People with a passion for food beyond the knife and fork founded the Culinary Historians of Southern California in 1995 as an affiliate of the Los Angeles Public Library. Typical of library patrons, we sought an intellectual as well as gastronomic approach to food, but not at the expense of taking themselves so seriously that they would forget to have fun.
We currently have over 200 members, making us the largest culinary history group in the country, so we must be doing something right.
Our primary activity is monthly programs at the Los Angeles Central Library which are followed by refreshments illustrating the lectures. These events are free and open to the public. We also provide speakers on food history to various libraries and other venues in the area.
We are a 501(c)(3) charitable organization which raises money to buy books of historical importance for the Central Library, which has one of the most extensive cookbook collections in the country, currently numbering over 18,000 books and manuscripts. It includes 1,000 cookbooks published in California and the largest collection of Mexican cookbooks and manuscripts in the United States. Over the history of our organization, we have donated more than $100,000 for this purpose.
We raise money for this purpose from our annual dues of $30, the proceeds of our eagerly awaited annual members-only historical potluck, and a series of dinners accompanied by informative talks that we organize at ethnic restaurants in the area.
The gifts of the Culinary Historians of Southern California continue to enhance the collections of the Los Angeles Public Library. In addition to the approximately 160 new hardcover books on culinary topics (valued at $5,600.00) that were added to the Department’s general collection, the Culinary Historians have recently purchased four quite interesting and rare titles that are to be added to the Library’s Special Collections and housed in the Rare Book Room.
The second American cookbook, NEW AMERICAN COOKERY, OR FEMALE COMPANION… PECULIARLY ADAPTED TO THE AMERICAN MODE OF COOKING : D.D. Smith, 1805, First Edition; is scarcer than Amelia Simmons’ much better known American Cookery. With an owner signature of Catherine Whitely dated 1820, this first edition is in its original binding and includes, in addition to recipes for broiling, pickling, puddings, and pies, etc., twenty pages on the making of wine, quite early for an American book.
We have also acquired a first edition of one of the most famous 19th-century Baltimore cookbooks, Mrs. B.C. Howard’s Fifty Years in a Maryland Kitchen: Baltimore: Turnbull Brothers, 1873.
Library users interested in Southern cuisine and history will welcome THE BLUE GRASS COOK BOOK by Minnie Fox, photographs by A. L. Coburn. New York: Fox, Duffield& Company, 1904. This book portrays in words and pictures the “Aunt Dinahs,” the “turbaned mistresses of the Kentucky kitchen” (from foreword by John Fox Jr.). Tucked in the back are several handwritten recipes on lined notepad paper (“White Cake” and “Flaxseed Mucilage” among them).
Lastly, we have the two-volume ENCICLOPEDIA DOMÉSTICA published in Mexico in 1853. This French-influenced cookbook and household guide was one of the earliest of its kind to be published in 19th-century Mexico, rather than in Paris.
To see these titles (and more than 2,000 other culinary titles held in the Rare Book Room), telephone the Rare Book Room appointment line at 213.228.7350. Leave a message stating your name and telephone number and the title/author information of the items you wish to see. Staff will return your call to set up an appointment. Unfortunately, there are no “same day” appointments. Alternately, you may e-mail your inquiry here.
Who was the Artist and when was it originally published?
The Bear’s only appearance, other than use by the CHSC, was when he was published in the Pan-Pacific Cook Book in 1915. The book contains 595 international recipes from countries at the fair. (some are a bit dubious). The book comes in two versions: one with a pictorial cover illustrating the fair, the other in quarter green cloth with a paper that looks a lot like a floral wallpaper. The book is well known to bibliographers: Bitting 309, Brown 123, Cagle & Stafford 58, Christian 218, Glozer 179, Strehl 21. The author was L. L. McLaren, but there is no mention or credit for the artist. McLaren also wrote the cookbook “High Living” in 1904.
Why was the image chosen for the CHSC logo and when?
The bear was picked at about the time the group was started . We were looking for a graphic that had a “California” look, had a library tie-in and for something not covered by copyright. The frontispiece is the main image we use as it has the bear reading a cookbook (the Pan-Pacific Cook Book). People in the group responded strongly to The Bear, so he got the job. Also, there are 15 images of The Bear in the book in various culinary activities, so he could usually have a subject tie-in to the programs. He was used on all the postcards we made during the early years. Jackie Knowles always described him as the Bear-Chef.
- The History Kitchen – Beautifully designed site featuring American historical recipes, food articles, and videos.
- History of salads – History of salads and salad dressings, some recipes.
- Culinary Etymology – Nicely written site organized in a word-of-the-day format rather than an alphabetical index.
- History of Restaurants – Not just restaurant history, but etiquette while dining out, restaurant publicity stunts, and other interesting trivia.
- Culinary texts, 1300 to 1800 – Bare-bones site is heavy on complete texts of medieval cookbooks, especially German, also has texts on ideas about diet and health through history.
- Historic recipe glossary – Well-organized and useful glossary of culinary terms used between 1661 and 1750.
- History of Rum – History, trivia, and media of rum around the world.
- Index of Traditional Recipes from Around the World – Amazingly comprehensive list searchable by country, ingredient, or alphabetical by name.
- Fifty Turning Points in Food and Drink – Amusing site about the technology of cooking.
- Complete text of Forme of Cury medieval cookbook – Complete and searchable text of the 14thCentury manuscript.
- Historic British cooking – Lavishly illustrated examination of the foods of Aristocratic England, with notes about the culture of food.
- Good Food Preservation This site charts the history of dining in neighborhoods of Los Angeles. There are pictures showing historic restaurants with follow-up examinations of how areas have changed and what is there now.
- Edible Geography – An interesting look at historical cooking, food preparation, and flavor, encompassing everything from recreating traditional Maori feasts to a visit to Henry VIII’s wine cellar.
- LA Weekly Squid Ink
- KCRW’s Good Food
- KCET Food
- Eater LA
- Grubstreet LA
- Tasting Table LA
- Slow Food LA
- Good Food Preservation
- Amateur Gourmet
- The Unemployed Eater
- LA Foodie
- My Last Bite
- The Glutster
- Street Gourmet LA
- Eat Food With Me
- The Delicious Life
- Pleasure Palate
- Caroline on Crack
- The Foodinista