Daily Archives: October 5, 2008

What’s cooking and why?

food prepAs you enjoy the dishes from days of yore this month, remember that they weren’t always “historic.” The useful the tips, tidbits, and guides included in these recipes were once quite contemporary and modern, reflecting more than just the meals that were put on tables, but a complex social, political, and cultural environment. How do the ingredients reflect the economic conditions? How do the dietary suggestions point to health concerns? How do the exclusions reveal the social situation?

For those who are ambitious and looking for more than just an afternoon read, check out Cuisine and Culture: A History of Food and People, Food: The History of Taste (California Studies in Food and Culture, Better Than Homemade : Amazing Food That Changed the Way We Eat, Fashionable Food: Seven Decades of Food Fads, and Something from the Oven: Reinventing Dinner in 1950s America. Or for a more specialized lesson, look to Salt: A World History, The True History of Chocolate, Spice: The History of a Temptation, and Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World. And despite the misstatement “there was no real Betty Crocker,” (OSU’s Mercedes Bates was real!), Finding Betty Crocker: The Secret Life of America’s First Lady of Food is an interesting book that shows how Betty Crocker was turned into one of the most successful marketing tools ever.

If you don’t want to head to your arm chair with a book, but curl up with your computer instead, there are many web sites dedicated to the history of food. The Association for the Study of Food and Society is an international organization dedicated to exploring the complex relationships among food, culture, and society. The Anthropology of Food site is a web journal dedicated to the social sciences of food. Other, more anecdotal sites are also only a click away. What do you know about the history of Ceviche? Or the tale behind Frogmore Stew? Or the story of England’s tea time? The History and Legends of Favorite Foods site will give you a few details—and the opportunity to share your own bits of food wisdom. Have you ever thought about what foods the Vikings ate? How Thomas Jefferson made his ice cream? What the pioneers cooked along the Oregon Trail? Or who invented the potato chip…and why? Take a trip to the Food Timeline site! As the site says, “food history presents a fascinating buffet of popular lore and contradictory facts.” Explore and learn how the foods we eat have changed and evolved to their present version. You can also click around to learn more about the Slow Food Movement and the US Ark of Taste. Finally, The Michigan State University Library and the MSU Museum have partnered to create an online collection of some of the most influential and important American cookbooks from the late 18th to early 20th century called Feeding America: The Historic American Cookbook Project. Digital images of the pages of each cookbook are available as well as full-text transcriptions and the ability to search within the books, across the collection, in order to find specific information.

But what if you want more about Corvallis and OSU? Yes, there are even more resources to learn more about our community! The Ten Rivers Food Web, the Oregon Farmers Markets Association, and the Corvallis-Albany Farmers’ Markets all have great sites dedicated to our own food resources. To see what’s cooking by Corvallis cooks, look to the AllRecipes site for several local people sharing their recipes. And the campus departments are brimming with guides. Check out the College of Health and Human Sciences’ site Cultural and Historical Aspects of Food. Don’t forget the Department of Food Science & Technology (yes, this is where you find out about the Food Sensory Lab). Finally, The Food Innovation Center at OSU is dedicated to offering experience and technical skills to help foster the success of food and agricultural enterprises.

Turning to our Archives, make sure to look at the Ava Milam Clark Papers, the College of Home Economics and Education Records (RG 141), the Betty E. Hawthorne Collection, the Oregon Home Economics Association Records, the Extension Service Records (RG 111), the Nutrition and Food Management Records (RG 217), as well as the publications and photographic collections for the College of Home Economics (P 44) and Home Economics Extension (P 115).