Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Schlesinger Library culinary collection

This afternoon, I visited the Schlesinger Library at Harvard's Radcliffe Institute for a tour of the culinary collection. The curator of books and printed materials, together with the honorary curator of the culinary collection, provided a captivating, and way too short, taste of some of their 20,000 (!) holdings. Among many other things, they have Julia Child's and M.F.K. Fisher's personal book collections; a book containing the first known mention of serving cranberries ("cramberries") with turkey; a cookbook illustrated by Andy Warhol before he was famous; historically very significant Emancipation-era cookbooks authored by freed Black women; and, some of my favorites, cookbooks from the 1960s, one of which recommends shoplifting ingredients, among other unorthodox techniques. I wish I had taken thorough notes. I plan to go back and spend some more time there. The good news for everyone is that the Schlesinger Library is open to the public. You can just walk in the door. But it is not a lending library. You can't take anything out. In fact, you can't really bring anything in, either. No pens. No sharp objects. No liquids over 3 ozs. It's pretty much like getting on an airplane. I'm exaggerating a little. Unlike at the airport, you can put your banned items in a locker by the front door, for later retrieval. Their policy is entirely understandable, given the circumstances. If you visit, consider bringing a little digital camera, a laptop, and/or a voice recorder. And finally, dessert: A seminar taught by Barbara Ketcham Wheaton, entitled "Reading Historic Cookbooks: A Structured Approach". How incredibly cool is that. It is at exactly the wrong time for me. I could just barely do it. I would suffer greatly. I am very tempted.

No comments: