Announcing the March Madness Food Fight Club Winner

Drum roll please…

The winner of the 2016 March Madness Food Fight Club is…

Vegetable Curry!

Background image: Kirkland, The modern baker, confectioner, and caterer, c1907.

Background image: Kirkland, The modern baker, confectioner, and caterer, c1907.

Thanks to all who voted throughout the competition. If you decide to make this winning recipe, please tell us about it and share some photos.

Vegetable Curry recipe in Blatch, 101 Practical Non-Flesh Recipes, 1917.

Vegetable Curry recipe in Blatch, 101 Practical Non-Flesh Recipes, 1917. Click to enlarge.

The four recipes in this competition—from a pamphlet, a manuscript receipt book, and two printed cookbooks—don’t begin to scratch the surface of what our cookery collection holds. We acquired our Margaret Barclay Wilson culinary collection in 1929, and it now contains about 10,000 items. The collection includes manuscripts, menus, and pamphlets that demonstrate the way cookery changed over time, and a large collection of printed books, beginning in the 16th century. These include works by Scappi, Platina, and Carême, as well as many other milestones in culinary printing.

Our cookbooks offer aspirational recipes, practical recipes, and everything in between.  Our collections hold a snapshot view of what daily cooking was like in a range of households across the world. These recipe books also reflect the changes that occur when people have access to new innovations—refrigeration, for example, or the gas range. We also have strong collections related to diet regimens and cooking for health, as well as cookbooks published during wartime when resources were scarce.

Interested in researching historic cookbooks? Our library is open to the public. To make an appointment, call 212-822-7315 or email library@nyam.org.

Food Fight Club Final: Snail Water v. Vegetable Curry

It’s the Food Fight Club final! Snail Water won round 1 and Vegetable Curry won round 2. Now it’s time for these two tough competitors to duke it out once and for all.

Background image: Kirkland, The modern baker, confectioner, and caterer, c1907.

Background image: Kirkland, The modern baker, confectioner, and caterer, c1907.

This final bout pits a recipe from a manuscript recipe collection against one found in a printed cookbook.

From A Collection of Choise Receipts. Click to enlarge.

From A Collection of Choise Receipts. Click to enlarge.

The recipe for Snail Water comes from A Collection of Choise Receipts, one of 36 manuscript receipt books in our collection. These collections of recipes, dating from the late 17th through the 19th century, tell stories about the ways food was prepared in a range of households. In many cases, they incorporate source material from contemporary cookbooks in print, showing us the kinds of recipes households valued and relied on. These manuscripts often include personal information about the families who kept them. One noteworthy case in our collections is a recipe for “How to make coffy of dry swet aple snits (slices),” found in a recipe book kept by a German-American family in Pennsylvania-Dutch country between 1835 and 1850. Manuscript cookbooks can also show us the kinds of cooking technologies used by families. Repeated references to coals and the Dutch oven indicate that Pennsylvania-Dutch cookbook’s author was cooking at the open hearth.

Vegetable Curry recipe in Blatch, 101 Practical Non-Flesh Recipes, 1917.

Vegetable Curry recipe in Blatch, 101 Practical Non-Flesh Recipes, 1917. Click to enlarge.

Publishers of printed cookbooks responded to demand from readers. These books—and the number of editions that were published—can tell us a great deal about cooking trends. Our 1917 copy of 101 Practical Non-Flesh Recipes, for example, is the book’s second edition, the first published just a year before. Cookbooks could be aspirational, practical, or a combination of both. A 19th-century cookbook published in Milwaukee in German in multiple editions tell us that there was a demand for cookbooks written in the mother tongue for newly-arrived German immigrants. The mixture of German and American recipes in these books indicate a need for familiar recipes from the Old World, as well as instruction on how to prepare foods that were more typical of the New. A number of printed cookbooks in our collection have emended recipes or manuscript recipes laid-in to their pages, offering clues to how readers modified published recipes for personal use.

Which recipe should be crowned the 2016 Food Fight Club Champion? Vote for your favorite—be it the most appealing, least appealing, or one that just tickles your fancy more—before 5 pm EST on Monday, March 28.

Food Fight Club Round 2: Vegetable Curry v. Ragout of Squirrel

It’s time for match two of our March Madness Food Fight Club.

First, the reveal of last week’s smackdown: Snail Water triumphed over Pear and Tomato Chutney. Whichever recipe wins this week has a tough competitor for next Wednesday’s final match.

March Madness Food Fight Club_Round1winner

Background image: Kirkland, The modern baker, confectioner, and caterer, c1907.

This week, we pit Vegetable Curry against Ragout of Squirrel.

Vegetable Curry recipe in Blatch, 101 Practical Non-Flesh Recipes, 1917.

Vegetable Curry recipe in Blatch, 101 Practical Non-Flesh Recipes, 1917. Click to enlarge.

The innocuous-sounding vegetable curry comes from Margaret Blatch’s 101 Practical Non-flesh Recipes, a nice little vegetarian cookbook from 1917. The title might sound a bit odd to modern readers and is an interesting choice, considering the term vegetarian was well-established by the 1840s.1 A 1908 physical education article sheds some light on the terminology of the time, saying the word vegetarian “usually suggests a person who abstains not on hygienic but on religious, ethical, or theological grounds,” preferring instead “flesh-abstainer.”2 It appears “non-flesh” was less provocative than “vegetarian.”

Ragout of Squirrel recipe in Recipes for the Jewett Chafing Dish, 1896. Click to enlarge.

Ragout of Squirrel recipe in Recipes for the Jewett Chafing Dish, 1896. Click to enlarge.

Our next contestant features two items not commonly seen on today’s dinner tables: Chafing dishes and squirrels. In the 1890s, chafing dishes experienced a surge in popularity in America, and Recipes for the Jewett Chafing Dish was just one of many cookbooks published featuring recipes specifically for the dish. The Waldorf-Astoria Hotel offered “chafing dish suppers” to top socialites, and stores sold table linens to match the cookware.3 Squirrel, too, was a common sight at the American dinner table due to its availability. One can track its rise and fall by looking at editions of The Joy of Cooking over time, where the numerous squirrel recipes of the 1930s gave way to recipes for chicken.4

Which recipe should face Snail Water in the final round? Vote for your favorite—be it the most appealing, least appealing, or one that just tickles your fancy more—before 5 pm EST on Monday, March 21.

References
1. Spencer C. The Heretic’s Feast: A History of Vegetarianism. UPNE; 1996. Available at: https://books.google.com/books?id=rIjZo-cvifAC&pgis=1. Accessed March 15, 2016.

2. Fisher I. The Influence of Flesh-eating on Endurance. Modern Medicine Publishing; 1908. Available at: https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=gW8yAQAAMAAJ&pgis=1. Accessed March 15, 2016.

3. Lovegren S, Smith AF. Chafing Dish. Oxford Companion to Am Food Drink. 2007:103. Available at: https://books.google.com/books?id=AoWlCmNDA3QC&pgis=1. Accessed March 10, 2016.

4. Smith H. Al rodente: Could squirrel meat come back into vogue? Grist. 2012. Available at: http://grist.org/animals/al-rodente-could-squirrel-meat-come-back-into-vogue/. Accessed March 10, 2016.

Food Fight Club Round 1: Snail Water v. Pear and Tomato Chutney

Today we begin our March Madness competition, Food Fight Club.

This week and next, two recipes will go head to head, vying for your votes. The following week, the winners of the first two rounds will duke it out for the honor of being named the champion of our first Food Fight Club.

Background image: Kirkland, The modern baker, confectioner, and caterer, c1907.

The smackdown begins with Snail Water versus Pear and Tomato Chutney.

This lovely snail water recipe comes from A Collection of Choise Receipts, a late 17th-century English manuscript written in exquisite penmanship, perhaps written by a professional scribe. Snail water was thought to treat ailments including “sharpness in [the] blood” and appetite loss. Learn more about snail water in our blog archives.

From A Collection of Choise Receipts. Click to enlarge.

From A Collection of Choise Receipts. Click to enlarge.

It takes a bold competitor to go up against this beauty. But we have one: Pear and Tomato Chutney from the American Can Company’s undated Relishes from Canned Food pamphlet. As early as the 1850s, commercially canned goods—especially sardines, tomatoes, condensed milk, and fruits and vegetables—found an eager consumer audience in the Western United States. Their popularity only increased over time; by the 1930s, foods from supermarkets were increasingly prepackaged (learn more in our 2015 April Fool’s blog—the food history facts are true!).

Pear and Tomato Chutney from American Can Company, Relishes from Canned Foods, no date. Click to enlarge.

Pear and Tomato Chutney from American Can Company, Relishes from Canned Foods, no date. Click to enlarge.

Which recipe should move on to the next round? Vote for your favoritebe it the most appealing, least appealing, or one that just tickles your fancy morebefore 5 pm EST on Monday, March 14.

Gather ‘Round the Table, We’ll Give You a Treat

By Johanna Goldberg, Information Services Librarian

It’s almost Hanukkah, a time to light the candles, spin the dreidel, and argue about how to spell the name of the holiday.

It’s also a time to eat foods fried in oil, traditionally potato pancakes (latkes) and jelly doughnuts (sufganiyot), a remembrance of the oil that miraculously burned for eight days to rededicate the Temple after its defilement by the Greeks.1

If you are looking to expand the offerings on your holiday table this year, Mildred Grosberg Bellin’s The Jewish Cook Book (New York, 1941) does not disappoint. She provides an elaborate “Menu for Channucah”:

The "Channucah" menu in Bellin's Jewish Cook Book, 1941.

The “Channucah” menu in Bellin’s Jewish Cook Book, 1941.

Click on an image to view each recipe listed:

The “Seven Layer Schalet” not enough dessert for you? The Economical Jewish Cook (London, 1897) offers a 30-minute recipe for “Hanucah Cakes.”

"Hanucah Cakes" in Henry's Economical Jewish Cook, 1897.

“Hanucah Cakes” in Henry’s Economical Jewish Cook, 1897.

And what would the holiday be without doughnuts? Here are a selection of recipes, one from the Brooklyn Jewish Women’s Relief Association’s A Book for a Cook (1909) and the rest from The International Jewish Cook Book (New York, 1918).

Recipe for doughnuts in the Jewish Women's Association's A Book for a Cook, 1909.

Recipe for doughnuts in the Jewish Women’s Association’s A Book for a Cook, 1909.

Several doughnut options from Greenbaum's The International Jewish Cook Book, 1918.

Several doughnut options from Greenbaum’s The International Jewish Cook Book, 1918.

If you try making any of these recipes, please let us know and share a picture of the results.

Note

1. Yes, we know the holiday commemorates a military victory, too.

Uncooked Foods and How to Use Them: A History of the Raw Food Diet

By Danielle Aloia, Special Projects Librarian

There are endless diets, ways to prepare foods, and types of foods to eat in the world. One of these is the Raw Food Diet or Raw Foodism. While this may seem like a new age, trendy diet, it has been around for more than a hundred years. As defined in a 1923 American Raw Food, Health and Psychological Club publication, raw food has not “been subjected to the devastating heat of the flame and the consequent devitalizing changes which destroy its freshness and render it so much waste when taken into the human system.”1 Depending on whom you followed in the field, raw food diets could include eggs, milk, vegetables, fruit, and even meat.

Mr. & Mrs. Eugene Christian, authors of the 1904 book Uncooked Foods and How to Use Them, claimed to have cured all their stomach ailments with complete restoration to perfect health after following a raw food diet for a year. They held a seven-course banquet dinner in New York City to bring their theory to public attention—and it worked. They published this book after receiving many inquiries and hoped that it would emancipate women from the slavery of the cook stove and in turn allow her freedom to cultivate her higher faculties. (Not sure they met their goal there.)

The Christian’s dedication page from Uncooked Foods and How to Use Them, which they hoped would allow women to stop cooking by taking up a raw diet.

The Christian’s dedication page from Uncooked Foods and How to Use Them, which they hoped would allow women to stop cooking by taking up a raw diet.

The raw food diet’s most famous proponent was a Swiss nutritionist and physician Maximilian Bircher-Benner. He was also the creator of muesli and a contemporary of John Harvey Kellogg. The original muesli consisted of: “200 grams of apple (mashed) per helping with only a tablespoon of well soaked oats, some finely grated nuts for protein and fat, the juice of half a lemon and a tablespoon of sweetened condensed milk.”2 He believed that these foods contained all the energy the human body needed to sustain itself.

In Meyer-Renschhausen and Wirz’s 1999 article about Bircher-Benner they explained that:

“The core of Bircher-Benner’s therapeutic programme was his dietary plan, which promoted raw food and carbohydrates over cooked food and animal protein…He called this a revolutionary diet, and that it was because, first, it turned prevalent bourgeois culinary values upside down, and second it contradicted the medical thinking of the day, which stressed the value of animal protein above all else.”3

In his book, The Prevention of Incurable Disease, Bircher-Benner argued that faulty nutrition was the root cause of incurable diseases.4 He outlined the mistakes “civilised people” make in their diets. His three biggest arguments were: “Change in Quality of Food by Heat,” “The Excessive Consumption of Protein,” and “Disregard of the Foodstuffs as a Whole.” The following diet is included in his book:

From: Bircher-Benner, Max Oskar. The Prevention of Incurable Disease. London : John Miles; 1938.

From: Bircher-Benner, Max Oskar. The Prevention of Incurable Disease. London : John Miles; 1938.

Conservatively cooked vegetables are cooked at less than 145⁰ F. According to Stella McDermott, author of The Metaphysics of Raw Foods (1919), heating food at or above 145⁰ F destroys certain properties of plant life.5 When foods are heated, but not cooked, little, if any, chemical change takes place.6

In her book, McDermott includes this chart on the nutritive values of raw foods. She explains that the discovery of the vitamin revolutionized “man’s understanding of foods, and theory of diet. Heretofore the value of a food has been determined by its power to give heat and energy. Now it is being determined as essential or non-essential to man according to its richness in Vitamines.”7

From: McDermott, S. Metaphysics of Raw Foods. Kansas City, Mo. : Burton Pub. Co.; [c1919]. Click to enlarge.

From: McDermott, S. Metaphysics of Raw Foods. Kansas City, Mo. : Burton Pub. Co.; [c1919]. Click to enlarge.

Raw food diets may not have been the panacea for fixing incurable diseases or getting women out of the kitchen, but the benefits of including raw foods in your diet cannot be denied. Eating lots of fruits and vegetables lowers blood pressure (BP) and cholesterol levels. According to Chan et al., “Among commonly consumed individual raw vegetables, tomatoes, carrots, and scallions related significantly inversely to BP. Among commonly eaten cooked vegetables, tomatoes, peas, celery, and scallions related significantly inversely to BP.”8

A more recent study suggests that “consumption of a strict raw food diet lowers plasma total cholesterol and triglyceride concentrations, but also lowers serum HDL cholesterol and increases tHcy concentrations (a protein associated with heart attack, stroke and blood clots) due to vitamin B-12 deficiency.”9

While it is necessary to eat your fruits and veggies, it’s also advisable to have a well-rounded diet that includes all the essential nutrients that sustain the body.

References

1. Estes SL. Raw Food and Health. Chicago: American Raw Food, Health and Psychological Club; [c1923].

2. Meyer-Renschhausen E, Wirz A. Dietetics, health reform and social order: vegetarianism as a moral physiology. The example of Maximilian Bircher-Benner (1867-1939). Med Hist. 1999;43(3):323-341.

3. Ibid.

4. Bircher-Benner Max Oskar. The Prevention of Incurable Disease. London: John Miles; 1938.

5. Christian E., Christian MG. Uncooked Foods & How to Use Them; New York: The Health-culture company; 1904.

6. McDermott S. Metaphysics of Raw Foods, Kansas City, Mo.: Burton Pub. Co.; [c1919].

7. McDermott S. Metaphysics of Raw Foods, Kansas City, Mo.: Burton Pub. Co.; [c1919].

8. Geleijnse JM. Relation of raw and cooked vegetable consumption to blood pressure: the INTERMAP study. J Hum Hypertens. 2014;28(6):343-344. doi:10.1038/jhh.2014.13.

9. Koebnick C, Garcia AL, Dagnelie PC, et al. Long-term consumption of a raw food diet is associated with favorable serum LDL cholesterol and triglycerides but also with elevated plasma homocysteine and low serum HDL cholesterol in humans. J Nutr. 2005;135(10):2372-2378.

Cook like a Roman: The New York Academy of Medicine’s Apicius Manuscript

By Anne Garner, Curator, Center for the History of Medicine and Public Health

This is one of several posts leading up to our day-long Eating Through Time Festival on October 17, 2015, a celebration of food, cookery, and health. View the full program and register for the Festival.

Ancient sources document the culinary excellence of one Marcus Gavius Apicius, a Roman gourmet who flourished during Tiberius’ reign (1st century CE). It isn’t clear from textual evidence that this Apicius ever wrote a book of cookery.1 And yet, the gem of our Library’s cookery collection—a 9th-century manuscript collection of Greek and Roman recipes—bears his name.

9th-century manuscript De re culininaria (sometimes De re coquinaria), attributed to Apicius.

9th-century manuscript De re culininaria (sometimes De re coquinaria), attributed to Apicius. Click to enlarge.

Our manuscript, transmitting a 4th– or 5th-century compendium of culinary and medical recipes compiled from a number of 2nd-century Roman sources, packs a powerful wow factor. It contains 500 Greek and Roman recipes from the Mediterranean basin. A handful may date as early as the 4th century BCE. As such, our manuscript is sometimes referred to as the oldest extant cookbook in the West.

This collection of recipes was likely compiled from multiple sources. The 2nd-century satirical writer Juvenal indicated that the name “Apicius” was frequently used to describe a foodie, not a specific person. Other sources suggest that the name conjured luxury and excessive eating.2

These recipes appear to be written by and for cooks. While some recipes called for cuts of meat that might have been beyond the means of the average Roman citizen, many others, including a number of meat, vegetable, and legume dishes, were well within the reach of Rome’s tradespeople, builders, artists, and modest farmers. Some of the recipes may have reflected popular dishes served in local popinae (street bars).

A closer look at book one reveals a wide range of useful directives applicable for the Mediterranean home cook. Called Epimeles (careful, or attentive), book one includes recipes for a spiced wine surprise, honeyed wine, and Roman absinthe. Here too are tips for preserving pork and beef rind, fried fish, blackberries, and truffles.

The dishes reflect the polyglot culture of the Mediterranean basin. The dominance of Greek culinary tradition in the early empire makes it likely that the Apicius began as a Greek collection of recipes, though mainly written in Latin, and adapted for a Roman palate.3 The cookbook incorporates a number of Greek terms, like melizomum (honey sauce) and hypotrimma (here a mixture of cheese and herbs), despite the existence of Latin glosses. Other words are hybrids of Greek and Latin, like tractogalatae, combining the Latin tractum (thin sheet of pastry) and gala, Greek for milk.

The Apicius manuscript is the gem of the Academy’s Margaret Barclay Wilson Collection of Cookery, acquired in 1929. Conservators restored and rebound it in 2006.

Our manuscript was penned in several hands in a mix of Anglo-Saxon and Carolingian scripts at the monastery at Fulda (Germany) around 830 CE. It is one of two manuscripts (the other at the Vatican) presumed to have been copied from a now lost common source.4

The gilt and illuminated Vatican manuscript of De re culininaria, as replicated in a 2013 facsimile.

The gilt and illuminated Vatican manuscript of De re culininaria, as replicated in a 2013 facsimile. Click to enlarge.

Images from both 9th-century iterations illustrate the different approaches to the text. The image above shows the gilt and illuminated Vatican manuscript, as replicated in a 2013 facsimile. Below is the Academy’s text. The number of cross-outs and the plain, unadorned style of the manuscript suggest it may have been a teaching tool for scribes.

The Academy’s unadorned 9th-century manuscript of De re culininaria. Click to enlarge.

The Academy’s unadorned 9th-century manuscript of De re culininaria. Click to enlarge.

Apicius has been a bestseller since the beginning of the print era, published in multiple editions since the 15th century. The Academy library holds many print editions, including two of the earliest.

This title page is from the earliest dated edition of the text, published in Milan in 1498. Pictured below is the device of the printer, La Signerre, who later set up shop in Rouen. Our copy is annotated by an early reader who adds the titles of the text’s ten books, grouped by type of dish.

Title page from the earliest dated edition of the De re culininaria, published in Milan in 1498.

Title page from the earliest dated edition of the De re culininaria, published in Milan in 1498. Click to enlarge.

The second earliest dated edition, printed in Venice, offers one of the earliest examples of a title page in printing history. It too is heavily annotated by an early food-lover, fluent in Greek and Latin.

Marginalia in our 1503 printed Apicius offers Greek glosses on Latin terms.

Marginalia in our 1503 printed Apicius offers Greek glosses on Latin terms.

Enthusiasts will find many other print descendants of this extraordinary manuscript in the Academy’s library.

The Apicius manuscript and a number of print editions of the text will be on display in the Academy Library’s Drs. Barry and Bobbi Coller Rare Book Reading Room during our October 17th festival, Eating through Time. A complete schedule of events can be found here.

References

1. Mayo, H. (2008). “New York Academy of Medicine MS1 and the textual tradition of Apicius”. In Coulson, F. T., & Grotans, A., eds., Classica et Beneventana: Essays Presented to Virginia Brown on the Occasion of her 65th Birthday. Turnhout: Brepols. pp. 111–135.

2. Christopher Grocock and Sally Grainger, eds. Apicius. A Critical Edition with an Introduction and an English Translation of the Latin Recipe Text Apicius. Devon: Prospect, 2006. p. 35.

3. Grockock and Grainger, p. 17-20.

4. Mayo, p. 112.

The Diaspora of Spam

This post, by Evelyn Kim, guest curator for our day-long Eating Through Time Festival, is one of several posts leading up to the October 17, 2015 celebration of food, cookery, and health. View the full program and register for the Festival.

For millions of Asians and Pacific Islanders, Spam makes the world go ‘round. Seemingly inconsistent with local food cultures, Spam has seeped itself into regional cuisines, including Hawaii’s Spam musubi, South Korea’s Spam jjigae, and Hong Kong’s Spam ramen. In China, Spam is considered a gourmet treat, with Spam gift boxes appearing for Chinese New Year.

How did this piece of tinned meat earn so many frequent flyer miles? The answer lies in the history of Spam. Hormel, the meat processor and eventual food giant, originally developed Spam as a means to commercialize pork shoulder, an unwanted cut at the time, in 1937.1 Originally marketed as a home alternative to butcher-sliced luncheon meat, Spam’s worldwide debut came with the United States’ entry into World War II. While spurned by American housewives, Spam was perfect for US military rations: it was shelf-stable, compact, and a cheap source of protein. And it wasn’t just for the US military. Thanks to the Lend-Lease Act of 1941, Spam was the star food aid product for Allied countries and troops, finding its way across the United Kingdom, France, and even Russia. By the end of the war, the US government had bought nearly 150 million pounds of Spam.2

Advertisement for Spam from Time Magazine, June 20, 1938. Source: Duke University Libraries.

Advertisement for Spam from Time Magazine, June 20, 1938. Source: Duke University Libraries.

The same story repeated itself in Asia, but with a twist. US troops also brought Spam with them there. But unlike European countries, where Spam’s utility and popularity waned after the war, the product remained popular in Asia and the Pacific Islands. In many places, including Hong Kong and Japan, Spam was the only meat available immediately after WWII. In the case of Korea, the Korean War insured a steady supply of Spam to the peninsula, even becoming local currency for troops and the civilian population for everything from dental care to building supplies to tactical information.3

But the question remains as to why Spam stayed so popular in Asia as opposed to Europe. Europe did not embrace Spam after the war for a number of reasons. While post-war Europe had the same problems with hunger as post-War Asia, Europe reverted to pre-war agricultural production relatively quickly. The other possibility is that the association of Spam with wartime poverty and starvation led to a backlash against the product. This was certainly the case in America. For the troops coming home, the mere mention of Spam sent them into paroxysms of disgust.

While many of the circumstances in Asia were fairly similar in the post-war era, geography and politics may explain Spam’s continued proliferation in the region. With the exception of China, all areas in which Spam was introduced during WWII have limited land for agricultural use, making meat a scarce commodity, even in the best of times.4 Compared to the price of locally produced fresh meat, Spam was relatively cheap, even after the war. For Hawaii, political conditions allowed Spam to dominate the market. Hawaii had a large population of Japanese residents during WWII. Instead of interning them like on the US mainland, the US government resorted to restricting Japanese-American dominated industries, such as fishing. Without a steady supply of locally available protein, Spam easily dominated the Hawaiian market.5

One other major factor explains Spam’s ubiquity across Asia: marketing. Hormel, like many other industries post-war, had to re-market itself. Hormel attempted to re-brand Spam as the food for the modern 1950s housewife. Unfortunately for Hormel, this effort didn’t revive Spam’s sales in North America. However, Hormel’s re-branding efforts were quite successful in Asia. Across the continent, Spam can be found in gift packs for any occasion. Furthermore, Hormel not only has added different varieties to please local markets, but in some places, like China, it has reformulated the recipe.

Spam is now available in 44 countries across the world. Hormel, in some ways, became the case study for food multi-nationals in how to introduce new food product to a global audience. Spam may have lost its battle with the American housewife, but it certainly has won the war across the globe.

References

1. Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink. Ed. Andrew Smith. (New York: Oxford UP), 2007.p. 559.

2. Yoon H. Spam: More than Junk Mail or Junk Meat. NPR. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=11714236. Published July 4, 2007. Accessed October 8, 2015. See also endnote 1.

3. Williamson L. Why is Spam a luxury food in South Korea? BBC News. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-24140705. Published September 19, 2013. Accessed September 17, 2015.

4. As a side note, the popularity of pork across all Asian nations is also due to a combination of poverty and land scarcity. Pigs have a low feed conversion ratio and have a higher meat yield compared to other livestock. Sigrid Schmalzer, in her fantastic article, Breeding a Better China: Pigs, Practices, and Place in a Chinese County, 1929-1937 (Geographical Review, Vol. 92, No. 1. Jan, 2002. Pp 1-22.) discusses the importance of pigs to the Chinese diet.

5. In her book, The Food of Paradise: Hawaii’s Culinary Heritage (University of Hawai’i Press, 1996), Rachel Laudan has a full discussion of Spam’s role in Hawaii.

Extra, Extra, Get Your New Banana!

By Anne Garner, Curator, Center for the History of Medicine and Public Health

This is one of several posts leading up to our day-long Eating Through Time Festival on October 17, 2015, a celebration of food, cookery, and health. View the full program and register for the Festival.

Among the many attractions at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition of 1876 were the bananas. Wrapped in foil and sold for a dime each, they were a novelty for many Americans who had never seen them before.1

In the decades that followed the Exposition, the United Fruit Company (now Chiquita) was responsible for introducing many more Americans to the fruit, promoting the banana in their literature, and distributing them throughout the country.

The story of the UFC begins in 1871, when cattle rancher Minor C. Keith first planted bananas alongside the tracks of the national railroad in Costa Rica. By the 1880s, Keith was the dominant banana trader in Central America. In the same decade, Lorenzo Dow Baker founded Boston Fruit, the first to import bananas in the U.S. Keith’s enterprise merged with Boston Fruit in 1899 to create the United Fruit Company.

During the next decade, United Fruit Company’s Great White Fleet, painted white to reflect the intense sun, carried bananas from Central America to the U.S. An increasing number of refrigerated train cars pushed bananas further inland, to places they had never gone before.

Beginning in the early 20th century, the United Fruit Company promoted the banana in a series of pamphlets and ads, taking it from a little-known novelty to a household staple. At the heart of their campaign was an endorsement of the fruit’s healthy properties. During the 1920s, the United Fruit Company hired doctors to extol the nutritional virtues of the fruit. In 1939, they offered free textbooks—decidedly pro-banana—to schoolchildren.2

The Academy Library has a number of historical pamphlets produced by the United Fruit Company and its distribution arm, The Fruit Dispatch Company. Here, we offer a selection of images from our collection.

“The Food Value of the Banana,” 1917, page 35.

“The Food Value of the Banana,” 1917, page 35.

In 1917 the United Fruit Company published “The Food Value of the Banana,” a collection of 15 opinion pieces touting the virtues of the banana as a nutritious snack. “Points about Bananas” concluded the volume.

The United Fruit Company’s test kitchens reported in 1924 that bananas with corn flakes and milk made the best breakfast for families.3 The company’s subsequent publications emphasized that bananas were powerfully healthy, especially for the very young.

“The Food Value of the Banana,” 1928.

Cover of “The Food Value of the Banana,” 1928.

The cover of the fourth edition of “The Food Value of the Banana,” published in 1928, features a rosy-cheeked and radiant little boy, banana in hand.

 “The Food Value of the Banana,” 1928, back cover.

“The Food Value of the Banana,” 1928, back cover.

The back cover of the same 1928 pamphlet explains the ideal time to consume a banana, and how it can be eaten in each phase of ripeness. Most bananas cycle from green to yellow to yellow with brown spots in seven days.4

Ad in Woman's Medical Journal, vol. 52 no. 6, June 1945.

Ad in Woman’s Medical Journal, vol. 52 no. 6, June 1945.

In the 1920s, UFC hired doctors to publicly recommend that babies should consume mashed bananas. Researcher Sidney Haas found that children diagnosed with celiac disease who had been given a diet of milk and bananas dramatically improved (of course bananas are gluten free, which may have had something to do with it).5 Here, an ad from the Women’s Medical Journal from 1945 (v.52, no.6).

“The New Banana,” 1931.

Cover of “The New Banana,” 1931.

From “The New Banana,” 1931.

From “The New Banana,” 1931. Click to enlarge.

The Fruit Dispatch Company’s 1931 newspaper-format pamphlet, “The New Banana,” tells stories in which the banana’s hero status is high. In one, a Norwegian hikes from Oslo to Christianssand. Nourished by the banana, “his strength increased from day-to-day!” In another, the banana sustains two transatlantic pilots (and fits compactly into the cockpit).

From “The New Banana,” 1931.

“The New Banana,” 1931, back cover.

The Scientific News section of “The New Banana” reminds parents of the considerable nutrients in the banana: vitamins A, B, and C, calcium, magnesium, and iron. It’s also “non-fattening” though not especially so when paired with bacon, as on the back cover.

Cover of “Serve Bananas in ‘Latest Style,’” 1940.

Cover of “Serve Bananas in ‘Latest Style,’” 1940.

The Fruit Dispatch Company published “Serve Bananas in ‘Latest Style’” in 1940 to introduce new banana recipes to American households. Recipes included “ham banana rolls with cheese sauce” and “banana fritters” as well as a “banana sweet potato casserole.” We’re charmed by the lady banana with the Elizabethan collar waving her napkin. She predates the United Fruit Company’s Chiquita Banana by four years.

Cover of

Cover of “Banana Salad Bazaar,”1940

“Banana Salad Bazaar,”1940, pages 2 and 3. Click to enlarge.

“Banana Salad Bazaar,” produced by the United Fruit Company’s Home Economics Department in 1940, is introduced by a sign-waving banana-man announcing “This Way to the Salad Bazaar.” Salad makers are encouraged to use fully ripe bananas (yellow peel flecked with brown). Recipes include banana gelatin salad and banana sardine boats.

From “Nutritive and Therapeutic Values of the Banana,” 1941.

From “Nutritive and Therapeutic Values of the Banana,” 1941.

1941 was a busy year for the UFC’s presses. Here, a chart from the second addendum to “Nutritive and Therapeutic Values of the Banana,” an annotated bibliography of recent research devoted to the fruit. The forward tells us that the banana pictured is a Gros Michel, or “Big Mike” banana, imported to the U.S. since the late 1890s. The “Big Mike” was larger, with a sturdier peel, and anecdotally more flavorful. By 1960 “Big Mikes” had been almost entirely eradicated by Panama disease. On American tables it was replaced by the Cavendish.6

From “Bananas...How to Serve Them,” 1941.

From “Bananas…How to Serve Them,” 1941.

This inset from “Bananas…How to Serve Them” (1941) illustrates the health benefits of bananas at every age. We learn that the Dionne quintuplets (b. 1934), the earliest quints to survive their infancy, ate bananas. Bananas are a “training table favorite” for athletes, and they appeal to the elderly as well because they are easy to chew and digest.

From “Bananas...How to Serve Them,” 1941.

From “Bananas…How to Serve Them,” 1941.

On the left, a sweet banana artist paints bananas at three stages of ripeness and explains how to prepare bananas for meals at each phase. On the right, encouragement for the housewife, with a promise of new banana recipes on the pages that followed. A monocled banana with a cane and top-hat below rips off Mr. Peanut, well-known to Americans since the early 1930s.

From “Chiquita Banana's Cookbook,

From “Chiquita Banana’s Cookbook,” 1960, page 2.

Inspired by Carmen Miranda’s character in Busby Berkeley’s The Gang’s All Here, United Fruit Company introduced Chiquita Banana in 1944 (Miranda herself was frequently called, “chiquita” in her films). Dik Brown, creator of Hagar the Horrible, drew the first Chiquita; advertising execs composed her famous song.7 Here, a 1960 iteration of Chiquita graces “Chiquita Banana’s Cookbook.”

Detail in “Chiquita Banana's Cookbook,

Detail in “Chiquita Banana’s Cookbook,” 1960, page 3.

In “Chiquita Banana’s Cookbook,” Chiquita offers ideas for decorating with bananas. Here, “fruit in a scoop” and a banana bouquet, in a pressed-glass stand.

From “Chiquita Banana's Cookbook,” 1960.

From “Chiquita Banana’s Cookbook,” 1960, page 12.

Under consideration by Betty Draper and the Mad Men set: a triptych of bananas in “Chiquita Banana’s Cookbook,” prepared with three different garnishes: a currant jelly, a curry sauce, and mint jelly.

From “Chiquita Banana's Cookbook,” 1960. Click to enlarge.

“Chiquita Banana’s Cookbook,” 1960, pages 4-5. Click to enlarge.

 “Chiquita Banana's Cookbook,” 1960, pages 6-7. Click to enlarge.

“Chiquita Banana’s Cookbook,” 1960, pages 6-7. Click to enlarge.

“Chiquita Banana’s Cookbook” offers an adorable banana bunny and a banana skillet breakfast, as well as new recipes for shakes. “Drink a banana and feel better for it,” says Chiquita, and we believe her because she’s wearing that amazing hat.

References

1. Hooker, Richard J. Food and Drink in America. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1981.

2. Koeppel, Dan. Banana. The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World. New York: Hudson Press, 2008.

3. Koeppel, 75.

4. Koeppel, xv.

5. Levinovitz, Alan. “The First Superfood.” Accessed September 1, 2015 at http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2015/04/the_first_superfood_doctors_believed_bananas_could_cure_celiac_disease.html

6. Koeppel, Dan. Banana. The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World. New York: Hudson Street, 2008. xiv.

7. Koeppel, 117; 253.

Physicians Discuss Aphrodisiacs

Ken Albala is Professor of History and Director of Food Studies at the University of the Pacific. He is the author or editor of 24 books on food. He conducted his dissertation research primarily at the New York Academy of Medicine. Dr. Albala will present Aphrodisiacs: The Intimate Connection Between Food and Sex in Renaissance Nutritional Theory and lead the workshop “Hands On” Early Modern Cooking at our Eating Through Time Festival on October 17.

As a scholar sometimes you have ideas that get orphaned that you come back to after many years, very randomly. Such was a paper I first delivered at a Northern California Renaissance conference in 1995 on aphrodisiacs in medical literature. In truth, I had intended to fit the topic into my dissertation and it never made it in. The paper was a way to make use of the pile of notes I had taken at the New York Academy of Medicine just a few years before. And when I say a pile of notes, I mean an entire filing cabinet full of handwritten notes taken in pencil and coded with colored crayons. There was no such thing as a laptop then.

A page of Ken Albala's notes.

A page of Ken Albala’s notes.

These notes cover about 100 books I read at the Academy between 1989 and 1993, practically every dietary text written in Europe between the mid-15th and the mid-17th century. I was a permanent fixture in what was then called the Malloch Room, now the Drs. Barry and Bobbi Coller Rare Book Reading Room. The notes became my dissertation at Columbia University and eventually morphed into my first book Eating Right in the Renaissance (UC Press, 2002). While I always kept an active interest in the history of medicine, my career since then has shifted far more toward culinary history and broader food history. Every now and then I deliver a paper or write an article involving food and medicine, and I still teach a history of medicine course, but I had completely forgotten about the topic of aphrodisiacs. In jest I have often said it would be a really interesting topic for experiential research. Alan Davidson, the late author of the Oxford Companion to food, encouraged me many times to write a serious book on aphrodisiacs, but it never came to pass.

What surprise then, when this past spring, two decades after first giving that paper, I was asked to speak in Miami on aphrodisiacs. I thought, OK, I will just go into my computer and find that paper. No evidence of it. I realized that when I wrote that paper I was still learning to type, had just sent my first email, and had still written out everything by hand. So I needed to dig through the filing cabinets to find the original paper. Then to revise and update it using my original trove of notes taken 25 years earlier. Happily the paper was a success. I also delivered it in Dublin a few weeks later, and then a publisher contacted me asking if I would like to write a book on aphrodisiacs. I think I probably will. Isn’t it funny how every stray idea eventually finds a good home?

The most remarkable thing about the whole experience is that I can still hear the voices of early modern authors after all these years. I can still quote them in half a dozen languages. From the French version of Platina printed in 1507 there is “L’heure que tu sentiras ta viande estre cuite, car…l’heure est bonne pour engendrer enfans…”  (The moment you feel that your meal is digested, the time is good to produce children.) Or Girolamo Manfredi from 1474 “Imperho dicono li philosophi che chi usa molto il cohito vive poco e tosto invechia.” (Therefore philosophers say whoever has a lot of sex lives a short life and ages too soon.) Or there’s Baldassare Pisanelli who tells us that 4 drams of cloves in milk “aumento mirabilmente le forze di Venere” (greatly increase the power of Venus.) There’s also the Fleming Hugo Fridaevallis who tells us that asparagus is great for timid newlyweds “primas coniugii difficultates, et si quid minis in uxore tunc placet, dulce et amabile futurum tandem uxoris contubernium” (whoever…has conjugal difficulties at first, and if you are unable to please your wife, later she will be a sweet and loving mate).

Baldassare Pisanelli's Trattato della natura de' cibi et del bere Nel quale non solo tutte le virtù, & i vitii di quelli minutamente si palesano, 1586. His discussion of the power of cloves in milk appears top right.

Baldassare Pisanelli’s Trattato della natura de’ cibi et del bere Nel quale non solo tutte le virtù, & i vitii di quelli minutamente si palesano, 1586. His discussion of the power of cloves in milk appears top right. Click to enlarge.

Their opinions are of course very amusing, but they also give us some remarkable insights into the kinds of problems Renaissance people would have taken to their physicians. These kind of frank open discussions of sex gradually become rarer in the 16th century, no doubt under the influence of the Reformations a kind of prudery pervades the later dietaries. It took another few centuries until they discuss the topic again, in the 19th century, but all this is the subject for a book. Stay tuned.