotch egg is a triumph of human ingenuity, I’ll take a ploughman’s lunch any day of the week, and the standing rib roast with Yorkshire puddings rates as a time-proven classic. Really, America, with your pit-cooked barbeques and New York-style slices, don’t be so glib. Arthur Treacher would like a word.

When I volunteered to write a Rubenstein Test Kitchen post, I had no real ideas for it, but set out on a path of discovery, like Walter Raleigh sailing for Carolina.1 I can’t remember how I came across William Kitchiner’s proto-Victorian cookbook, The Cook’s Oracle, in our catalog, and learned that the History of Medicine Collection holds a copy of the Fifth Edition, published in 1823. But I can tell you that I was drawn to it by one word: Wow.

More particularly, it was that word, twice. I learned that Kitchiner is credited as the inventor of a thing called Wow Wow Sauce, an accompaniment for boiled meat dishes. Intriguingly, the recipe includes two English condiments I never knew existed: pickled walnuts, and mushroom catsup.

How – I asked myself – could I not cook something called Wow Wow Sauce? The answer is, I couldn’t. I couldn’t not cook Wow Wow Sauce.

Kitchiner was a physician by profession, but seems to have been stern and serious in his approach to cooking and socializing. His cause was to bring scholarly and scientific order to the chaotic affairs of households and kitchens. Wikipedia claims his name was a household word and the book a best-seller. Chambers’ Book of Days, a miscellany published in 1879, provides background on his life and habits.

So the two recipes I select from Kitchiner’s book are Shin of Beef Stewed (No. 493), and Wow Wow Sauce for Stewed or Bouilli Beef (No. 328). The first order of business is to secure the ingredients, and in this effort I turn to two eminent local suppliers. First, I head to Southern Season in Chapel Hill, on whose shelves I locate both Opie’s brand pickled walnuts and George Watkins brand mushroom catsup.

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Second, I need meat. Now, I happen to live in the town of Pittsboro, where I’m lucky to shop with Lilly Den Farm at the Chatham Mills farmers’ market each week. Tucker and Mackenzie’s place is out past Goldston, down in what’s called Deep Chatham. They hook me up with a nice-looking foreshank, a shin indeed, nearly two feet long and heavy with marbled meat. It’s covered in a tough membrane, which I skin off with a knife. Then I coat the whole thing in a generous amount of kosher salt, wrap it, and store it in the fridge overnight.

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The next day, just before noon, I set the shank in a pot, cover it with cold water, and bring it to a simmer.

Usually, one buys a beef shank this size cut crosswise into two or maybe three discs. The flat surfaces from these cuts are convenient for seasoning and placing in a hot, oiled pan for browning, which produces the Maillard reaction, enhancing the flavor of the meat and leading to a rich, brown broth.

But that’s not what I’m looking for here. Yes, Kitchiner himself recommends a shank cut into sections (and doesn’t mention browning), but I prefer the shin intact. No fancy Maillard crust for my Test Kitchen project. I honestly can’t describe my vision better than this Guardian author: “The grisly, gristly spectre of an ashen Victorian joint – a lump of cracked cement flanked by dismal sprigs” – Yes! That’s exactly what I’m going for, and by the way, I love your accent, please do continue – “speaks of cabbagey kitchens and bones poking out of stockpots, of puritan blandness and the unfashionably old-fashioned.” Swoon! You had me at “bones poking out.”

I’ll leave it to other Test Kitchen authors to write up dishes that are “delicious,” or “good.” I’m going for something else entirely – “English.”

Okay, that was a cheap shot. But let’s just say the target aesthetic here is more steampunk than “Top Chef.”

Kitchiner was a staunch pro-boiling partisan; he begins the “Rudiments of Cooking” section of his book with a chapter on it. His main points of advice are time-tested – skim the pot and keep it low and slow. He also shares data from his own experiments comparing the loss of mass for roasting (more) versus boiling (less, especially when the broth is reserved and used).

Kitchiner’s entry for Beef Bouilli (No. 5) is really more of a polemic in favor of boiling than it is a recipe. “Meat cooked in this manner,” he says

affords much more nourishment than it does dressed in the common way, is easy of digestion in proportion as it is tender, and an invigorating substantial diet, especially valuable to the Poor, whose laborious employments require support.

He continues in this vein, excoriating the poor for neglecting the “coarser cuts of meat” and choosing roasting over boiling, losing mass and nourishment in the process. Why, he wonders, can’t the miserable, hard-boiling, hard-drinking English be more like the French, who – despite having access to all the best booze – simmer and sip their way to perpetual good grace and humor?

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When the pot begins to simmer, per Kitchiner’s instructions, I skim the top with a ladle, then add a quartered onion, two stalks of celery, a dozen berries each of black pepper and allspice, and a few sprigs of thyme. About four hours later, I remove the shank. I would say that I pull the meat off the bone, but more accurately it slides off onto the platter. At this point, I figure the shin bone has a few more hours of good boiling left in it, so I return it to the pot and let it go at a rolling pace for a while. The result is three quarts of rich, heady broth.

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I’m sorry to report that I’ve completely failed in my efforts to turn the shin into a bland, dun-colored, flinty gnarl of meat. The beef I taste is flavorful, moist, and tender. Here’s my hot take on the Maillard reaction – it’s overrated.

Now it’s time to whip up the Wow Wow Sauce. I sample the mushroom catsup: liquid, salty, redolent of clove. It’s reminiscent of Worcestershire sauce, but in a different shape of bottle. The pickled walnuts are … unusual. The balsamic vinegar in which they’re packed dominates the initial touch on the palate, followed by traces of woodiness and tannin, like pine bark softened in mouthwash. Are they packed in the jars by smelly feet? I can’t say for sure. The texture is wet, crumbling clay.

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Kitchiner’s Wow Wow recipe is fairly specific:

Chop some Parsley leaves very finely, quarter two or three pickled Cucumbers, or Walnuts, and divide them into small squares, and set them by ready; put into a saucepan a bit of Butter as big as an egg; when it is melted, stir to it a tablespoonful of fine Flour, and about half a pint of the Broth in which the Beef was boiled; add tablespoonful of made Mustard; let it simmer together till it is as thick as you wish it, put in the Parsley and Pickles to get warm, and pour it over the Beef, or rather send it up in a Sauce-tureen.

He then describes a series of optional ingredients one could add to make it more “piquante.”

Here’s a summary of what I ended up doing:

2 T chopped parsley
3 pickled walnuts, diced
2 T butter
1 T flour
1 c beef broth at room temperature
1 T vinegar from walnuts
1 T mushroom ketchup
1 t horseradish
2 T beer

Melt the butter in a pan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the broth all at once, whisk into the roux, and allow the mixture to come to a simmer. Add the remaining ingredients except for the parsley and simmer for several minutes, until the sauce is thick and blended through. Finish with the parsley.

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I spoon some of the sauce over the beef and serve it with mashed potatoes (No. 106) and green beans (No. 133, more or less). I’m usually someone who likes things, but to be honest, I’m not a fan of the Wow Wow Sauce. It’s essentially gravy with pickled walnuts, and since I don’t love the pickled walnuts, the gravy isn’t working for me. One Internet commenter refers to it as “basically adding all the strong stuff the Victorians might have found in their kitchen together,” and I think that sounds about right.

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In the end, I mince the leftover meat, combine it with the stock, some vegetables, a splash of the mushroom catsup, and a cup of pearled barley, to make a substantial soup that – in the spirit of economy attested by Kitchiner – provides for lunches all week. This quality, the versatility of the boiled beef, is my main takeaway from my Test Kitchen endeavor, and it echoes in this proverb – with which I’ll conclude – quoted by the ever class-conscious doctor:

“Of all the Fowls of the Air, commend to me the SHIN OF BEEF, for there’s Marrow for the master, Meat for the mistress, Gristles for the servants, and Bones for the dog.”

1. Raleigh never came to Carolina, and in the interest of full disclosure, I didn’t visit the Rubenstein reading room until after I’d made the dish and drafted half this post. I did lay hands on the Fifth Edition in Duke’s collection. I also pulled out the single folder of Kitchiner manuscripts in the Trent Collection, and perused the five handwritten notes on social and mundane matters. But for the cooking activities of this project, and the quotations and references in this post, I made use of an Internet Archive version of the Fourth Edition, published in 1822.

Post contributed by Will Sexton, Head, Digital Projects and Production Services

How NOT to Pie a Duke Professor

In honor of Pi Day, it’s time for a pop quiz.

If you, an esteemed Duke University professor, received a pie in the face in front of your class, what would you do?

A. Update your CV, in preparation for finding an alternate career far away from college students.
B. Cry.
C. Pause for snack time, then continue your lecture on a sugar high.
D. Chase your assailant and catch him while wading through a creek.

If you were popular chemistry professor James Bonk (who passed away in 2013), your answer would be D.

Pie-Die Advertisement, From the Chronicle, March 21, 1975.
Pie-Die Advertisement, From the Chronicle, March 21, 1975.

Duke students have always been enterprising—a proud trait imaginatively demonstrated by the brief but legendary history of Pie-Die, Ltd., a student-run company that placed its first advertisement in the March 21, 1975 issue of the Chronicle.

For a fee, Pie-Die would track down your target of choice and, well, you get the idea. Apparently, business was quite good: on March 28th, an anonymous letter to the editor of the Chronicle, written on behalf of the “Family,” spoke of a “labor shortage” and offered a job to anyone with “expertise in dexterity and cunning not to mention a dash of insanity.” A hit on a professor cost around $30, while $300 bought a contract on then-Duke president Terry Sanford.

The letter concluded:

We sincerely hope that those who receive our pies are not left with a bad taste in their mouths. All pies are administered in good clean wholesome fun in the best “mom-apple pie” tradition. To prove our intentions, all proceeds will go to World Famine Relief after operating costs have been met.

The first to be hit was psychology professor Irvin Alexander, who was pied in front of his class in Zener Auditorium. He wore a fencing mask to his next class.

James Bonk’s turn came on March 31st, one day shy of April Fools’ Day. His hired assailant caught him with a pie at the end of one of his famed “Bonkistry” lectures. The first-year “hit-man” either didn’t know or failed to properly consider Bonk’s athletic prowess: he was a volunteer coach for Duke’s men’s tennis team and had played the sport since his childhood.

The Pie-Man's Attack. From the Chronicle, April 1, 1975.
The Pie-Man’s Attack. From the Chronicle, April 1, 1975.

With his 200 students cheering him on, Bonk chased the young man out of his class, across campus, and finally caught up with him in the middle of a stream, where he demanded to see the student’s Duke identification card.

Captured! From the Chronicle, April 1, 1975.
Captured! From the Chronicle, April 1, 1975.

This type of prank was becoming a trend on college campuses, and Bonk’s pursuit became national news. It was the perfect opportunity for pun-loving headline writers: the Charlotte Observer‘s article was titled “Pie-Eyed: Latest Craze is Chunking Custard,” while the Raleigh Times went with the more subtle “Creamed professor nabs pie thrower.” The Chronicle‘s headline was direct: “Bonk gets bonked.” The newspapers reported that the student would possibly face disciplinary action and that Bonk would also hold him responsible for his dry-cleaning costs.

After this, we lose track of Pie-Die: was there a turf war with their competitor, Fli-Pie? Did they ever catch up with Terry Sanford? Let us know in the comments if you can shed any light on these Duke history mysteries. (And, if you were a part of Pie-Die, let us know if you have any documentation from those days that you’d like to add to the University Archives. The statute of limitations must be up by now.)

Oh and, by the way, the pie that hit James Bonk was lemon meringue. Happy Pi Day!

Post contributed by Amy McDonald, Assistant University Archivist.