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For an adventurous Thanksgiving: Historic cooking techniques and recipes from North Carolina

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Dessert recipes from Mary K. William's "Polk Cookbook", 1858, NC Digital Collections.

Dessert recipes from Mary K. William’s “Polk Cookbook”, 1858, NC Digital Collections.

Recently the New York Times published a piece on the “Cook’s Oracle”, an historical cooking database that has been a five decade long work of scholarship (and labor of love) of Barbara Ketcham Wheaton.  Wheaton is a food historian and worked for 25 years as a curator of the culinary collection at the Schlesinger Library at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies.  In the Cook’s Oracle, she has gone back centuries to patiently and persistently cataloge recipes, ingredients and food techniques with the goal of doing so for all of the cookbooks printed in North America and Europe.  To date she has logged the contents of more than 3,400 cookbooks with more than 130,000 records.  The possibilities for research are intriguing, particularly with the recent growth of historical work being done by ethnographers and food historians.

Wheaton’s work inspired me to visit the oldest cookbooks we have at the GHL and in the NC Digital Collections.  Looking at some of the earliest from the 19th century gave me a taste of the magnitude of her project.  For example, these cookbooks — frequently handwritten — are notable for the absence of the precision of modern recipes with their measurements, tools, process, temperatures, and timing.  The Polk Cookbook , dated 1858 and from the collection of the State Archives, is a perfect example.  Handwritten by Mary Williams, mother of President James K. Polk’s sister-in-law Lucy, the book includes culinary recipes as well as cleaning and medicinal concoctions.  Some that might today even come under the heading “don’t try this at home.”  If you’re up for experimenting with these artifacts with holiday desserts in mind, try Transparent Pudding” or “Bread Pudding”.  (On the same page of the volume, Williams also includes a recipe for traditional mince pies, made with beef.) (See the image at top right for recipes and link to the cookbook.)

Pumpkin Pudding, from Mary Mason's The Young Housewife's Counsellor and Friend, published 1871.

Pumpkin Pudding, from Mary Mason’s The Young Housewife’s Counsellor and Friend, published 1871.

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Newspaper Archive

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bundle of newspapers

The Government & Heritage Library provides access to many databases. I will regularly post information about different databases. Today, I want to talk about the database the Newspaper Archive. Our library has a subscription to this database and our visitors can use it, also NC state employees may access the database with their library card. Other libraries may provide access as well.

newspaper archiveHere are some facts about this database: Newspapers in the database go back as far as 1607. North Carolina newspapers span from 1799-2014. 14 towns from NC are in the database and a total of 39 newspapers from NC are in the database.The towns in the database are:

  • Aberdeen (Moore County)
  • Burlington (Alamance County)
  • Concord (county seat of Cabarrus County)
  • Gastonia (county seat of Gaston County)
  • High Point (Guilford County)
  • Jacksonville (county seat of Onslow County)
  • Kannapolis (partially in both Rowan and Cabarrus Counties)
  • Kinston (county seat of Lenoir County)
  • Lexinton (county seat of Davidson County)
  • Lumberton (county seat of Robeson County)
  • New Bern (county seat of Craven County)
  • Raleigh (state capitol and county seat of Wake County)
  • Rocky Mount (partially in both Nash and Edgecombe Counties)
  • Shelby (county seat of Cleveland County)
  • Statesville (county seat of Iredell County)
  • Tarboro (count seat of Edgecombe County)
  • Trenton (county seat of Jones County)
  • Winston-Salem (county seat of Forsyth County)

The database is searchable by name, date, location, and with a specific newspaper. You can also browse by location and by date. If you browse by state, you will need to click on the map of the US for which state you want to search. The next page is a search page where you can narrow down name and keyword. You also have a choice to narrow down by the town and then search by name and keyword.

Newspapers can be important to genealogy. Even advertisements, which can help you learn what your ancestor did. For example, I found through newspaper ads that an ancestor worked in the accounting office of his brother-in-law when his name was mentioned as an employee. The census just said he was a laborer, but the advertisement showed where he worked. I’ve been supplementing my genealogy research with newspapers for nearly 20 years now. This database has been a good one since it covers many states with 190 newspapers.

Come and check out this database at GHL!

19th Century Newspapers Database

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newspaper

The Government & Heritage Library provides access to many databases. I will regularly post information about different databases. Today, I want to talk about the database 19th Century Newspapers. Our library has a subscription to this database and our visitors can use it. Other libraries may provide access as well.

Here are some facts about this database: There are 190 newspapers in the database, 4 of which are from NC. The dates of newspapers vary, but they span the entire 19th century (1800-1899). The four newspapers from NC are:

  • Fayetteville Observer 1816-1899
  • Fayetteville Observer [daily] 1896-1899
  • Fayetteville Observer [semi-weekly] 1828-1865
  • Raleigh Register 1800-1886

There are multiple ways to search the database. There is a normal search function that allows you to search for a word or phrase through all documents or you can search by keyword. The keyword search looks only at titles and citation information. You can also limit your search by date or date range.

The advanced search allows searching up to 3 words or phrases and allows you to narrow results by the type of result, such as advertisements, articles, editorials, news, people, arts, sports, and leisure. You can also limit by a specific newspapers or place it was published.

I’ve been using this database in my personal research to find runaway slave advertisements in the Raleigh Register and Fayetteville Observer. Since some of the newspapers go back to 1800, some of the northern states that did not abolish slavery until the early 1800s have runaway slave advertisements.

Newspapers can be important to genealogy. Even advertisements, which can help you learn what your ancestor did. For example, I found through newspaper ads that an ancestor worked in the accounting office of his brother-in-law when his name was mentioned as an employee. The census just said he was a laborer, but the advertisement showed where he worked. I’ve been supplementing my genealogy research with newspapers for nearly 20 years now. This database has been a good one since it covers many states with 190 newspapers.

Come and check out this database at GHL!

Apples & the Old Time Apple Paring Bee: Last minute dessert from North Carolina on National Dessert Day

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Autumn conjures up fantasies of warm, cinnamon-spiced desserts made from crisp apples!  And it just happens to be National Dessert Day.

Contemplating something tasty to share, I went to my standard go-to for historical inspiration:  the collections of the North Carolina Museum of History.  They are a true harvest of images to lend context and imagination to studying the many apples groves of North Carolina history.

Photograph of an Apple Paring Bee, ca. 1900-1915 in North Carolina. From the collection of the N.C. Museum of History. Used courtesy of the N.C. Dept. of Natural and Cultural Resources.

Photograph of an Apple Paring Bee, ca. 1900-1915 in North Carolina. From the collection of the N.C. Museum of History. Used courtesy of the N.C. Dept. of Natural and Cultural Resources.

And today I happened upon a photograph of an “Apple Paring Bee”, circa 1900-1915.  A little searching back in time brought me to the American Agriculturalist, Volume 8, published in 1849.  In a section near the back of the volume titled “Ladies Department” was printed a full-length entry on the “Apple-Paring Bee.”  The anonymous author, nostalgic about the annual event, described it as social “frolics”, the “great apple-paring bee”.  She noted that she wished to be “useful, as well as amusing” in her description.  And although she had a lighthearted touch, I was immediately reminded of other “bees” — husking, threshing, quilting, among them — that centered around crowd-sourcing important and functional tasks that would otherwise be daunting for a single family. In this case, a critical step in the harvest and “putting up” process. Ladies assembled for an evening blitz effort to core and pare apples for the next day’s apple butter boiling.  The writer —  E. S. — also alluded an aspect of social class equalization in the effort, all were equals.  She added: “While all are engaged in contributing to the happiness of others, the cheerful conversation, the merry laugh, and the comic song are unrepressed by chilling rebuke or morose looks.”

Recipe for Honey Apple Crisp, from "Favorite Recipes of North Carolina," 1950, N.C. Dept of Agriculture; in NC Digital Collections.

Recipe for Honey Apple Crisp, from “Favorite Recipes of North Carolina,” 1950, N.C. Dept of Agriculture; in NC Digital Collections.

And, in 1849, she mentioned her preference for paring by hand instead of using the mechanical “patent” parer. If you’ve ever pared any number of apples by hand, you know how hard it can be on our modern, not-so-strong hands! It’s difficult enough to fill one pie dish, let alone paring for an entire evening!

And if you’re searching for a last minute dessert recipe to celebrate National Dessert Day, have a mini-paring bee and try your hand at this recipe for “Honey Apple Crisp.”  It comes to us from Favorite Recipes of North Carolina, published in 1950 by the N.C. Department of Agriculture (available online at NC Digital Collections).

Kelly Agan, N.C. Government & Heritage Library

 

 

 

This blog is a service of the State Library of North Carolina, part of the NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. Blog comments and posts may be subject to Public Records Law and may be disclosed to third parties.