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?
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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.

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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

Women at Work: the Nuns of the Ripoli Press

There are many “firsts” in the Lisa Unger Baskin collection, and this early work is one of my favorites. It is one of the first books we know to be typeset by women.

Incominciano Le uite de Pontefici et imperadori Romani [Lives of the Popes and Roman Emperors] was published by the press at the Convent of San Jacopo Di Ripoli in Florence in 1478. The Baskin Collection includes two copies. They are incunabula [cradle books], a term traditionally used to indicate works that were printed before 1501, when printing technology was still in its infancy.

Over the course of nine years (1476-1484), the Ripoli press issued around one hundred different titles, half of which were secular.  The convent’s diario (daybook) notes that the Dominican sisters received modest wages for their labor, which were contributed to a common fund to support the convent.

The nuns work as typesetters was in keeping with the order’s rules. The Dominican constitutions directed the nuns to copy manuscripts for religious use, and the new technology of typesetting accomplished the same end. I have to wonder what it was like for them to literally retool with this new technology.

RipoliNuns-IllustratedCapitals-detail
Rubrication on copy 1

The first copy in the Baskin Collection is complete and is decorated with hand-colored initials called rubrication. Copy two lacks the first six leaves and has not yet had the decorative initials added. It is untrimmed, and over the years comments have been added in several hands and inks. Most interesting is the extensive marginalia around the entry for the (most likely) fictional Pope Joan with its long manicule and notation “papa femina.”

RipoliNuns-Pope Joan entry
“papa feminina” marginalia on copy 2
RipoliNuns-handwritten section header
Handwritten section header
RipoliNuns-Colophon
colophon
RipoliNuns-copy2-spine
Spine of copy 2

I look forward to sharing these volumes with students and visitors. If you run your fingers gently over the pages, you can feel the impressions made by the thousands of pieces of moveable type the nuns of Ripoli carefully set by hand.

To learn more about the work of the Convent of San Jacopo Di Ripoli consult:

Post contributed by Naomi Nelson, Ph.D., Associate University Librarian and Director, Rubenstein Library.

“The Poetic Inflections of a Voice Addressing a Tribe of Men Besieged by Beasts”: Radio Haiti’s Cultural Programming

On December 29, 1972, the renowned writer, poet, and visual artist Frankétienne, one of the fathers of the Spiralist literary movement, wrote a letter to his friend, Jean Dominique.

My very dear Jean, how the years have passed, since that afternoon when I first saw you at Thony Phelps’ house!  That was in 1962, I believe.  You smoked a pipe at the time.  That day, there was talk of a book upon which you would be commenting the next day on the air at Radio Haïti.  Ah!  How the years have passed! 

For Frankétienne, Jean Dominique was both a personal friend and an intellectual interlocutor; the cultural programming he oversaw at Radio Haiti not only showcased Haitian arts and literature, but also influenced them.

Meanwhile, you continue, with ferocity and great faith, in your work as a lucid informant, guiding your listeners, aiding the youth with your advice.  And as for me, I was among that number who listened to you, who followed you closely.  Your critical analyses were for me an invaluable contribution, as much on the cultural level as on the purely human level. Your Sunday broadcasts enhanced my love of art, cinema and in particular literature, even influencing my reading and literary research.  And, today, now that we have become friends, this remains true.  Jean, my brother, you could not suspect or guess how my conversations with you have oriented and enriched my work as a writer.  Your insights have been of great use to me, with regard to the material of my last book Ultravocal

 The letter is from 1972, shortly after Jean Dominique bought Radio Haiti; it offers a glimmer of what was to come. In the years that followed, Radio Haiti’s main cultural program “Entre Nous” would become something of an on-air salon, a place where painters, poets, novelists, historians, social scientists, storytellers, playwrights, musicians, critics, and others came together to discuss their work.  Émile Ollivier, Mimi Barthélemy, Edwidge Danticat, Amos Coulanges, Tiga, Georges Castera, Syto Cavé, Roger Gaillard, Jean Fouchard, Kettly Mars, Dany Laferrière, Gary Victor, Yanick Lahens, Ralph Allen, Jean René Jérôme…

To listen to these creators of art and of knowledge is to reorient the narrative about Haiti.  The standard story of Haiti is dominated by crisis: rare is the mainstream US news article that does not contain the words “the poorest country in the Western hemisphere.”  Haitian people are depicted as either powerless victims or bloodthirsty criminals.  For centuries, lurid, racist, deterministic narratives have enabled dominant geopolitical powers to undermine Haitian sovereignty and justify exploitation. According to these tropes, Haiti and Haitian people are organically poor – not only materially and economically, but intellectually, culturally and morally as well.  Haiti is atavistic, violent and diseased. Haiti is starving children, “boat people,” ragged people.  Haitian suffering is described, exaggerated, and luxuriated over, but rarely presented as anything other than an inevitability.

Radio Haiti presented Haitian narratives about Haitian crisis, exposing and analyzing the structural causes of oppression and political instability.  The archive contains the voices of the intellectual elite and of the urban and rural poor alike, for Radio Haiti was one of the few places at the time where the oppressed and disenfranchised masses had lapawòl, the power of speech.

And in its cultural programming, Radio Haiti achieved even more: it decentered the narrative of crisis.  It presented not a Haiti of suffering, but a Haiti of beauty and brilliance, one in which crisis is met with and defied by acts of creation.  A Haiti in which art, both implicitly and explicitly, is political.

A few months ago, I found a little piece of ephemera hidden face-down at the bottom of a reel-to-reel tape box.  It had been used as scratch paper: on one side is a handwritten list of sponsors from the late 1980s (Parkay Margarine, Kraft Mayonnaise, Breacol cough syrup, and so on).  On the other side is this:

raffle ticket
Raffle ticket, December 1979

By 1979-1980, businesses no longer advertised on Radio Haiti. The station openly opposed the Duvalier dictatorship, and potential sponsors, afraid of reprisal, did not want to be seen as accomplices.  During this time, station manager Richard Brisson famously raised some money by using his car as a taxi. And in December 1979, several celebrated Haitian painters donated their works for an art raffle in support of Radio Haiti.   Each ticket cost three dollars, for the chance to win a piece by one of these twelve renowned artists.  The ticket is a relic, a souvenir of the extraordinary devotion that Radio Haiti inspired.  It is also a poignant reminder of the grinding struggle to keep the station afloat day-to-day in the face of economic obstacles and political oppression.

Sometimes it feels as though Radio Haiti’s story, like that of Haiti itself, is eclipsed by crisis — that Jean Dominique’s assassination has become the principal lens through which we understand and remember Radio Haiti.  But the loss of Jean Dominique and the injustice of his murder matter because his life mattered, because Radio Haiti’s many decades of work and legacy matter.  Before the symbolic weight of memory, before the burden of hindsight, before the doomed prophet, there was the daily work of the station — all of which lives on in this archive.

So much comes before death; so much remains when death is no more.


In his letter to Jean Dominique, Frankétienne outlines the challenges facing the Haitian writer who strives to be accessible.

All writers, at least as far as I’m concerned, would like to be read and understood by their people, by the greatest number of people possible.  It is our dearest hope.  Yet, if that does not occur immediately, then another story, often macabre, begins.  In the case of our country, one must overcome a double illiteracy: 1) obvious illiteracy (the inability to read at all, whether in Creole or in French) and 2) hidden illiteracy (the belief that one knows how to read, but in truth one does not perceive the structure and the possible meanings of a text).  Faced with this double difficulty, or rather facing this double obstacle, the Haitian writer has no choice.  It is absolutely impossible for him to write for the masses that cannot read at all.  And this makes him suffer terribly, especially when, in his books, he reckons with problems that would be of utmost interest to those illiterate masses

Radio was a medium of unparalleled power in twentieth-century Haiti: it enabled people to participate in public discourse, as both listeners and speakers, whether or not they could read and write.  And it allowed writers to reach a far broader audience, to be true public intellectuals.  For this is what Jean Dominique was: a public intellectual. It was on the radio that his intellect unfurled: analytical and incisive, sometimes staggering.

There is a poet character who wanders, searching through words in a verbal delirium, writes Frankétienne in his letter, describing the themes of Ultravocal. 

In the course of his phantasmal voyage, overcome by pain, he discovers that his drama is not entirely personal, that his own rupture is nothing more than one aspect of a far wider tragedy, the great human misery.  From that moment on, the text breaks apart, spreading from the individual to the collective, from the subjective to the objective, from the particular to the general…  And the poet character, entwined with the narrator, dizzy, speaks. The poetic inflections of a voice addressing a tribe of men besieged by beasts.  My voice, perhaps.  Yours, or that of either of us.  And, when the narrator suggests… that one day, evil will be struck down into the dust with a terrible noise, then begins the final song, that of hope.


A week to the day before Frankétienne wrote his letter, Jean Dominique interviewed the painter Rose-Marie Desruisseau, in which she describes participating in ceremonies as part of her research for a series of paintings on Vodou.  (It was revolutionary, at that time, to speak on the radio of Vodou as a topic of intellectual and cultural importance and as everyday practice: Duvalier père had politicized and exerted control over Vodou, manipulating its imagery for his own purposes and power while exercising sanctions on the practice.)  Desruisseau describes her interactions with the Gede spirits, who are intermediaries between life and death. They dance provocatively through the cemetery, and shout and sing obscenities.  They are lively gods of death.  Vulgarity and humor, which transcend respectability and social convention, are the very things that enable Gede to straddle life and the afterlife, to be the master of the crossroads.

Rose-Marie Desruisseau explains:

“J’ai commencé d’abord par les dieux de la mort, tu vois, et puis je n’ai pas trouvé la mort chez eux, j’ai trouvé la vie intense, chez eux… chez les Guédés. Je n’ai pas trouvé la mort du tout.”

“I began first with the gods of death, you see, and it was not death that I found there.  I found intense life there… among the Gede spirits.  I did not find death at all.”

Radio Haiti’s archive, like a cemetery, like Haiti itself, is a place that could be defined by tragedy, loss and death.  The archive, like Haiti’s history, is filled with human rights violations, massacres, impunity, and assassinations.

Yet, listening to artists and iconoclasts, creators and truth-tellers, I recall those same words: It was not death that I found here, in Radio Haiti’s archive.  I found intense life here; I did not find death at all.

Post contributed by Laura Wagner, Ph.D., Radio Haiti Project Archivist. 

The Voices of Change project was made possible through a generous grant from the National Endowment of the Humanities.

A Conversation With SNCC Veterans: March 9th

Our Stories, Your Legacy:  A Conversation with SNCC Veterans

Date: March 9, 2016

Time: 6:30-8:00PM

Location: Franklin Humanities Institute, Amadieh Family Lecture Hall (FHI Garage)

2016 03 09_SNCCEventFlyer_cropJoin us for a converation with three veterans of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) as they discuss their work as activists and reflect on how telling the story of the Movement has evolved over time. Charlie Cobb (journalism), Judy Richardson (film), and Maria Varela (photography) will highlight how SNCC taught them the importance of capturing experieinces in the moment. The panel will also discuss the current efforts towards story-telling SNCC’s history using archival materials and comment on ways that modern activists can document their own work.

Trent Lecture on the Brooklyn Interns Hazing Episodes: March 7th

Date: Monday, March 7, 2016
Time: 5:30 PM
Location: Holsti-Anderson Family Assembly Room, Room 153, Rubenstein Library
Contact: Rachel Ingold, rachel.ingold@duke.edu, (919) 684-8549

Dr. Ed Halperin, M.D., M.A.Please join the History of Medicine Collections for our next Trent History of Medicine Lecture Series event. Dr. Ed Halperin, M.D., M.A., will present “This is a Christian institution and we will tolerate no Jews here”:  The Brooklyn Interns Hazing Episodes.

Anti-semitism in U.S. medical education rarely flared into acts of violence, except in Brooklyn. Presenting the results of recently completed research, Dr. Halperin will describe the assaults on the Jewish interns of Kings County Hospital in 1916 and 1927 and the implications of these assaults for the contemporary debate on immigration and higher education.

Dr. Halperin is Chancellor  and Chief Executive Officer at New York Medical College and Professor of Radiation Oncology, Pediatrics, and History as well as Provost for Biomedical Affairs at Touro College.

This event is open to the public.

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

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.

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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. 

A Bitter Look at the Sweet History of Brown Sugar

Amari Victoria Stokes was a student in Kelly Alexander’s Our Culinary Cultures course offered in the Fall 2015 semester in the Center for Documentary Studies. Utilizing Rubenstein Library resources, students in the class were asked to explore the history of a culinary ingredient of their choice, find a recipe that exemplified their chosen ingredient, and prepare it for the class. The following is Amari’s research paper submitted for the class.

Ginger DropsTwo eggs well beaten, one-cup brown sugar, two teaspoons ginger, one-cup N.O. molasses (boiled), one-teaspoon baking soda, flour to roll out. Mix in the order given. I poured the molasses into a pot and watched small bubbles form and subsequently burst as the dark liquid began to heat. As the molasses boiled on the stove, I started mixing the ingredients in the order specified in the recipe. After the eggs had been beaten furiously with my new silver whisk, I began to measure the brown sugar for what I hoped would be a delicious dessert.

Sticky and compact, I remember struggling to handle this strange sugar during family barbeques as we seasoned our meat. As I thought about it, I realized besides an occasional pineapple upside down cake, outside of barbeque, I couldn’t recall ever having used brown sugar. Why was that, I asked?

The story of brown sugar begins, unsurprisingly, with the story of sugar. Sugars are natural ingredients found in most plants but what we have come to known as sugar is often extracted from sugarcane and sugar beets. Sugar cane, from the genus Saccharum, was originally cultivated in tropical climates in South and Southeast Asia.1 Neither should it be a surprise that the road from brown sugar to white sugar looks very much like the roads taken to get to white bread, white flour, and white cotton. All have similar histories where the unnatural but white version is preferred or is seen as a higher quality than the browner, natural varieties.2

Three hundred years after being introduced to Europeans by Christopher Columbus in 1492,3 by the 19th Century, sugar was considered a necessity.4 This evolution of taste and demand for sugar had major economic and social implications for the entire world. As a result of this demand, tropical islands were colonized and sugarcane plantations began ‘cropping up’ in record numbers. Consequently, the demand for cheap labor to assist in the labor-intensive cultivation and processing of sugarcane contributed greatly to the transatlantic slave trade, which displaced many African peoples.5

As I turned down the heat on the molasses to allow it simmer, I carefully added ground ginger. Watching the ginger disappear into the creamy brown concoction, I thought back to my ancestors. It wouldn’t surprise me if at some point in history one of them had made the same treat for her master’s children while her own children toiled in the hot sun picking cotton or harvesting sugarcane.

Continue reading A Bitter Look at the Sweet History of Brown Sugar

Dispatches from the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Duke University