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Archive for 'What’s Cooking Wednesdays'

What’s Cooking Wednesday: What’s That Smell?


"Pie Judging Contest with Dr. Louise Stanley and Mary Lindsay (ARC 5729294) How would these ladies judge our pie smell?


Leave a comment on the bottom of this post telling us your favorite food smell. and you’ll be entered into a random drawing to win a copy of Eating with Uncle Sam from the Foundation for the National Archives!

Smells are everywhere. Realtors bake cookies and make coffee to help sell houses. Proud owners of new cars draw in deep breaths of “new car smell.” But did you ever smell an exhibit in a museum?

Visitors to “What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam?” might notice something different about this exhibit. Or at least, their noses might notice.

For the first time, the National Archives has added a smell to an exhibit.

Alice Kamps, the curator of “What’s Cooking,” suggested the idea, and soon exhibition designer Ray Ruskin was tackling the challenge of making this odiferous dream a reality. He faced two problems: size and smell.

The Lawrence O’Brien Gallery, where the exhibit is located, is not very large, and he was concerned that the space would not contain the smell. Would visitors to the Rotunda be sniffing the air as they looked at the Constitution? And there was concern that a smell would permanently linger in the air system of the space even after … [ Read all ]

What’s Cooking Wednesday: Halloween BBQ

If you really want to be scared by food, don’t miss “Food Frights” on Thursday night at 7 p.m. at the National Archives Building! David Gregory of NPR will moderate this discussion about how America’s government became involved in food safety and how food safety will look in the future. One of our panelists is Chef José Andrés (our Chief Cuinary Adviser for the exhibit). Here he is talking to the USDA representatives about food safety at our Food Day Open House. Don’t miss it on Thursday night—it’s free!

Today’s post will consider the two of most terrifying documents in the “What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam?” exhibit: the recipes from the Manual for Army Cooks, the 1879 edition.

These recipes are so frightening that you may want to consider making them for a Halloween party. Or, just frighten your guests by telling them the instructions for the second recipe below.

Vegetarians, look away now.

The manual includes instruction on preparing a “Baked Rabbit” that include this little preamble: “The cleft in the lip of a young and fresh rabbit is narrow, the ears so tender they can be easily torn; the claws are smooth and sharp. Old rabbits are the reverse of this.”

Certainly, the process of skinning a rabbit may make an urban dweller like me uncomfortable, but what it is particularly disturbing is the idea that the Army cook was familiar with skinning … [ Read all ]

Need a Halloween costume? Four food frights from our holdings

This postcard (ARC 2657925) was enclosed with several others as part of a letter from Acting Secretary of State Robert Bacon to U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom Whitelaw Reid regarding postcards that were circulating in South Africa regarding the meatpacking industry.

Do you like to be scared? If you do, forget about watching Halloween or The Ring or even the Treehouse of Horror episode on The Simpsons.

If you really like to be scared, you should come to the National Archives’ “What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam?” exhibit and see the records that document why the Government became involved in food safety. Before Federal regulation in 1906 with the Pure Food and Drug Act and the Meat Inspection Act, American citizens were chowing down on food flavored or preserved with sulfuric acid, formaldehyde, and borax.

Perhaps you could even craft some Halloween costumes from them. Here are four terrifying costumes inspired by our holdings:

Poison squad member
In 1902, these 12 Federal employees were true guinea pigs in the name of food safety. For five years, they sat down to delicious meals at the Bureau of Chemistry’s basement kitchen and ate a poisonous substance. They were not told what it was, or where in the food it was disguised. Then Chief Chemist Harvey Wiley recorded their symptoms, which were unpleasant but apparently not fatal. The “Poison … [ Read all ]

What’s Cooking Wednesdays: The case of the buttered pretzel

The packaging label for American Cone and Pretzel Co.'s Butter Pretzels. We fancy the non-sequitur elephant pretzel in the logo.

Since it’s fall and October, our thoughts naturally turned to Oktoberfest as a possible topic for What’s Cooking Wednesdays. However, one too many encounters with Upton Sinclair’s letter to President Teddy Roosevelt about the working conditions in meat factories had us avoiding the bratwurst. And, apparently, drinking beer in the office is hugely frowned upon by the management. So we turned to another appropriately Oktoberfest-y menu item: the pretzel.

While its presence in the U.S. doesn’t pack quite the same punch to the gut as the (un)savory sausage, the pretzel has its own colorful history to tell. It’s thought to have originated from monasteries in the Middle Ages, where monks made little pastries from strips of dough to represent a child’s arm folded in prayer. The treats, called pretiola (Latin for “little reward”) were given to children for good behavior and memorizing their verses and prayers.

Thanks to human migration, the pretiola traveled to Italy and became called brachiola (Italian for “little arms”). In Germany, it was known as bretzel or pretzel. It crossed the oceans with the immigrants in the 1800s and settled in Pennsylvania.

Lancaster County, PA, boasted the first commercial pretzel bakery, which was established by Julius Sturgis in the town of Lititz in 1861. The pretzel business was a brisk one. To this day, about 80 percent of the … [ Read all ]

What’s Cooking Wednesdays: Lookout cookouts

This week’s edition of What’s Cooking Wednesday comes from Kathleen Crosman, an archivist at the National Archives at Seattle.

Those who manned fire lookout towers were essentially camping out for weeks at a time. They had to pack their rations, which were mostly canned or nonperishable food, and prepare what meals they could.

Today’s high-tech, freeze-dried camping supplies are a vast improvement over even what was available in the 1960s, as any dedicated camper can tell you. At the National Archives at Seattle, we have a Historical Collection created by the Region 1 Office of the Forest Service in Missoula, Montana. In it are lookout cookbooks from 1938, 1942, 1943, and 1966. David Ferriero, the Archivist of the United States, visited us on August 31, and we presented him with a facsimile copy of the 1966 cookbook.

In addition to recipes, the cookbook offers nutritional guidance, such as lists of foods rich in particular vitamins and minerals, and daily serving suggestions. The cookbooks include everything from sandwiches and main meals to desserts and candy. If you grew up in the 1960s you might recognize some of the recipes below! (Jell-o salad anyone?)

Of course, there is always the really odd item in any cookbook. Check out the peanut butter and mayonnaise sandwich listed under Novelty Sandwiches!

[ Read all ]