“Community Cookbooks: Overlooked Gems on Library Shelves” by Barbara Haber
When a community cookbook is thoughtfully put together it can tell important stories about life in America—our civic concerns and community spirit, social trends, political interests, and our history, local and nationwide, and, of course, about what people cooked and ate. The first such book, A Poetical Cookbook, 1864, was sold as a fundraiser to aid the Northern cause by raising money for hospitals, nurses, and food and other supplies. Assembled by women, such groups continued to compile and sell cookbooks after the war to benefit wounded veterans, widows and orphans. Such endeavors to support notable causes continue to this day. This talk will explore the range of community cookbooks that have been produced through the years and will discuss their significance as documents of social history.
Barbara Haber is the former curator of books at the Schlesinger Library, the Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University where she oversaw the development of a large collection of cookbooks and other books and manuscripts related to food. Recognizing the connections between food studies and issues of gender, she published From Hardtack to Home Fries: An Uncommon History of American Cooks and Meals, and co-edited From Betty Crocker to Feminist Studies: Critical Perspectives on Women and Food. She was elected to the James Beard Foundation’s “Who’s Who in Food and Beverages” and was named the recipient of the M.F.K. Fisher award given by Les Dames d’Escoffier International to a woman who has made a major contribution to an understanding of food.