Special Collections: Add food and stir?
“Hi, I’m working on a paper…..” is one of the more common statements we hear from undergraduates coming into Special Collections. Although undergraduates using our primary sources for research papers might be the most common use, last week, Assistant Professor Tom Mullaney’s History 305A: The History of Information reminded me that there are many other ways our students use these materials.
Professor Mullaney selected a small handful of cookbooks from our collections, assigned students into teams, and asked each team to choose a recipe to recreate it in their own kitchen, and bring to class. The cookbooks selected encompassed a wide range of dates: New American Cookery (published in 1805), 500 Food Extender Wartime Recipes (published in 1942) and the 1953 second reprint of Mr. and Mrs. Roto-Broil Cookbook were among the handful of books on reserve.
The students came to our reading room over the course of a week and a half, discussing, debating, and finally, selecting a recipe that would best meet their own dietary needs. Some were kosher, others were gluten free, and still others were vegetarian. This part of the assignment proved challenging as the selected recipe books did not consider dietary or religious restrictions on foods.
Professor Mullaney graciously invited me to try the students’ delicacies and hear their discussion about the challenges they faced in recreating these historic dishes using the information contained (and sometimes not contained) in each source. Foreign ingredients (pearl-ash anyone?) and loose descriptions of method added to their learned appreciation for how information was recorded, transmitted, and assumed. Many students turned to secondary sources (mostly Google) to augment and explain what little information their recipe communicated so that they could successfully complete their assignment.
I am grateful to the students of History 305A for reminding me, once again, of how our young scholars use primary resources in unique and creative ways beyond research papers.
One source students consulted:
A recipe was chosen:
Sources cited in this article:
RBC KD1805 .N47 T http://searchworks.stanford.edu/view/2020090
Mss Misc 1503 http://searchworks.stanford.edu/view/7164779