Around the Table: Celebrating Our Contributors

By Sarah Peters Kernan

Laura Mitchell, longtime contributor and social media editor for the Recipes Project, recently stepped down after seven years of service. The editorial team will greatly miss her enthusiastic and reliable contributions and insights! While Laura has carefully maintained the Recipes Project’s social media presence for several years, she originally contributed her scholarship on medieval charms (beginning with this post in 2012). You can read some of Laura’s perspectives on the Recipes Project from the blog’s fifth anniversary. We recently chatted a bit more about her time with the Recipes Project.

Laura, you have been a part of the Recipes Project from the beginning. What sort of scope and impact did you hope it would have when it started? Has it met your expectations?

I didn’t really know what to expect with this project. Academic blogs still felt very new to me so I think I would have been happy if the blog had lasted a couple of years, let alone seven! Lisa and Elaine very graciously involved me in some of the earlier meetings of the editors and it was very interesting to see the project emerge from the ground up. I think it’s safe to say that the Recipes Project has far exceeded my expectations!

How have your contributions to the Recipes Project changed over time?

Initially I was just a contributor. I had finished my PhD in 2011 and this was an easy way to share some of the fun bits of my dissertation work that wouldn’t fit in an article. At that time Lisa was covering all the social media for the Recipes Project. After a few years as a contributor, she asked me to take over the social media for her and that’s what I’d been doing ever since. The last post I wrote for the Recipes Project was on animal charms in 2015. I’d started working outside academia in 2014 and I stopped doing academic research around that time too. 

Has anything surprised you while growing the project’s social media presence over the past five years?

Honestly, one thing that has surprised me is the lack of trolls, even when we’ve posted on topics like transgender history, reproductive healthcare, or even labour issues like the 2018 UCU strike. I sort of took it for granted that a social media presence would attract bots and trolls to our accounts, but on the whole our audience is just really great! People tag us for help on Twitter, or just to tell us about something cool they’re doing. Our social media team has had lots of interesting conversations with people responding to our posts or to queries we’ve sent out. 

Do you have any favorite posts or series?

Oh, there are so many! I love the interviews with libraries and museums. There are so many interesting collections out there and so many libraries I was not familiar with. Even the really well-known libraries, like at Cambridge or the British Library, are full of surprising items. 

One thing that the Recipes Project does that I really love is highlight student research. Especially now that the blog has really grown its readership, I think it’s wonderful the way this blog has become a vehicle to share graduate and undergraduate student research. It’s such a great affirmation of the great work that students can do in the classroom and I love seeing how they interact with their sources. Some of my favourite student posts include Alana Martini recreating Egyptian makeup in “What’s In an Ancient Egyptian Makeup Bag?”; Emma Bragdon examining the role of beef in an American Senator’s political career in “Smothered Beef: The Role of Meat in Margaret Chase Smith’s Foodways”; and Molly Taylor-Poleskey recreating beer soup in “Beer soup: The Breakfast of Early Modern Rulers”.

Finally, I think one of the most interesting series we’ve done was the virtual conference on “What is a Recipe?” in 2017. I want to commend the editors for coming up with some really neat and innovative formats for hosting a virtual conference including blog posts, Facebook Live video discussions, Pinterest boards, Twitter, and Instagram and involving all our readers, not just the academics. The care and consideration that the team put into it was really clear throughout the conference. 

What projects and opportunities await you now?

Just over a year ago I moved back to my hometown of Saskatoon and started working at St. Thomas More College. My new job is a bit of a switch for me from project management on a multi-year grant to research facilitation and grant administration for the college. I really love working with the faculty here and helping them develop their research programs. I’m really excited to develop in this field and see where it takes me.

Finally, I just wanted to say thank you to the editors of the Recipes Project for all their hard work over the years, thank you for inviting me to participate! I’d also like to thank the rest of the social media team, Melissa Reynolds and Clare Gordon for being a dream team to work with since they joined last year. They have done a fabulous job so far and I’ll be eagerly following them!

Thanks, Laura! We all wish you the best in your future endeavors!

If you’d like to feature a project, scholar, or institution on Around the Table, please email Sarah Kernan.

Around the Table: Museum Exhibitions

By Sarah Peters Kernan

This holiday season, many museums internationally are highlighting the histories of food, medicine, and science in special exhibitions. If your travel plans take you to any of the cities below in December or January, consider stopping by an exhibit. Be sure to check the websites for full exhibit descriptions, as well as visitor information such as hours, fees, and directions. We also welcome readers to share your trips to any museums and exhibits of interest to the Recipes Project community on Twitter or Facebook!

What Why How We Eat

Anchorage Museum (Anchorage, AK, USA)

Through 12 January 2020

What Why How We Eat tells the changing story of food culture in Alaska—from the subsistence whale hunt in Point Hope to the Halal market in Anchorage—through filmed interviews, art installations, utensils, tools, recipes and food. The exhibition highlights multiple cultures and food traditions within Alaska communities, providing an interactive space for learning about how food is produced, preserved and shared within Alaska’s diverse communities in both rural and urban areas. Food-oriented public programming and a book of food essays with companion cookbook of Alaskana recipes for dishes commonly made in Alaska’s kitchens are among the ways the What Why How We Eat project connects Alaska food culture with other cultures around the world.

The Art of Healing: Australian Indigenous Bush Medicine (International Tour)

The Berlin Museum of Medical History, Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin (Berlin, Germany)

Through 2 February 2020

The Art of Healing: Australian Indigenous Bush Medicine, an exhibition developed by the Melbourne Medical History Museum, is on its last stop on an international tour after first on display in 2018-2019. Prints and paintings by Indigenous Australian artists are juxtaposed with historic specimens from the Berlin Museum of Medical History’s permanent display. The contemporary works of art depict healing practices and medicines from the artists’ own Indigenous communities and cultures. Through their depictions of medicinal flora, the artists celebrate a long tradition of healing which predates Western medicine by tens of thousands of years. This exhibition was curated by Jacqueline Healy, University of Melbourne Medical History Museum and Henry Forman Atkinson Dental Museum Senior Curator.

Food Fit for Kings County: The Culinary History of Brooklyn

Brooklyn Public Library (Brooklyn, NY, USA)

Through 3 January 2020

This exhibition at the Brooklyn Public Library examines the borough’s social and cultural history through food and drink. The exhibition displays a variety of sources, including menus, images, books, and other material objects. Visitors can see a range of cultures, cuisines, and exhibited objects across Brooklyn’s history, including 1896 letterhead from the India Wharf Brewing Company, images from picket lines at Ebinger’s Bakery in the midst of the Civil Rights movement, and menus displaying the juxtaposition of immigrant food cultures, such as one advertising “Sheesh Kabab” alongside spaghetti and meatballs. For a preview of Food Fit for Kings County, be sure to visit the exhibit’s website before your visit.

Resetting the Table: Food and Our Changing Tastes

Peabody Museum of Archeology & Ethnography at Harvard University (Cambridge, MA, USA)

Through 28 November 2021

The Peabody Museum’s new exhibition, Resetting the Table, explores food choices and eating habits in the United States, including the sometimes hidden but always important ways in which our tables are shaped by cultural, historical, political, and technological influences. The centerpiece of the exhibition is a 1910 dinner for Harvard freshmen featuring Cotuit Cocktail, beef, imported champagne, an elaborate Eastern European cake called “Mocca Tree,” and cigarettes. Visitors not only encounter this meal set on a great oak dining table, but also explore the historical and cultural roots of each set of foods on the menu, and the privileged context of their presentation. The exhibition objects, culled from nine institutions, reveal the long history of many iconic American foods, across multiple cultures and thousands of years. These objects will include prehistoric oyster shells, turkey bones, Budweiser cans excavated from Harvard Yard, and an intricately fashioned nineteenth-century eel pot from New England. Stunning Central American tools and ceramics will signal the New World origins of corn and chocolate. The foodstuffs introduced to North America from other parts of the world include sugar, coffee, rice, and grape wine. Visitors also encounter a life-sized diorama of an early twentieth-century kitchen showcasing the preparation of foods before it is consumed and introduces objects of food preparation from around the world. This exhibition was guest curated by Joyce Chaplin, Harvard University James Duncan Phillips Professor of Early American History.

Brewing Up Chicago: How Beer Transformed a City

Exhibition organized by the Chicago Brewseum, hosted by the Field Museum (Chicago, IL, USA)

Through 5 July 2020

Brewing Up Chicago traces the growth of the city in the nineteenth century through the lens of its brewing industry and the immigrant community who built it. The German-American community in Chicago, initially regarded as ethnic outsiders, gradually came to be viewed as respected citizens, due in no small part to their contributions in brewing. The exhibition consists of four sections: The Raw Ingredients (1833-1850); The Mash (1851-1870); Fermentation (1871-1885); and Maturation (1885-1893). Each section details Chicago’s development, the German-American brewers’ experiences, and the stages of the brewing process. Brewing Up Chicago illustrates how beer is more than just a beverage; it is a strong cultural force capable of building community and making change.

Giuseppe Arcimboldo, Vertumnus, a portrait depicting Rudolf II, Holy Roman Emperor painted as Vertumnus, the Roman God of the seasons, c. 1590-1. Skokloster Castle, Sweden. Via Wikimedia Commons.

Revisiting Arcimboldo

La Cité Internationale de la Gastronomie (Lyon, France)

Through 31 May 2020

This immersive visual and auditory experience celebrates the paintings of the Italian Renaissance artist Giuseppe Arcimboldo. His portraits play a visual game with the viewer, merging food and portraiture. This exhibition features Arcimboldo’s works revisited by contemporary artists in a surreal and surprising experience. Revisiting Arcimboldo is displayed in the newly-opened La Cité Internationale de la Gastronomie in Lyon. This space, housed in the restored Grand Hôtel-Dieu, a former hospital, is devoted to the theme of gastronomy at the crossroads of food and health. The space houses permanent exhibitions on the history of Lyon’s gastronomy, a digital space presenting the gastronomic meal of the French, terroirs and the making of meals, temporary exhibitions, workshops, conferences, and more.

Making Marvels: Science & Splendor at the Courts of Europe

Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, NY, USA)

Through 1 March 2020

Joachim Friess, “Automaton in the Form of Diana and the Stag,” ca. 1620, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917. Source: Metropolitan Museum of Art.

In early modern Europe, lavish spending, displays of precious metals, and the possession of artistic, scientific, and technological innovations conveyed power and status. These innovations were often highlighted in elaborate court entertainments. The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s new exhibition, Making Marvels: Science and Splendor at the Courts of Europe explores the complex ways in which the objects collected and displayed by early modern European monarchs expressed these rulers’ ability to govern. The exhibition features approximately 170 objects, including clocks, automata, furniture, scientific instruments, jewelry, paintings, sculptures, print media, and more, from The Met collection and over fifty lenders. Some of the objects on display include the largest flawless natural green diamond in the world (weighing 41 carats and in its original 18th-century setting), the alchemistic table bell of Emperor Rudolf II, and a fountain bearing the coat of arms of the Madruzzo family of Trento to be used to spurt wine or water during court festivities. The exhibition will be divided into four sections dedicated to the main object types featured in these displays: precious metalwork, Kunstkammer objects, princely tools, and self-moving clockworks or automata. The exhibition site includes links to videos showing the movement and functionality of several Making Marvels objects. Making Marvels is organized by Wolfram Koeppe, the Marina Kellen French Curator in The Met’s Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts

A Delight for the Senses: The Still Life

Carnegie Museum of Art (Pittsburgh, PA, USA)

Through 15 March 2020

Albert Francis King, Late Night Snack, ca. 1900, Carnegie Museum of Art, Gift of the R. K. Mellon Family Foundation

Emerging in the seventeenth century in the Netherlands, the still life genre documented the objects and symbols of wealth and status among the flourishing merchant class. This exhibition, A Delight for the Senses: The Still Life, celebrates this genre, exploring nearly 250 years of the tradition from the seventeenth century to America’s Gilded Age. Featuring items as diverse as foods, flowers, animals, scientific instruments, books, and more, the arrangements were not only aesthetically pleasing, but also symbolic of the moral, religious, and social structures of the time. The exhibition features the museum’s first seventeenth-century still life painting, a recent bequest from the late Drue Heinz, as well as loans from the Detroit Institute of Arts and several local collectors. A Delight for the Senses is curated by Akemi May, Assistant Curator, Fine Arts, Carnegie Museum of Art.

If you’d like to feature a museum exhibition or collection on the Around the Table, please email Sarah Kernan.

Around the Table: Events

By Sarah Peters Kernan

Two weeks ago the Early Modern Recipes Online Collective (EMROC) hosted their fifth annual Transcribathon. I want to share my Transcribathon experience at the site hosted by the Newberry Library in Chicago, as I learned this event can be a successful community-building exercise in addition to a valuable day for teaching and learning about early modern recipes, manuscript culture, paleography, and digital humanities.

Participants listening to a presentation. Photo by Katie Dyson.

Despite being an avid reader of the EMROC blog and regular transcriber and researcher of recipe books, I had not participated in the Transcribathon prior to this year. Something always seemed to come up on the day, and I was admittedly nervous about using the transcription platform, Dromio (which, as I soon realized, was ridiculous! Dromio is quite user-friendly and intuitive, so don’t be afraid to try it!). This year, however, I was determined to participate in some way.

I figured that tying the Transcribathon into a course was a good first step to get involved, so I incorporated it into a class I was teaching on early modern English cookbooks in the Newberry’s Seminars Program. I also approached the Newberry to propose that they host a site. The Newberry was thrilled to host the Transcribathon, and staff from several centers and departments quickly coalesced to help organize the event including Public Engagement, Digital Initiatives, and the Center for Renaissance Studies.

The Newberry was open as a transcription site for four hours. Approximately sixty participants transcribed and many more people at the library wandered in and out throughout that time. Some participants worked for only thirty minutes, many more for one to two hours, and still others transcribed for over three hours! The library hosted a few speakers: I spoke about early modern English recipe books, Megan Heffernan provided a primer on early modern English manuscript culture and paleography, Jen Wolfe (a former Library Chat guest) highlighted the Newberry’s digital humanities initiatives, and Lia Markey talked about the new Italian Paleography site, a digital project of the Center for Renaissance Studies.

Transcribing and monitoring the Twitter feeds. Photo by Katie Dyson.

I am still overwhelmed by the incredible response to the Newberry’s Transcribathon. The participants had a wide range of backgrounds and interests. Instructors brought their classes, including one from Arrupe College. Several DePaul University undergraduates were also present, per their instructor’s suggestion. Many Chicago residents simply interested in recipes decided to try their hands at transcribing. I loved answering questions from many of these individuals; they wanted to know everything about paleography, ingredients, and coding! Scholars and graduate students were also on hand; they made exciting observations in the recipes, like shifting from English to French when describing reproductive unmentionables and a panoply of odd ingredients. In many instances, participants with diverse backgrounds shared tables while working, and I couldn’t help but notice a lot of conversation about their transcription experiences.

Participants and visitors seemed particularly conversational about one aspect of the event: the refreshments table. To celebrate English culinary recipes from the period, I baked seven different cake and biscuit recipes prepared from early modern recipes.

Early modern recipes prepared by Sarah Kernan. Photo by Megan Heffernan.

Most people who sampled the food wanted to talk about it, either with me or one another. The flavors (like rosewater, orange, and caraway) seemed to make early modern England a little more interesting for the students in attendance, while other participants were far more interested in the recipe sources. Suzanne Karr Schmidt, the George Amos Poole III Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts at the Newberry, even made a surprising connection between the Italian Crusts and a seventeenth-century sonnet series, Enigmes Joyeuses pour les Bons Esprits. It turns out that historic foods can sustain transcribers, create conversation, and forge some curious ties.

After experiencing such a great event and intellectual exercise, I want to encourage other readers to try organizing similar Transcribathon sites at your local libraries and schools in the future. I can’t emphasize enough how exciting it was to meet others who wanted to engage with early modern recipes and begin building that community in Chicago. Additionally, the event was clearly a useful teaching tool for instructors in several disciplines. On the institutional side, I am hopeful the Transcribathon inspired some participants to get involved in other initiatives (digital and otherwise) at the Newberry; several people were eager to learn more about projects specific to the library.

So, readers, I hope to see you at next year’s Transcribathon, whether you are participating from the comfort of your own home or organizing a site for your local recipes community!

Thanks to everyone at the Newberry Library who was a part of the Transcribathon planning, especially Katie Dyson, Lia Markey, Karen Christianson, Alex Teller, Jen Wolfe, Rebecca Fall, Christopher Fletcher, and Elisa Jones! You can follow the Newberry on Twitter @NewberryLibrary and Facebook @NewberryLibrary. If you’d like to feature a project, scholar, or institution on Around the Table, please email Sarah Kernan.

Around the Table: Research Technologies

This month on Around the Table, I am chatting with Christian Reynolds, a lead investigator on the US-UK Food Digital Scholarship network. Since the Recipes Project is a partner organization to the network, we wanted to encourage all our readers to become acquainted with this effort to make food-related digital materials more accessible. We hope that after reading about the project, you will visit this survey to assist the US-UK Food Digital Scholarship network.

Could you describe the US-UK Food Digital Scholarship network to Recipes Project readers? What kind of information are you collecting and what will be available through the network?

A cook is standing in a kitchen with food in pans on the tables in front of him. Coloured lithograph. Source: Wellcome Images.

Food has become an increasingly popular subject of study due to its inherently multidisciplinary nature. Food’s universal pervasiveness allows it to become an accessible window into every culture and time period. The materials and texts concerning food offer a continuous resource that spans thousands of years of human civilisation, with a massive corpus of written manuscripts, printed documents (books, pamphlets, menus), and other material culture and ephemera (including images and sound recordings) available for study.

Many cultural institutions (such as libraries, museums, galleries, archives, etc.) have large collections relating to food. Some of these collections are now (partially) digitised, and accessible to the global research community. However, knowledge of the existence and depth of many of the collections is limited, and there is a lack of communication between cultural institutions and researchers.

The AHRC US-UK Food Digital Scholarship network is a platform for US and UK higher education institutions, libraries, other cultural institutions with food-based materials and collections, as well as the researchers who use these collections. 

In this pilot stage of the US-UK Food Digital Scholarship network we will be collecting information about the researchers who use food related materials and collections – and what materials they would like digitised as a priority, as well as identifying the range of cultural institutions that have materials currently available for research.

There is also additional funding for digital scholarship research activities between US and UK researchers coming from the AHRC until 2023. This network would be happy to support any other food related researchers and cultural institutions in applying for funding from this scheme.

Is the network focused on certain chronological, geographical, linguistic, or other collection scopes? Or is it inclusive of any food-related digital materials?

Persimmon, axial view, MRI. Alexandr Khrapichev, University of Oxford. Source: Wellcome Images.

AHRC US-UK Food Digital Scholarship network is inclusive of all food-related digital materials across the interdisciplinary food system, to include a wide variety of digitised corpuses and artefacts ranging from digitised cookbooks and food texts, collections in archives (medicinal texts, food manuals, menus, social media interaction archives, etc) and libraries, through to the use of, and interaction with, digitised economic botany, agricultural, and museum collections. The main limit (due to funding) is that we are currently concerned with only cultural institutions in the US and the UK. However, the content within these digitised archives can relate to any chronological, geographical, or linguistic food related materials.

Will the completed network be open-access for anyone to use? When do you expect it will be available?

The outcomes of the network (reports, webinars, etc.) will be open-access. We hope these will be available in early 2020. We are asking librarians from many of our partner intuitions to provide a short introduction webinar about their collections.

Are any future projects or events planned in coordination with the network? What kinds of future collaborations and research do you envision?

Food warmer, England, 1801-1850. Science Museum, London. Source: Wellcome Images.

1)The AHRC is planning to fund additional UK-US digital scholarship activities until 2023. As a network we would be happy to support other researchers and groups wishing to apply for this funding.

2) There is a lot of research that can be done with the content currently digitised, however, many archives only have less than 5-10% of their holdings digitally available. Getting this content online, and in a searchable format is a high priority. In this regard, additional funding could be used to run scanathons and transcribathons, to allow more digital content to be unlocked for researchers. This could also encompass citizen science projects to transcribe archives and recipes. Another next step is creating standardised tagging and meta data systems for recipes to allow searching across collections.

3) We are currently conducting a survey among food researchers to map what archives and materials the food research community currently uses, and what we – as a community – want digitised. This will allow us to go together (researchers and archives) to funders with a plan for digitising the most needed content.

Are you welcoming suggestions for inclusion of other digital collections? How can our readers contribute?

We are very much welcoming suggestions of other digital collections to include in our list.

The best way for readers to contribute to the network is to fill out the 20 question survey that is mapping the research interests and materials and archives used by the food research community.

This will allow us to identify what archives and materials are being used, as well as see what the community is needing digitised as a priority.

Thanks, Christian, for sharing information about the AHRC US-UK Food Digital Scholarship network! You can reach Christian and the network team on Twitter @AHRCfoodnetwork or via email. If you’d like to feature a project, scholar, or institution on Around the Table, please email Sarah Kernan.