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Archive for the ‘food’ Category

Dear regular readers,

Today the Lazy Scholar is experimenting with a new feature called Old News, in which current news items are paired with archival finds. Let me know if you like it!

• The New York Times ran a taste-test of strawberry ice cream, only to find that the not-so-local, not-so-artisinal Häagen-Dazs variety beat out the pricier competitors. You can try making your own from scratch, following this recipe for Crushed Strawberry Cream from 1907’s Ice Cream and Candy Makers’ Factory Guide, courtesy of the Smithsonian’s Trade Literature Collection. Many more cool images and texts can be found on their Flickr page.

• You might have heard: the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California overturned the state’s ban on gay marriage. But the fight for marriage equality has deeper roots than you might think. Listen to track 4 from this digitized 1970 episode of “Gay Perspective,” a radio show produced by the Milwaukee-based Gay People’s Union. In this installment, a lesbian couple relates how they sought a marriage license from the Milwaukee County Clerk and were quickly denied. As one woman put it, “Love is not meant to be hidden…. And I won’t hide it. If I don’t get a license now, I’ll keep trying, and keep trying, and eventually I’ll get one.” There’s much more to hear and see in the Gay People’s Union Collection, brought to you by University of Wisconsin.

• Speaking of marriage, in Real Simple, Daily Show correspondents and spouses Samantha Bee and Jason Jones offer advice to make your holy matrimony “divorceproof,” including this useful bit of wisdom: “If you’re irritated by your partner, imagine him as a small child.” For some more tried and true advice, read Marie Carmichael Stopes’ 1918 text Married Love, digitized by UPenn. Its frankness so scandalized readers, the book was banned in the U.S. until 1931. Here’s one of its raciest images: a”curve showing the Periodicity of Recurrence of natural desire in healthy women.”

• The Associated Press reports that the U.S. Postal Service is apparently ailing, as, wouldn’t you know it, people have switched increasingly from paper mail to the electronic variety. You can start mourning the passing of stamps by checking out Arago, the collections site of the National Postal Museum. Take, for example, these 1979 “Endangered Flora” stamps. Because one endangered species deserves another.

• Courtesy of the Library of Congress, the Denver Post has put online 78 beautiful color photographs taken from 1939 to 1943 for the Farm Security Administration. To those used to imagining the 1930s and 40s in black and white, the color images have a way of bringing that period a little bit closer. You can view many, many more on the Library of Congress site, including this photo of a Florida “juke joint.”

Yours currently,

Stephen

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Dear obsessive Netflix queue updaters,

I went to San Francisco last week to do some research at a couple of non-digital archives—you know, the kind with actual, physical papers and books—but spent much of my time wondering what my life would be like on the west coast. Would I indulge in olive oil ice cream everyday? Teach in HistCon? Overcome my fear of driving on steep hills? What made Californians different from the Brooklynites and Bostonians  I’ve known?

My on-the-ground research remains inconclusive—one person described liberal Californians as passive-aggressive, in contrast to plain-old aggressive New Yorkers—but my digital research promises more answers, thanks to the archives of Sunset. As explained by historian Kevin Starr in this nice Stanford exhibit, the periodical eventually known as “the magazine of Western living” was founded in 1898 by the Southern Pacific Railroad in hopes of attracting the upper classes. To the right, you can see the cover of the first issue, beckoning readers beyond Yosemite. (Check out many more cover images on the Stanford site here.) Thanks to the ever-resource-full Internet Archive, as well as Google Books and the Harvard archives, you can also read some of those early volumes. The June 1900 issue featured, for instance, the sonnet “Before the Twilight Comes” by San Francisco accountant and lawyer John Franklin Forbes:

When down the flaming causeway of the west
The regal sun, refulgent in the gleam
Of sacred fire and the paler beam
That reaches into nothingness in quest
Of laggard eve, is passing to his rest,
And in his wake, like babbling of some stream,
Or soft, uncadenced voices of a dream,
Sound murmurs of the gentle night wind’s guest.

Then ere the tides grow dark as they flow in,
A blush of gold comes rippling down the bay
To kiss the Berkeley hills, and o’er Marin
A purple vapor veils each mountain height
For a brief while—then slowly fades away
Within the dusky coverlet of night.

Perhaps it’s a good thing Forbes left poetry behind to teach accounting and auditing at Berkeley. On the more serious side, the magazine also featured Mary Edith Griswold’s first-hand account of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and its aftermath. One of the more stirring moments from her narrative: “As we stopped on Stockton street to watch a toppling-wall I found myself next an old colored man. As he spoke I recognized in him the negro exhorter. I had sometimes listened when he was holding forth from his open-air platforms. Now he was exclaiming: ‘Haven’t I prophesied all this? Haven’t I told you this wicked town would be consumed with fire and brimstone? But now I’m sorry I spoke.'”

By 1914, the Pacific Railway decided to get out of the magazine biz, but as Starr points out, the magazine had already outlived its early promotional goals, publishing famous and soon-to-be-famous writers including Sinclair Lewis, Damon Runyon (read one of his poems here), and Jack London.

Another major shift came in 1929 when the magazine was purchased by publishing mogul Larry Lane and his wife, who expanded the focus of the magazine to include the Great Indoors. This new attention towards the home may best be revealed by two of the covers from the thirties, below.

That decade also saw the release of the first Sunset cookbook, the All-Western Cook Book by Genevieve Callahan, available on the Internet Archive and on Google. Honestly, who had time to worry about the Great Depression when you were preparing artichoke soufflé? As Callahan exhorted, “Don’t let yourself fall into the routine of cooking just a few old familiar vegetables! Explore! Experiment!” Irony aside, I have to say, I love this illustration of a fashionable lady buying vegetables from an ambiguously ethnic market man.

As far as I can tell from this brief browse, the Western ethos according to Sunset hasn’t changed much since then. The current issue still features awe-struck memoirs of trips to the wilderness, delectable recipes, gardening tips. But then again, so does the New York Times. If anything, it seems the West Coast no longer has much of a hold on Western living after all.

That’s what I’m telling myself anyway.

Yours escaping the Massachusetts humidity,

Stephen

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To the chronically tired,

While I may be lazy in my scholarship, let it never be said I’m a stranger to physical labor. On Monday, I started volunteering one morning a week at a local farm here in Northampton. As promised, the work was not glamorous—weeding, weeding, and more weeding—but it was surprisingly satisfying. As an academic, I’ve spent hours and hours revising the same paragraph, only to rework it again the following day. So imagine the joy in releasing a bushel of parsley from the strangling grasp of an encroaching weed, shaking off the soil, and moving on to the next plant. When I came home that afternoon, I still had dirt smeared across my brow—proof! It’s not so easy when your regular work consists of sipping  iced coffee while staring at a computer screen, trying not to cry. I know I’m getting ahead of myself for someone whose farming experience only amounts to four hours. But indulge me, dear reader. Do you know what it’s like to write a dissertation?

I’ve been fascinated for a long time with the sustainable farming movement, and the longer history of environmentalism in the U.S. Much of the current organic/local/natural food movement has its roots in the counterculture of the 1960s and 70s, though those hippies probably never suspected their work would yield Whole Foods markets in 39 states (for better or worse).

Their spirit, however, lives on, thanks to Whole Earth Catalog Archive. The Whole Earth Catalog was launched in 1968 by Stewart Brand, described at the time by Tom Wolfe as “a thin blond guy… No shirt, however, just an Indian bead necktie on bare skin and a white butcher’s coat with medals from the King of Sweden on it.” The goal of the catalog, as the first installment explained, was to market tools that enabled the “individual to conduct his own education, find his own inspiration, shape his own environment, and share his adventure with whoever is interested.” The products themselves range kind of wildly–a glass blowing guide, buckskin, hunting boots, self-hypnosis manuals. Though my favorite ad is for Anthony Greenback’s Book of Survival, which beat out The Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook by several decades. As the catalog assures, you may laugh, but “next time you’re running from an enraged bull, you remember about flinging down your jacket.”

By 1971, the catalog ballooned from 66 pages to 452, with a well-expanded section on land-use, from gardening to goat husbandry (Beekman Boys, here is your heritage!).

The catalog also yielded the CoEvolution Quarterly, later renamed The Whole Earth Review, also viewable online. They’re worth browsing for the trippy illustrations alone, including this cover from 1977 by Robert Crumb, which lightly parodies the utopian ethos of the back-to-the-land movement. The issue includes Crumb’s comic treatment of a “Modern Dance Workshop,” plus the results of a Stanford study on “Voluntary Simplicity,” lessons on retrofitting tract housing with solar panels, a story by J.G. Ballard, and thoughts on death from Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. 70s counterculture was anything but narrow.

Those less eager to flip pages online (or pay for the PDF) can also view some articles in HTML format.

I’ll leave it to readers to reflect on why we’re still fighting the battles the Whole Earth Catalog started forty years ago. For more on the catalog’s afterlife, you can check out Fred Turner’s well-received study From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism, or Brand’s latest Whole Earth Discipline: An Ecopragmatist Manifesto. And for a decidedly contemporary take, check out Adbusters latest issue, titled the “Whole Brain Catalog: Access to Therapies.”

On that note, back to my mental gardening.

Yours holistically,

Stephen

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To anyone who’s ever read an academic monograph on the beach,

The fiancé and I have relocated to Northampton, Massachusetts for the summer. For the moment, I’m still trying to find my bearings, which mostly means charting the routes between our apartment and every café in a two-mile radius. My friend Katie has also lent me her bike while she gallivants through the physical archives of Europe, though I discovered within a minute or two that I have actually forgotten how to ride (with a  slightly skinned knee to prove it).

It’s too soon to make any grand observations about Northampton or Western MA, but not to search the digital archive for glimmers of the past. So I turn to Digital Treasures, a joint archive of Central and Western MA’s industrial and agricultural history. The pickings are a little slim for Northampton itself, unless you’re a big fan of Calvin Coolidge, who lived and died here. In the photo below, he was spotted building (or at least modeling beside) a go-kart with his son, just a few years before he would head to the White House.

Maybe I’m just hungry, but personally, I’m a little more thrilled by these 1930s images of Holyoke’s A & P. Nothing like a long line of white guy in white pharmacist’s coats to rouse the appetite.

If that leaves you famished, you can also check out the selectively digitized recipes from the McIntosh Cookery Collection, including “Mother’s Buns” from the 1941 community cookbook What the Westminster Men Eat and How Their Wives Prepare It. I’m less sure what to make of Our Pet Cook Book from 1937 published by the MA Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The title suggests Depression-era dishes made for pets, or more grimly from pets. But in reality, like most community cookbooks, it was mostly an assemblage of recipes from the locals.

Still the real star of the McIntosh collection is their elegantly designed New England Chowder Compendium, which allows you to compare wild variety of chowder recipes (corn! oyster! clam!) decade by decade. Here, for one, is the fish chowder recipe from, yes, Our Pet Cookbook. Which raises the important question: would penguins make good pets?

Check back later in the summer for more Western Mass artifacts. For now I’ll sign off with this recording from the Massachusetts State College Glee Club courtesy of “UMarmot.”

Yours in summer garb,

Stephen

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To the domestically-inclined,

Break out your horseradish everybody! Passover is officially here, bringing with it gefilte fish, chocolate-covered matzo, brisket, and all the other healthy treats you’ve come to associate with the feast of the unleavened bread. In truth, perverse as it might sound, I do look forward to Passover every year, I suppose because it’s a family-centered, home-bound holiday, unlike Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur. Plus, I kind of like matzo. You know, until day four, when I start screaming at anyone in a twenty-foot radius eating a croissant. 

For the digital scholar, unfortunately, there is no single archive that provides a wealth of Passover-related ephemera, so I’ve had to cast a wide net. For starters, you can get your holiday off to a good start listening to a genuinely catchy album by Julliard and Jewish Theological Seminary grad Gladys Gewirtz. Digitized by FAU’s Judaica Sound Archives, Gewirtz’s Seder Party encourages us all to become “Seder Paraders,” and includes piano accompaniment by Long Island dentist Len Meinwald. (No joke, he continued to record into the eighties!) My favorite song, though, has to be, “Let’s Go Shopping,” an ode to the Passover grocery experience.

Marketers have known for a while that Passover shopping is, indeed, big business. The Reform Advocate reported in 1909 you could see ads for “Chad-Ghadye Ketchup,” named for the popular Passover song. Still Maxwell House has gone down in advertising history for the sheer chutzpah of their now-ubiquitous haggadah. Click here for some scans of an early edition, proclaiming their instant coffee the “Cantors’ Choice for every day enjoyment.” Manischewitz, too, knew a good act to get in on, producing a Yiddish/English pamphlet of Tempting Kosher Dishes for Passover, digitized by the incredible National Yiddish Book Center.  Their product line-up hasn’t changed much since then.

Truly, though, you’ve never seen Mr. Peanut looking so jaunty in that top-hat as he does in 46 Ways To Better Passover Meals brought to you by Planter’s Peanut Oil. (But eaters beware : the kosher status of peanut oil is a still a source of rabbinic debate!). 

Not all Passover publications are quite so product-placement-heavy. The Internet also hides a countless array of Haggadot. For a sampling, here is one from 1883, one from 1908, one from 1910, and one from the 1920s.

Last but not least, video-lovers can curl out on their couch and watch this rather remarkable footage from the 1969 Freedom Seder, organized by Rabbi Arthur Waskow in a black church on the anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assasination. And you can thank another underappreciated digital resource, my parents, forwarding me Martha Stewart’s tour of the Streit’s Matzoh Factory.

Yours in recline, 

Stephen

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To the seasonally-affective disordered,

The spring semester is officially under way, and I’ve started TFing a new class: Joyce Chaplin’s wonderful lecture on American food history. We’re still strolling around the colonial period, though for today’s post, I’m going to fast-forward to the twentieth century to point you towards the rewarding Szathmary Recipe Pamphlet Collection from the University of Iowa Digital Archives.

There you can read lots of promotional recipe books, like this one for custard mix, deceptively titled “A Dozen New Ways to Use Milk.” (Hint: All 12 involve “Junket,” a rennet-based thickener, because we all know, “Eating milk is even better for you than drinking it.”) Or how about 10 mustard-inspired ways “to use a whole ham.”

I also love the covers of this series, even if all of the recipes call for Armour and Company’s meat products. Canned pigs’ feet, anyone? Never again will you be out of luck when friends drop by for a chafing dish supper!

Here’s a short lament for the dilemma of the “emergency” dinner.

Click the page to read more!
Losing his appetite rapidly,

Stephen

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O pioneers of the digital frontier,

Anyone who’s watched Spike Lee’s sometimes brilliant, sometimes obvious 2000 film Bamboozled, Ferris State University’s  Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia might feel eerily familiar—the docile, self-sacrificing”mammy,” the lazy, stealing, and insatiable “coon” (on the left). Less familiar to some readers may be the sexually virile “Jezebel” stereotype, embodied, curator David Pilgrim argues, by Pam Grier’s blaxploitation turn as Foxy Brown (right).

None of the artifacts on the site are explicitly sourced, which speaks, in part, to the ubiquity of the imagery over a long span of time—so long that the stereotypes’ sources in the abuses of Southern slavery have largely been forgotten. Even reproducing the images feels suspicious to me, since they still beg the viewer to take pleasure in their excesses. Old Aunt Jemima packaging once provoked delight (and relief) in seeing stereotypes depicted, hierarchies confirmed. And yet we’re left with a new ironic laughter, taking pleasure in our shock—our willingness to deride Americans of the past as unforgivably racist without admitting the subtler bigotries of the present. For all its flaws, Bamboozled makes two points worth reflection that minstrelsy continues into the 21st century in less obvious but no less pernicious forms, and that stereotypes have a life and energy of their own, which cannot be easily tamed.

Three books on the subject worth reading: Donald Bogle’s classic Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies, and Bucks, about African-Americans in film; M.M. Manring’s Slave in a Box: The Strange Career of Aunt Jemima; and my advisor Glenda Carpio’s Laughing Fit to Kill: Black Humor in the Fictions of Slavery.

Last but not least, be sure to check out Slate’s succinct slide show on the history of racist spokescharacters, Uncle—I mean Chairman Ben included.

Yours sincerely,

Stephen

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