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Food & Drink History Resources @Virginia Tech (and Beyond): African-American Culinary History
Special Collections in the University Libraries can help with your food & drink history research, including books, manuscript collections, ephemera & digital items. This LibGuide also includes resources you can find at other institutions.
The first published books by African-Americans in the United States relating to food did not appear until 1827 (a hotel and servant/waiter guide) and 1866 (the first cookbook) respectively. Early contributions by African-Americans were significant in this area before, during, and after those years, but often remain undocumented in primary sources. From a historical perspective looking back, we can see that African food and culinary history influences early southern cooking, though, and how it expanded from there. The lists below contain primary and secondary sources that address a variety of aspects of African-American cookery history and the many roles of African-Americans in this history: as sources, authors, cooks, subjects, and scholars.
Special Collections Culinary Links
From Knox Gelatine: Desserts, Salads, Candies and Frozen Dishes, c.1936
The collection includes small publications and pamphlets created and distributed by culinary, appliance, and food-related companies from about the 1870s to the 1990s. Most pamphlets contain advertisements, recipes, product information, testimonials, or some combination of all four.
Papers of Gary Ann Giovanni, a chef, caterer and cooking teacher active in Blacksburg, Virginia. The collection contains records, menus, and recipes from her catering jobs and from the cooking classes she taught for the local YMCA Open University. Also includes material related to the various community organizations for which Gary worked or volunteered, and some material associated with her sister, poet Nikki Giovanni.
A majority of the collection pertains to culinary interests. There are numerous recipes for cakes and icings, "messy" doughnuts, "pickels,"and breads. Some unique entries include a "Japanese Salad, "Rusk," and beer. Most of recipes contain a listing of ingredients and appropriate "method." However, some measurements maybe: unfamiliar (e.g. "saltspoon") or ambigous (e.g. wine glass) to the contemporary chef. Written also within the book is an elaborate "description of servants duties." Each slave receives his/her own section that outlines specific tasks and times for schedules on which they should be executed. Collectively, all were responsible for: meals, the master's children, other slaves, clean rooms, livestock, firewood, laundry, gardening, and the masters themselves.
The collection contains two handwritten recipe books from the Thomas Family of Baltimore, Maryland. These cookbooks highlight Maryland specialities (oysters, clams, crabs, and terrapins), as well as preserves, cakes, puddings, and other dishes. The majority of the recipes range from the 1870s to the 1910s, but at least one dates back to 1831. Most recipes list an attribution and were probably handed down through several generations of women. Both volumes contain family recipes that would have been prepared, and possibly created, by slaves owned by the Thomas family prior to the Civil War.