I’ve been working as an intern here at the Archive since the end of August-–a requirement of my Library Technology program at Diablo Valley College. Since I was a professional cook for 20 + years, I undertook consolidating the cookbook collection. I learned a lot and made some blunders along the way. I suggest that anyone doing an internship at any kind of library do so after they have studied cataloging. Considering my food background, I started from a personal idea of what I thought was related to cooking—a wide range of topics from actual cooking to the roles surrounding food in different cultures, to gardening and farming, to sustainability and world food production, including the politics that shape these issues. In my zeal to incorporate all things food in the cooking collection, I added thousands of files to the collection that were not appropriate to the subject heading of “Cooking”. This does not fly with Library of Congress. The scope note for the subject heading (part of the classification process for organizing books) states “ … that the term “Cooking” is used broadly to include food preparation of any kind, regardless of whether or not heat is applied.” “Recipes,” is not an appropriate subject heading or search term either. A recipe can be for a souffle, floor wax or shoe polish.
I love the old cookbooks from early to mid-century. The quality of the graphics, fonts and engraving is of a quality not seen today. They were written before processed foods were easily available. Food was pure, and people had time to cook. Clarence E. Edwords traveled through virtually every neighborhood to report on “Bohemian San Francisco: Its Restaurants and their Most Famous Recipes-–The Elegant Art of Dining,” published in 1914. This is quite the romantic paean, a wonderful journey in time to post-earthquake San Francisco. If you want to try your hand at authentic turn of the last century’s San Francisco cooking, the recipes are here (heavy on the shellfish and cream), along with some colorful descriptions of the neighborhoods, grand hotels, restaurants, chefs and purveyors.
On the other hand, in the most disgusting sandwich in the world category, there is “Let’s Make A Sandwich” (the video was made by the American Gas Association in 1950 to promote “modern” cooking techniques) in which Sally Gasco makes Tuna Rarebit for her guests. No matter how you try to dress it up, canned tuna, butter, milk and cheese do not mix, especially in black and white, but it’s worth the trip to the ’50s for a lesson in cultural training for young women.
Venturing east and into the surreal, you might want to watch “Cooking With Jolene The Trailer Park Queen,” in her trailer park kitchen. Jolene Sugarbaker teaches home economics in the northern Virginia area, and has an on-line cooking video series. It’s not fancy, but it’s real. Jolene is instructive, friendly and entertaining. If you were ever curious about how to prepare fried pickles or an economical casserole, Jolene’s your girl.Looking at thousands of cookbooks and videos for these past few months has been a great pleasure. Just in time for the holidays, there are a few thousand free books, audios and videos about every kind of cooking technique, ingredient, time period, and world region imaginable. If you didn’t know about it already, I encourage everyone to take a look at this treasure trove for food enthusiasts. All you have to do is go to http://www.archive.org/details/cbk.