For the woman who would reduce: Prune soufflé

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Browsing our digitized collections for Test Kitchen fodder on the recent snow day, I stumbled upon an item from the Emergence of Advertising in America project, How Phyllis Grew Thin, created by the Lydia E. Pinkham Medicine Company and published circa the 1920s. On the advertisement’s cover, Phyllis shields her rosy complexion with a parasol as she gazes off the page, inviting the reader to discover the secret to achieving the willowy frame holding up her stylish sweater and pleated skirt.  We open the booklet and find stories of how women can shed undesired pounds through a reduced diet and relieve menstrual cramps, cycle irregularities, and menopausal symptoms through the use of Lydia E. Pinkham’s products.

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The epistolary advertisement is addressed to Nancy, a pudgy cartoon foil to Phyllis’s elegant watercolor. Phyllis promises to share with Dear Nancy the keys to losing weight through a proper diet. We learn that Phyllis has not always been so effortlessly thin. Inspired by Douglas Fairbanks’ and President Taft’s weight loss, Phyllis determines to do the same. As soon as she announced her intention to lose weight, “the derision and ridicule of my family strengthened me in my determination.” (page 2) In addition to the nourishing fire that comes from wanting to prove someone wrong, her reduced-calorie diet consisted of “plain meat without butter or gravies,” corn, prunes, and the occasional crustless pie. (page 2)   This kind of confessional tone continues to be a mainstay in contemporary weight loss advertising. The letter from Phyllis to Nancy serves as a precursor to current weight loss advertising’s penchant for before-and-after photos, Instagram hashtag culture (check out #transformationtuesday and #fitspo), and celebrity-endorsed diets.  (After a few Google searches for weight loss advertisements, my Facebook feed populated with sponsored content promising me a smaller pant size in mere days.)

Though her crash diet kept the weight off for a few years, Phyllis eventually gained the weight back and got serious about counting calories as a way to reduce again. She shares with Nancy that “it is not necessary for you to know just what a calorie is so long as you remember not to eat foods containing too many of them.” (page 3) The suggested calorie intake is considerably lower than most contemporary diet plans recommended by nutritionists, advising that Nancy (and “the army of women who are interested in reducing”) consume 1000-1200 calories a day. Phyllis then advises Nancy to take Lydia E. Pinkham’s Liver Pills and Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound, claiming that they help alleviate constipation and excessive nervousness, respectively. Lydia E. Pinkham established the Lydia E. Pinkham Medicine Company in 1873. Its signature product, Lydia E. Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound, was a tincture of  “black cohosh, life root, unicorn root, pleurisy root, fenugreek seed, and a substantial amount of alcohol” formulated to ease menstrual cramps and menopausal symptoms (1). Pinkham’s products still line shelves today, each box featuring Lydia Pinkham’s face, promising relief.

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Dry toast, baked beans, and fish balls, oh my!

At the top of each page, the booklet provides a daily meal plan with calorie counts for each item. The offerings are spare. One suggested breakfast consists of “4 saltines, 1 tbsp. cream cheese, 2 prunes, tea and lemon (without sugar).” (page 18) An idea for one dinner is little more than bun-less hot dogs and a small bowl of ice cream.

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Does getting to eat ice cream and macaroons make you forget you ate frankfurts and cold slaw for dinner?

Faced with these choices, I considered upping the Test Kitchen ante by following one of the suggested meal plans for a few days. Upon reflection, I thought better and opted to spare my friends and colleagues the monster that I am when not eating enough at regular intervals. Even reading meal plans for day after day of fruit (or saltines!) for breakfast followed by a mayonnaise-laden lunch had me throwing my Phyllis-esque determination out the window. The booklet contained few actual recipes. Oddly, most of them were for desserts: frosting, Brown Betty, orange sherbet, and pudding. The dessert that caught my eye, though, was prune soufflé. Why? Frankly, it sounded so unappetizing that I felt compelled to give it a shot. Maybe I’d been missing its hidden appeal. And, having never tried to make a soufflé, it seemed a fun technical challenge.

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The recipe given by the advertisement is deceptively simple. It’s less a recipe and more a list of ingredients. Perhaps this suggests that Pinkham’s target customer already had a thorough knowledge of soufflé-making and would simply need the inspiration to try a new take on the dessert. Since I have no such skills, I turned to the internet as a supplement, sourcing tips from a 1998 issue of Gourmet.

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The most appetizing shot of the night — and it’s of prunes!

When beginning a cooking project, I recommend ensuring you have all the right tools at your disposal before cracking your eggs. Alas, I did not follow my own advice! I began my soufflé only to find that my  house apparently lacks a hand mixer. Already committed to the recipe, I decided to channel my foremothers and hand-whip the eggs into stiff peaks. If cooks beat eggs into submission for years by hand, then surely I could as well! All those hours spent practicing surya namaskara should be good for something, right?

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My foam never quite peaked–a souffle’s death knell.

Unfortunately, I underestimated the time and effort needed to beat the eggs into fluffy mountains. I achieved the early stage, a frothy foam, but never progressed to the stiff peaks a soufflé needs to bloom. Still, it was late and I had cracked five eggs to try to make this work, so I soldiered on. Per Gourmet’s  instructions, I had soaked the chopped prunes in hot earl grey tea and lemon zest, hoping to brighten the flavors. After pureeing and cooling them, I slowly folded the foam into the mixture. Uneven in color, bubbly, and flat, I knew things had taken a turn for the worse. Still, I slid the muffin tin into the oven anyway, hoping that even if the souffle didn’t rise, I’d end up with a sweet baked egg fluff?

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In they went anyway!

Sixteen minutes later, I pulled them out of the oven to find a sad, deflated pan of brown blobs. I tasted one, and suddenly understood how easy it would be to “reduce” while following this diet. I tossed the remnants and dosed myself with a small handful of chocolate chips, the rest of which will hopefully go into a more successful baking project.

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I have made a terrible mistake.

Post contributed by Katrina Martin, Technical Services Assistant. 

 

Upcoming Talk: Scientists, Midwives, & Healers in the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection

Date: Tuesday, February 9, 2016
Time: 4:00 PM
Location: Holsti-Anderson Family Assembly Room, Rubenstein Library Room 153
Contact: Laura Micham, laura.m@duke.edu
RVSP (optional) via Facebook

Maria Sibylla Merian. De europische insecten. Tot Amsterdam: by J.F. Bernard, [1730].
Maria Sibylla Merian. De europische insecten. Tot
Amsterdam: by J.F. Bernard, [1730].
Join the staff of the Bingham Center as Duke History Professor Thomas Robisheaux gives a lecture on the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection, highlighting his use of works by naturalist and artist Maria Sibylla Merian. The lecture is free and open to the public; light refreshments will be served.

In celebration of:

Heralding the Way to a New World: Exploring Women in Science and Medicine through the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection

On display in the Michael and Karen Stone Family Gallery from January 20th to April 1st, 2016

From the first entomologist to capture the stages of metamorphosis of the butterfly (1705) to the author who published the first comprehensive volume on contraception (1923), the women in this exhibit were pioneers in science and medicine. Whether self-trained or classically educated, they not only made groundbreaking contributions to their fields, but also helped open the way for future generations to follow in their footsteps. Despite their accomplishments, most of these women remain overlooked or under-recognized.

This exhibition highlights the stories of seven revolutionary women in science and medicine and celebrates the arrival of the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection, from which these materials were selected.

The Lives and Voices of Guantanamo: The Work of the Witness to Guantanamo Project

Date: January 21, 2016
Time: 6:00-7:00pm
Location: Holsti-Anderson Family Assembly Room (Rubenstein Library Room 153)
Contact: Patrick Stawski (patrick.stawski@duke.edu)

January 22nd will mark the 6th anniversary of Obama’s promise to close Guantanamo. On Thursday Jan 21st, 2016, The Human Rights Archive at Duke’s Rubenstein Library will be hosting a presentation by Peter Jan Honigsberg, “The Lives and Voices of Guantanamo: The Work of the Witness to Guantanamo Project.”

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The Witness to Guantanamo project has filmed in-depth interviews of 136 people who have lived or worked or have been involved in the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba detention center. No one else in the world is doing this kind of work. Interviewees include not only detainees, but also prison guards, interrogators, interpreters, chaplains, medical personnel, habeas lawyers, prosecutors, journalists, high-ranking military and government officials, and family member of the detainees. The project has filmed more than 250 hours of video in 20 countries.

Peter Jan Honigsberg is professor at the University of San Francisco, School of Law, and the founder and director of the Witness to Guantanamo project. Professor Honigsberg has written books, law review articles and blog pieces on Guantanamo and on post 9/11 issues. He was recently invited to speak to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva. Professor Honigsberg is the author of Our Nation Unhinged (University of California Press, 2009). He is currently working on a book on his research and work with the Witness to Guantanamo project.

Co-sponsored by the Duke Human Rights Center @ FHI.

New Exhibit! Malignant Fever: Benjamin Rush and the 1793 Epidemic in Philadelphia

Please visit our new exhibition Malignant Fever: Benjamin Rush and the 1793 Yellow Fever Epidemic in Philadelphia, curated by Mandy Cooper, PhD candidate in Duke University’s History Department. The exhibition will be on display in the Mary Duke Biddle Room through March 11, 2016.

This exhibit highlights the effects of epidemic diseases on society by examining one of the most famous outbreaks in U.S. history – the 1793 yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia. Drawing chiefly on letters written by Dr. Benjamin Rush, an eighteenth-century physician and U.S. Founding Father, to his wife Julia Stockton Rush, the exhibit examines the timeline of the outbreak, early responses, stages and symptoms, and the “cure” for yellow fever that Rush developed. Finally, the exhibit looks at the anatomy of an epidemic, focusing on the social and psychological effects exemplified by Rush’s emotion-filled letters, as well as stories that emphasize the fear, panic, and mental anguish that accompany epidemic disease outbreaks even today.

Coinciding with this exhibition is a new digital collection of the Benjamin and Julia Stockton Rush papers held by the History of Medicine Collections in the Rubenstein Library.  We encourage you to visit the exhibition and check out the new digital collection as well.

A gallery talk led by Mandy Cooper will be held on Friday, February 26, at 2 pm in the Mary Duke Biddle Room. All are welcome to attend. Light refreshments will be served.

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

Edwin and Terry Murray Comic Book Collection: Closed for cataloging as of March 1st!

There’s no denying it: we love the Edwin and Terry Murray Comic Book Collection. The product of 40+ years of collecting by Edwin L. and Terry A. Murray, the Murray Comic Book Collection has far-reaching holdings, from mainstays like DC to smaller publishers like Pacific Comics. It has an enormous volume of materials–almost 290 linear feet, or nearly the height of the Statue of Liberty from the ground to torch (305 feet)![i] And it’s very comprehensive: to quote our finding aid, the Marvel series contains “near-complete runs of Avengers, Captain America, Fantastic Four, Daredevil, Incredible Hulk, Punisher, Spider-Man, Thor, and X-Men.

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Image via Alyssa Alegre

The Murray Comic Book Collection has been good to us, providing us with ample opportunities to use its holdings for instruction sessions, reference questions, research, and even blog posts. We want to be good to it, too. With the spirit of the New Year at our backs, we’re embarking on a project to reprocess the titles in the collection as serials. Thus, beginning March 1st, 2016, the Edwin and Terry Murray Comic Book Collection will be closed to researcher use.

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You may now be wondering: what’s a serial?

A serial “is a resource issued in successive parts, usually bearing numbering, that has no predetermined conclusion.”[i] When you look at that definition, it’s obvious that many comics are serials. A quick browse of our finding aid shows our comic titles are often issued in successive parts (see the numbering of Sensation Comics below), and there are some that are still going strong after decades of issues. In fact, the Rubenstein has issues of Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories dating from the 1940s!

 

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By thinking of the Murray Comic Book collection as serials rather than as one big collection, we can go over it with a finer toothed comb: we learn even more about what we have, such as when a comic book series spawns a new series, or exactly how many issues we need to make a series complete. With that information, we’re then able to catalog each title individually, creating and/or improving upon records in our library catalog. Once this project is complete, you’ll be able to type in a title—like Action comics—into our search engine, and its very own record will come up. There will be direct access to serial titles, complete with listings of the issues we hold.

As might be expected, this project will take time, which is why we’ve decided to close the collection March 1st. We’ll need to sort those 290 linear feet of comic books, grouping by titles and sleuthing out potential issues. We’ll also look at rehousing the titles in the collection. After that, we’ll catalog them as titles, so that researchers will be able to use their own super powerful research skills to locate our holdings quickly and easily. No lassoing of truth necessary.

Post contributed by Liz Adams, Special Collections Cataloger.


 

[i]“Statue facts.” The Statue of Liberty Facts. The Statue of Liberty – Ellis Island Foundation, Inc. All Rights Reserved., n.d. Web. 12 Jan. 2016.

http://www.libertyellisfoundation.org/statue-facts

[i]“Serials.” RDA Toolkit. RDA Co-Publishers, n.d. Web. 12 Jan. 2016.

http://access.rdatoolkit.org/

“From Sit-Ins to Hashtags” on Display at Perkins Library

Culture Clash is a series of exhibits, created by the Center for Multicultural Affairs (CMA), traditionally hosted in the Alcove outside of the CMA Lounge. Culture Clash aims to provide multicultural and social justice education to build and/or strengthen bridges between different communities at Duke and beyond. The exhibit provides members of the Duke community and guests of the CMA the opportunity to explore the intricacies of the human experience with the focus on building sustainable, authentic, and healthy relationships and communities.

This year’s culture clash, which is on display through February 1st, 2016 at Perkins Library’s Campus Club Wall, is entitled “From Sit-Ins to Hashtags”. The exhibit explores the patterns of student social justice work and activism both at Duke and beyond throughout history. The photos depict different trends and styles of activism in the different decades.

Students protest in favor of the Black Faculty Initiative, April 1988.
Students show support for the Black Faculty Initiative, April 1988.

Curating Culture Clash has been a wonderful learning experience. I have a new appreciation for museums and exhibits; until now I never really realized how much thought and effort goes into a project of this nature. From beginning to end, this project has been about learning. The research aspect of the project was fairly intuitive because here at Duke we are always doing research. Finding movements to document and represent wasn’t overly challenging. Even finding an equal representation of photos from each decade was a fairly smooth process due to the help of the University Archives.

The challenge in this project came with deciding on how to visually present all of the photos. Juggling some 70 odd photos and 19 photo frames and 126 square feet of wall space was an experience. For me especially, I struggle with visualizing; I need something concrete to look at. The later part of the curation process involved a lot of cutting paper models and trying to learn how to visualize the small picture within the big picture. However, teamwork makes the dream work here at the Center. As a team, we made all the pieces come together in the end. We are very happy with the final outcome of the project.

We hope that from this exhibit students can understand how student social justice work has transpired in the past, and perhaps find inspiration to be an advocate for a cause that moves them.

We would like to give a special thanks to Margaret Brown, E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation Exhibits Coordinator, and Amy McDonald, Assistant University Archivist, for all of their help throughout the curation process.

Related Resources:

Post contributed by Vanessa Lusa, Class of 2018 and Center for Multicultural Affairs Student FACE.

Seen and Heard in the Rubenstein Library – The Emancipation Proclamation

Seen and Heard in the Rubenstein Library – The Emancipation Proclamation

Date: Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Time: 12:00 PM

Location: Hosti-Anderson Family Assembly Room, Rubenstein Library 153

cobb580_cropPlease join us for a showcase of new exhibits in the Rubenstein Library. Professor Jasmine Nichole Cobb will share reflections on the Emancipation Proclamation. Visitors are encouraged to view the exhibitions on display in the Mary Duke Biddle Room including a rare State Department copy of the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation on loan from David M. Rubenstein (T’70). Light lunch will be served.

King Cake – Rubenstein Library Test Kitchen

image09-23New Years Eve marked the final celebration in a slew of winter holidays that put my more introverted side through the social ringer. With New Year’s resolutions on my mind, I am eager to settle back into the routine that unraveled during the holidays (perhaps with a few more trips to the gym during the week). More than anything, I want to “get back to normal” and recharge.

Whereas I am cozying up for the long, comfortingly mundane winter, New Orleanians are gearing up for the most magical time of year: Mardi Gras season. That’s right. I said season. Unbeknownst to many, Mardi Gras is not just a day, it’s a weeks-long celebration marked by cloudless skies, community parades, and good street food.

Although Mardi Gras day jumps around from year to year depending on Easter, the season always kicks off on January 6, or the Epiphany – the day in the Christian religious tradition when the three wise men visited Christ, bringing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. In New Orleans, community members consume brightly colored King Cakes to celebrate the start of the Mardi Gras season.

Continue reading King Cake – Rubenstein Library Test Kitchen

Hoppin’ John (1847) – Rubenstein Library Test Kitchen

As much myth as morsel, the traditional southern dish of black-eyed peas, long-grain rice and salt pork–known as Hoppin’ John—has long been associated with good fortune when eaten on the first day of the new year.

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With January 1st fast approaching, I thought I would use the test-kitchen blog to try out the earliest known published recipe for Hoppin’ John, which comes from Sarah Rutledge’s The Carolina Housewife, originally published in 1847.

Book Title Page

But like any good legume dish, half of the work lies in letting the beans soak, so before I get into the recipe itself, I want to spend a little time soaking up the aura of this deceptively simple meal.

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Google the term Hoppin’ John, with or without the conspicuous g-deletion, and you’ll find a veritable cottage industry of food historians contemplating its finer points. While rice and pork are essential features of Hoppin’ John, most commentators center their accounts on the black-eyed pea, known variously as the cow pea, crowder pea and southern pea. Native to West Africa, the black eyed-pea was cultivated throughout the ancient world, from Greece and Rome to the Middle East and Asia. The durability of the dried African bean made it a prime provision aboard the transatlantic slave ship. The hardiness of the plant and its resistance to heat made it a staple crop on southern plantations, where it became a cheap and reliable means of feeding slaves and livestock. Poor whites across the south embraced the food, and in time, it eventually appeared on the table of southern planters, where it was received as a “very nutritious” and “quite healthy” alternative to the English field pea. Despite attempts on the part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture to expand the crop beyond the Mason-Dixon line after WWI, the food has remained part of the often-caricatured culture of the American South.

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And this is to say nothing about the black-eyed pea as prosperity charm or the twisted narrative behind the name Hoppin’ John. In the context of ancient Greece and Egypt, beans were said to possess the spiritual energy of the dead. Whether or not this has any bearing on the America tradition of eating black-eyed peas for good luck is impossible to know. A popular theory as to why the food must be eaten on New Year’s Day revolves around the supposed resemblance of the spotted pods to coins. Similar theories hold that collard greens, often served alongside black-eyed peas, represented paper money. Having grown up in a Tennessee household that regularly consumed black-eyed peas, I called my mother and asked her what she thought. Timid when questioned, she only said: “On New Year’s Day, it didn’t matter what else you had, as long as you had black-eyed peas.” She has a point. It makes sense for the working poor and enslaved to project mythical powers onto the foodstuff that was a ubiquitous part of their everyday lives. When life seems little more than a series of uncontrollable events, strung together by forced migration, famine and persecution, you don’t want to leave matters of good fortune to chance. Or as my mother says, “You don’t go borrowing problems.”

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As for the name Hoppin’ John, there is no definitive etymology. Some researchers focus on the semantic meaning of the term, suggesting that it grew out of a folk idiom for inviting a neighbor to dinner, i.e. Hop in John. Others focus on the phonetic properties of the term, insisting that it is an English appropriation of either a French-Haitian name for the pigeon pea (pois à pigeon) or the Arabic name for a similar dish of beans and rice (bahatta kachang). For me, I think the mystery of the name points back to that essential feature of vernacular culture that Richard Wright proposes in his essay “The Literature of the Negro in the United States,” where he describes black folklore and folkways as “The Form of Things Unknown.” By positing unknowing and mystery as the basis of vernacular culture, one is able to entertain various, competing theories while maintaining a healthy respect for the hermetic resistance of anonymous practices.

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These various theories were debated in real-time as Ashley Young (Duke, History PhD) and Lin Ong (Duke, Marketing Strategy PhD) helped me bring Rutledge’s recipe for Hoppin’ John to life.

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The original recipe is short on details. Here it is in its entirety:

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Given the ambiguity of the description and the dramatic changes affecting cultivation and cooking practices, the recipe requires a certain amount of creativity. The cowpeas that Rutledge mentions are prevalent in most parts of the rural south, but I could not find a local store in Durham that carried them in December, so I settled for the black-eyed cousin. As for the rice, I went with Luquire Family Food’s Long Grain Rice on the suggestion of Ashley, a food historian with an eye for unpolished grains. Instead of the standard cured bacon, I decided to go with a medley of swine. A hamhock would provide ample seasoning and flavor, while pieces of pork belly would give a little meat for the actual dish. Lin made the important point that the pork belly would probably take on an unappealing texture if cooked in the boiling stew. So we sliced the pound of pork belly into 1-inch cubes and pan-fried the cubes, adding them (along with a spoonful of the rendering) to the dish at the end.

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To speed up the cooking time, I soaked the pint of beans by bringing them to boil in a quart of water, letting them boil for a minute and then leaving them to cool for an hour. We then transferred the beans into a new pot with a fresh quart of water and the hamhock. We brought the stew to a boil and then let it simmer for close to an hour. While the beans were cooking, we washed the rice, making sure to remove all pieces of gravel, as per Rutledge’s slightly outdated instructions. With no objective way of determining when the beans were “half-boiled,” we settled on an hour. In that amount of time there was still enough water in the pot to cook the rice. But this seems totally arbitrary. If you like mushy beans (which I do), don’t be afraid of cooking them longer. You can always add more water when it comes time to cook the rice.

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IMG_0471Instead of just placing sprigs of mint on top like a garnish, we decided to slice them into shreds to help bring out the flavor. The experiment paid off. The sharp soprano sweetness of the herb cut against the walking bass notes of the simple grain and savory fat. The end result was a meal that made us feel plenty lucky, if only to have leftovers to go around.

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Notes

One could spend an entire day reading through the many, thoughtfully composed online histories of Hoppin’ John.  Most of the points made in these posts can be traced back to two works.

Miller, Adrian. Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2013.

Hess, Karen. The Carolina Rice Kitchen: The African Connection. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1998.

Post contributed by Pete Moore, Intern for the Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising, and Marketing History 

Now Accepting 2016-2017 Travel Grant Applications!

Don't worry, we won't make you take the bus.
Don’t worry, we won’t make you take the bus.

Researchers! The David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library is now accepting applications for our 2016-2017 travel grants.

The Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture, the John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture,  the John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History, and the History of Medicine Collections will each award up to $1,000 per recipient to fund travel and other expenses related to visiting the Rubenstein Library. The Rubenstein also offers the Eleanore and Harold Jantz Fellowship, a $1500 award for researchers whose work would benefit from use of the Jantz Collections.

The grants are open to undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, independent scholars, artists, and activists who live more than 100 miles from Durham, NC and whose research projects would benefit from access to collections held by one of the centers.

More details—and the grant application—may be found on our grants website. Applications must be submitted no later than 5:00 PM EST on January 29, 2016. Recipients will be announced in March 2016.

 

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