History Through Food

Eighteen months and a dozen estate sales later, here I am. There’s a backlog of material to share, including my first beaded 1920s purse, an accidental eelskin and a rolling wooden bar cart. However, today I’m going to introduce a new series of posts inspired by my husband’s desire to learn everything there is to know about regional American cuisine for R&D. A consistent effort has been made while perusing estate sales & flea markets to take a second look at books. Our collection of regional American cookbooks welcomed 3 new additions this weekend. Well, they’re not precisely “new”, but they are new to us and we are excited about the snapshot in time that they’ll provide. That brings me to the official introduction to this exploration of local palates, regional food systems and the historical context of the creation and propagation of certain recipes. Welcome to History Through Food.

In this series I’ll be looking beyond the copyright date to explore the content at face value while examining the historical climate surrounding that regional publishing. For instance, take a look at this cover-less copy of the American Women’s Voluntary Services Cookbook (c. 1942). A book for wartime living is as applicable today as it was 74 years ago.

A book for wartime living . . .

A book for wartime living . . .

Practical information abounds within the well-lived & splattered pages. There’s a vanilla pudding recipe that’s easy on the dairy and sounds easy to prepare. Between the desserts and the poultry dishes, I just may get inspired to turn on some jazz, bust out an apron and try my hand at following some of their recipes.

In the process of looking up more information about the organization that created this gem, I learned that it was formed before the United States joined the war effort in earnest by declaring war. The AWVS was viewed by some in official posts as being an alarmist group. But here’s the thing. The women were inspired by what other women across the pond were doing. They took a cue. And then they took it upon themselves to organize, get some patriotic pins made, and by golly they even donned uniforms.

How much more legitimacy do you want ladies who TCB (Take Care of Business) to project? Well, here’s a great example of taking it to the next level. This enterprising AWVS group from Millburn, New Jersey wrote a monthly newsletter named, The Township Tattle. Here’s a link to a PDF of Volume II, January 1944, with “gossip here and there”, courtesy of the Millburn Free Public Library.



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