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CHoWLine - Back Issues





December 2004

Program:"Orange Juice: Invention, Production, Imitation"

Pierre Laszlo is a French science writer and professor of chemistry emeritus at the University of Liege (Belgium) as well as the Ecole Polytechnique (Palaiseau, France). He is author of Salt: Grain of Life (2001) and the forthcoming Citrus (Columbia University Press, Fall 2004).

Important Information about Parking on Campus:
No parking is permitted in the circle in front of the Library or on the Quad. You may park in metered spaces (no charge on Sunday) in the parking lot on the right, inside the W Street entrance, or in the campus metered parking garage off Whitehaven ($1.50/hour). Parking on W Street is not encouraged.

Future Meetings

January 16 or 23: Cooperative dinner - Theme to be announced
February 13: Philip J. Hilts - "Protecting America's Health: The FDA, Business, and One Hundred Years of Regulation"
March 13: Claire Cassidy - "Family Culinary Archaeology"
April 10: Elisabetta Castleman - "Italian Regional Cuisine"
May 1: Shirley Cherkasky - "The Mediterranean's Colorful Contributions to American Confectionery"

This will be our last meeting at the Eckles Library on the GWU-Mt. Vernon College campus. In January our cooperative dinner will be held at Alexandria House, 700 N. Pitt Street, Alexandria. In February we will begin to meet, from 2:30 - 4:30 pm at the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Services Center, 4805 Edgemoor Lane, Bethesda.

Alexandria House is at the intersection of N. Pitt and Madison Streets in North Old Town, Alexandria, just five minutes south of Washington National Airport. Pitt Street runs parallel with Washington Street (George Washington Parkway) and is two blocks east, toward the Potomac River. Madison Street is 7 blocks north of the King Street-Washington Street intersection. From the north, enter Alexandria on the Parkway, turn left at Madison St. and go 2 blocks. Park on the street. The entrance to Alexandria House if off Pitt St. Alexandria House is 23 stories, the tallest building in Old Town so it is easy to see from any direction.

Directions and maps will be included in CHoWLine in the January and February issues.

It's Membership Renewal Time!

Our membership year runs from October 1 through September 30. The new directory will be mailed to members right after January 1, 2005.

Report: November 14 Meeting

The meeting began with a thank you to John and Sally Waltz for their generous hospitality during CHoW members' visit to their Washington County farm on May 23. A large antique cooking fork, selected by Willis and Carter Van Devanter, was presented to the Waltzes as an expression of CHoW's gratitude.

A mysterious cast-iron pot, brought as a "whatzit" by John and Sally, was determined, after much examination and disassembling, to be an unusual post-Civil War variation on a Dutch oven.

Refreshments in keeping with Marion Harland's era and cookbooks included: sweet potato pie (Sally Waltz); Deviled Biscuits (Laura Gilliam); lemon meringue pie (Bettye Robertson); jumbles (Pat Reber); and macaroons (Sophie Frederickson).

Nancy Carter Crump spoke to the group about Marion Harland, one of the foremost women writers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, who wrote novels, travel books and, of most interest to us, more than 25 books on domestic life and cooking. A precis of Nancy's talk appeared on page 1 of the November CHoWLine.

News of Our Members

Virginia Jenkins gave a paper, "Reading My Great-Aunt's Receipt Book," at the Mid-Atlantic Popular Culture/American Culture Association annual meeting in Buffalo, NY, November 6 & 7.

Kay Shaw Nelson's article "A Virginia Thanksgiving" is featured in the November 2004 issue of Washington Woman.

Longone Center for Culinary Research

The Clements Library of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor will be the home of the Longone Center for American Culinary Research. On May 13-15, 2005, there will be a dedication and the first of a planned series of biennial symposia on American culinary history. A public introduction to the Center is planned for September 2005.

The Longone Center is increasingly recognized as a premier resource for the study of culinary Americana. The Center consists of the Janice Bluestein Longone Culinary Archive and is augmented by the rich Americana holdings of the Clements Library, catalogued for their culinary content. Shaped by the donation of a library organized over a forty-year period by Janice and Daniel Longone, the Center possesses a coherent collection intended to define the American culinary experience. In addition to containing most of the essential "high spots" in the field, the Archive has strong holdings for related areas of interdisciplinary study, including: homemaking, decorum, and etiquette; immigrant and ethnic voices; children's cookery; regional foodways; the cooking school movement; the "great ladies" of 19th-century American cookery; health, diet and vegetarianism; bakers and baking; food and the media; charitable cookbooks; appliances and equipment; chefs, restaurants, hotels, and menus; industrialization of food production; the history of food advertising; war cookery - at home and at the front; beverages including wine, beer, spirits, coffee, tea, and chocolate; markets and grocers; and food and the arts.

On May 13 the symposium will feature opening remarks by Jan Longone; a session by Clements curators on the culinary resources at the Library; and Anne Willan and Mark Cherniavsky speaking on "European Books Seminal to American Cuisine and Early European Views on American Cooking." On May 14, the symposium will include Ari Weinzweig, whose subject will be "Almost Lost but Happily Refound: Traditional American Foods at the Start of the 21st Century"; Dan Longone, speaking on "Early American Wine Making: The 19th-Century Experience"; Darra GOldstein, discussing "American Dining Etiquette: How to Set a Table in the Gilded Age"; and Andy Smith, who will focus on "Defining an American Cuisine." On May 15 there will be an optional guided tour of the culinary collections at the Henry Ford Museum. There also will be an American Banquet on May 14 evening, and an optional dinner on May 15 at the Eagle Tavern of the Henry Ford Museum.

Attendance at the weekend's events is limited. For updated information: www.clements.umich.edu

Culinary History in the News

Katherine Livingston reports that the fiftieth anniversary of the TV dinner was marked by an article by Mary Dixon Lebeau in The Christian Science Monitor of November 11. In 1953, according to Lebeau's account, the C.A. Swanson Company of Omaha, Nebraska, had undersold its Thanksgiving turkey supply and, lacking sufficient warehouse space, had to store the surplus turkeys in refrigerated railroad cars, which had to keep moving to stay cold. "As the turkeys traveled from Nebraska to the East Coast and back again," Lebeau writes, the company challenged its employees to find a solution to the problem.

Inspired by the aluminum trays used by airlines to keep food hot, a company salesman, Gerry Thomas, designed a three-compartment tray that "was a step up from the serviceman's mess kit" and presented a tray containing a turkey dinner to the Swansons. He suggested tying the product to the newly faddish television, and the initial packages were designed to resemble a TV screen, including control knobs.

In short, as Lebeau puts it, "it came, it thawed, it conquered." The Swansons cautiously produced only 5,000 meals (at 98 cents) at first, but by 1955, more than 25 million had been sold. The company received some hate mail from those (mostly husbands) who preferred home cooking, but the innovation suited the futuristic, convenience-oriented culture of the times, and innumerable variations and imitations ensued.

Now the TV dinner is a cultural icon; the aluminum tray is enshrined in the National Museum of American History and, along with the marks of other TV luminaries, in the cement outside Grauman's Chinese Theater. The complete text of the article can be found at www.csmonitor.com.

The December 2004 issue of Smithsonian Magazine also includes an article on the history of TV dinners, titled "Tray Bon!" by Owen Edwards.

Family Culinary Archeology

Click HERE for "Reading My Great-Aunt's Receipt Book" by Virginia Jenkins.

CHoW's Culinary Collection

Nancy Carter Crump has given six books to CHoW's Culinary Collection in the Smithsonian Libraries.

On The Reading Table

Meeting notice, Culinary Historians of New York, December 2004.
Repast, quarterly newsletter of the Culinary Historians of Ann Arbor, Vol. XX, No. 4, Fall 2004.