Around the Table: Celebrating Our Contributors

With the advent of the new year, two members of our editorial team have stepped down from their positions: Recipes Project co-creator Lisa Smith and longtime contributor-and-editor Laurence Totelin. Today we celebrate Lisa and Laurence’s valuable contributions to the project and their service to our community! Amanda Herbert recently spoke with Lisa and Laurence to reflect on their time with the Recipes Project.

Amanda: Tell us about your introduction to the Recipes Project: when did you join, and why?

Lisa: It was a chilly April evening in Saskatoon, Canada, back in 2012… Elaine Leong was over for a week for a conference and various network-building meetings. We were sitting in my (then) living room plotting all sorts of recipe-related activities. We were both intrigued by the possibility of developing a blog that could bring together lots of different voices and would appeal to the wider public. We also wanted to think more widely about what is a recipe, anyway, which is why we took a liberal definition to recipe from the outset, which could encompass ingredient parts, books, magic, and more. Over the summer, we looked into different platforms and ended up going with hypotheses.org as being the most flexible one for a collaboration. We launched the blog on 11 September 2012, with a post on scribblings by Elaine, and were pleased with the good reception it received immediately. 

Laurence: I was on maternity leave with my second child when Lisa and Elaine invited me to contribute to the Recipes Project. At the time, I had never written a blog post, and I was rather nervous. But the invitation sparked something in me, and I started my own blog (Concocting History), which allowed me to grow in confidence. I wrote my first post for the Recipes Project in February 2013 and joined the editorial team at the beginning of 2015, with a series on Greek and Roman recipes. I did not hesitate one second to join because I knew that the Recipes Project was a supportive environment, in which I would be able to develop my editorial skills. 

Amanda: What was your favourite TRP project?

Lisa: What is a Recipe? A Virtual Conversation, an online conference we held in 2017 to celebrate our fifth year. This was a lot of hard work and required a lot of creativity, but we were definitely ahead of the game in terms of a virtual shift. Our goal was to make our conversations about recipes more inclusive, for both people around the world who could not afford to travel and to a wider, non-academic audience. It worked so well, as participants used YouTube, podcasts, blogging, photo essays, and Twitter to join in. We had students, farmers, famous authors, and museum specialists drop in accidentally–they didn’t know it was part of a bigger thing– and contribute to the conversations in thoughtful ways. As Laurence and I were saying the other day, we wish that we had written an article about the conference, which we had planned to do and just never got around to doing… When the pandemic happened, it turned out that our knowledge would have been useful to a lot of people, but by then all sorts of people were trying out virtual conferences with varying degrees of success anyhow. (Readers, let that be a lesson: don’t sit on your good ideas!) 

Laurence: I have two favourites. Like Lisa, I enjoyed the Virtual Conversation immensely. In the COVID era, we have had to switch to virtual conferences, but in 2017, this was very new. We didn’t try to replicate a ‘normal’ conference virtually; we threw away the rule book and tried all sorts of things. Some were more successful than others, but I think that I learnt a lot from the Conversation both in terms of contents and methodologies. My second favourite project was the interaction I had with Jennifer Park on the topic of curdled milk in the breast (here and here). This really demonstrated to me the potential of blogging as a venue for the exchange of ideas between scholars working on different periods (early modern period for Jennifer; Greek and Roman antiquity for me) and different types of sources (drama for Jennifer; medical sources for me). Exchanges between scholars have always happened of course, but blogging allowed us to have our conversation publicly and faster than if we had simply added references to each other’s work in more traditional academic publications. I can’t actually recall whether we had this blogging exchange before or after Jennifer and I met (at the Wellcome Library), but that exchange remains very special to me.  

Amanda: How do you think the project has grown and changed over the years?

Lisa: Our definitions of recipes got even broader. We actively sought out new voices and aimed to be more inclusive by moving beyond our own pre-modern European networks. We quickly realised that we could not do it all with such a small team and expanded to a much larger team of editors and social media editors. This has ensured that we could bring in even more new voices and exciting research! I can’t wait to see what direction the editorial team takes next. 

Laurence: Both the chronological and geographical scope of the project have widened, as we have attempted to decolonise our approach to historical recipes. We used to be a woman-only team, which felt like the right thing in the early days, but we made a conscious effort to change this in the last few years. The blogging format always allowed for flexibility and reinvention, and I look forward to witnessing where the editorial team will take the Recipes Project in the future. 

Amanda: What are your own new directions? 

Lisa: I’ve recently taken on a senior leadership role in my university (Faculty Dean Postgraduate, Arts and Humanities) and will take over as Chair of the Society for the Social History of Medicine Executive in the summer. But my work with the Recipes Project has very much shaped my aspirations in these roles. Through the Recipes Project, I developed my skills in mentoring new scholars and a deep concern about what opportunities are available to them. I also gained experience in virtual community building and collaborative work. These will, I anticipate, be useful in both roles.

Laurence: Like Lisa, I have learnt so many skills through working with the Recipes Project. Most importantly, the Recipes Project has shown me a model for a supportive scholarly community. I have tried to take some of that ethos to my current roles, which include several editorial roles and the co-chairwomanship of the Women’s Classical Committee UK. I’m currently on research leave and I feel at a crossroads from a career point of view, as many large projects I was involved in have come to an end. I’m not entirely sure which road(s) I will take next, but I’m excited to find out. 

Thank you Lisa and Laurence for your years of innovations and contributions! The entire Recipes Project team wishes you all 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

For anyone able to safely travel in December or January, several museums have special exhibitions related to the history of food, medicine, and science. In addition to in-person exhibitions, several museums also have created online components or a completely virtual experience; be sure to check the websites for full descriptions, as well as information like hours, fees, directions, and COVID-19 updates. We also welcome readers to share your trips to any museums and exhibits of interest to the Recipes Project community on Twitter or Facebook!

The Art of Food: From the Collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and His Family Foundation

The University of Arizona Museum of Art (Tucson, AZ, USA)

Through 20 March 2022

The Art of Food, featuring over 100 works from the collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and his Family Foundation, displays how some of the most renowned artists of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries have considered the subject of food. Through a range of media, artists contemplate the necessity of food for sustenance, community, and culture. The artwork displays a range of interaction with food, from production to cooking to consumption. In addition to the physical exhibition, the experience also includes Community Food Stories, a digital collection of  stories authored by members of Tucson’s food community.

CONTAGION

Science Gallery Bengaluru (Online Exhibition)

Through 31 December 2021

To explore the experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic, CONTAGION presents artistic, scientific, historical, and contemporary voices and perspectives. This online exhibition examines the transmission of emotions, behaviors, ideas, and diseases, so that visitors can contemplate their spread and impact. The exhibition goes beyond a website; instead, it is an immersive experience, providing writing prompts to all visitors, and frequent live events like lectures, workshops, film screenings, and more. This exhibition was curated by Danielle Olsen and Jahnavi Phalkey.

Contagious!

Rijksmuseum Boerhaave (Leiden, Netherlands)

Through 9 January 2022

This exhibition on contagious diseases considers historical outbreaks as well as the more recent coronavirus outbreak. Contagious! invites consideration about how people confronted epidemics in the past and how insights of past outbreaks can inform future responses. The exhibition includes both scientific objects and artistic works, such as a 17th century silk dress scented with lavender to ward off plague and a examples of historical and modern personal protective equipment for medical workers.

Falcons: The Art of the Hunt

National Museum of Asian Art (Washington, DC, USA)

15 January–17 July 2022       

In this forthcoming exhibition, a selection of paintings and objects from ancient Egypt to China displays the widespread interest and respect for falcons across time and cultures. The Art of the Hunt includes imagery from ancient Egypt, when falcons were associated with Horus; and from the eighth century on, when falcons were trained to become skillful hunters in the Islamic world, Byzantine empire, and China.

A mounted man hunting birds with a falcon, Freer Gallery of Art

Feeding Black: Community, Power & Place

Museum of London Docklands (London, UK)

Through 17 July 2022

Feeding Black explores the central role of food in Black enterprise and identity in South East London. Through recipes, objects, and stories, the exhibition highlights four African- and Caribbean-owned businesses: Livity Plant Based Cuisine, African Cash & Carry, Junior’s market stall, and Zeret Kitchen. Feeding Black also showcases photography by Jonas Martinez and an original soundscape by Kayode ‘Kayodeine’ Gomez.

Fire and Vine: The Story of Glass and Wine

Corning Museum of Glass (Corning, NY, USA)

Through 31 December 2022

This exhibition explores the interrelated histories of glass and wine, especially how glass has been integral to the production and consumption of wine for thousands of years. Visitors will view collection items highlighting this relationship throughout time, like a 2,000-year-old fragment of cameo glass depicting a grape harvest, a still-sealed bottle of wine found in a shipwreck off the coast of England, and dozens of wine glasses from around the world. There is a particular focus the Finger Lakes region of New York State, which has been home to the glass and wine industries for over 150 years. This exhibition was curated by Katherine Larson, Curator of Ancient Glass at the Corning Musuem of Glass.

Hyundai Commission: Anicka Yi: In Love With The World

Tate Modern (London, UK)

Through 6 February 2022

This installation is an experimental work which explores the merging of technology and biology. The artist, Anicka Yi, invites visitors to consider their role in the ecosystems in which they live through the dissolution of boundaries between plants, animals, microbes, and machines. Yi has installed floating machines (aerobes) in the exhibition space to encourage thought about ways in which machines can inhabit a world without clear distinctions between the living and machines. The installation also includes scentscapes associated with the history of the installation space, Bankside Power Station, at specific points in history.

Life in a Cup: Coffee Culture in the Islamic World

British Museum (London, UK)

Through 18 September 2022

Life in a Cup presents the story of coffee in parts of the Islamic world, allowing visitors to explore several coffee traditions. The exhibition traces the introduction of coffee into Istanbul by the early 16th century, explores centuries of coffeehouse culture in the Islamic world and beyond, and highlights the beautiful material culture of coffee.

Brass coffee pot with a hinged lid, British Museum, © The Trustees of the British Museum

Outbreak: Epidemics in a Connected World

National Museum of Natural History (Washington, DC, USA)

Through October 2022

Outbreak provides visitors the opportunity to explore the relationship between the environment, people, animals, and microbes, and how professionals identify and respond to infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS, Ebola virus, influenza, Zika virus, and others. Visitors can engage with interactive simulations to think like an epidemiologist, reflect on personal stories from survivors and frontline healthcare workers, and, through a multi-player game, work cooperatively with other visitors to contain an outbreak before it spreads further. Regular webinars are scheduled to compliment the exhibition; the schedule is available online, as well as recordings of past events.

Worlds of Opiates

Amsterdam Central Station (Amsterdam, Netherlands)

December 2021

In this collaboration between Poppi Museum, Utrecht University (especially Stephen Snelders and Intoxicating Spaces), Inventors Guild, and Corné van der Stelt, visitors can experience how opium has been viewed and used over time. Artists and scholars worked together to translate the history of opium into an exhibition featuring visual and digital components. This pop-up exhibition won’t be up long, so be sure to visit it in the heart of Amsterdam in December.

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

Tales from the Archives: Around the Table: Publisher Chat

In my first post as an editor for the Recipes Project, I talked to Allen Grieco about his roles as editor of Food & History (published by Brepols) and series editor of a new book series on Food Culture, Food History before 1900  published by Amsterdam University Press. Both publications have recently celebrated some exciting milestones: Alban Gautier and Rachel Rich are the new editors of Food & History and the first book in AUP’s Food Culture, Food History series will be published in February 2022. So, today we revisit this chat with sound advice for publishing recipes-related research. -Sarah Kernan

Welcome to the first Publisher Chat as part of our new series, Around the Table, in which I will occasionally be talking to editors and publishers of journals and book series dealing with topics related to historic recipes. Today I am chatting with Allen Grieco, editor-in-chief of the journal Food & History (published by Brepols) and series editor of a new book series on Food Culture, Food History (13th to 19th centuries) published by Amsterdam University Press.

You serve both as editor-in-chief of the journal Food & History and series editor of a new book series on Food Culture, Food History (13th to 19th centuries). Could you describe the types of research and writing being published in this journal and series? 

Anybody working in this field knows to what extent the subject matter we deal with needs to be approached in a resolutely interdisciplinary way. While both the journal and the book series have at their core an historian’s approach to the subject, as is highlighted by the presence of the word “history” in both titles, it is readily apparent that the life blood of the discipline in the last three or four decades has seen a high degree of methodologically innovative work. The breakdown of barriers that used to separate disciplinary fields, a process that characterized the development of cultural history in general, has been particularly pronounced in food history. Our field has also witnessed the emergence of a pointed interest in previously neglected sources that have since shown their hidden potential. One of the many examples of this is the “discovery” of cookbooks a type of document that was considered nothing more than a curiosity and has now produced nothing less than a stream of publications. Much the same might be said of the imaginative use iconographic sources are put to by both historians and art historians or, for that matter, the serial use of literary texts used by  historians and literary historians to flesh out the cultural context of food consumption.

Both the book series and the journal publish the work of scholars working in this direction even though we are also open to more traditional approaches such as work exploring the economic history of food, philological work on important texts, etc. The differences, apart from the length of the texts, are that the book series ranges from the thirteenth century to the early nineteenth while the journal has a much larger chronological range from prehistory to the present.

What is your role as journal editor versus series editor?

In many ways they are very similar. As an editor (actually a co-editor in chief along with my colleague Peter Scholliers) working in close collaboration with two first class production editors (Lucinda Byatt and Olivier de Maret) of a journal that has reached sixteen years of age, the task is to ensure the quality of the articles and dossiers but also that what we publish fits the very open editorial line we have followed from the very beginning. Since this is the journal published by the IEHCA (Institut Européen d’Histoire et Culture de l’Alimentation) it needs to reflect the varied membership of this institution both in terms of chronological focus and the fields of research that cohabit under that label. 

The yearly meetings held in Paris bring together the editorial board, composed by a varied, highly international group of specialists, that reflect not only what food history looks like at present but also the range of topics published by the journal. Choosing the members of the board is one of the tasks that Peter Scholliers and I undertake after consultation with the sitting members. 

As a series editor (but that has only just begun) I have more freedom to choose though here too there is a small board that I can turn to both for suggesting interesting manuscripts and for expert opinions. They then go to Amsterdam University Press where, ultimately, the publisher approves the recommendations Erika Gaffney and I have passed on to them.

Food & History 14.1 (2016)

Could you tell us how to go about getting published in Food & History and Food Culture and Food History? What is the process? Are scholars of all career stages welcomed to try publishing?

For Food & History all you have to do is to send your article to Lucinda Byatt and Olivier de Maret. If you want to propose a more ambitious dossier, usually no less than four articles by different authors with an introduction, then you should send a one page proposal and a table of contents that will be evaluated before we come to some kind of decision. 

As for the book series the procedure is to begin by getting in touch with me and/or with the commissioning editor Erika Gaffney. Send us an informal proposal on the basis of which we will send you a more complete Publication Proposal Form to get the kind of information that is required by AUP to move forward with your project. It is important to say that scholars at all career stages are published and that the only proviso is that it be new, quality work. I should add that publications are exclusively in English and that the series also plans to publish essay collections.  

Do you have any general advice for scholars trying to publish historical research on food topics?

The advice here might sound a little obvious but food history is a relatively new field, you might even say a fashionable one. While that means more opportunities to publish (the amount of publishers who have entered their hat in the arena over the past ten years is quite remarkable) this has also a corollary which is that standards are not always maintained. The journal and the book series I am involved with are both resolutely bent on quality scholarship but that does not mean dry and long winded, quite to the contrary. Good scholarship and a lively approach to a subject are of course possible, even though they come at some cost. While Food & History has more latitude for contributions that are aimed at a very small group of specialists, the book series has to be aimed at a broader readership. So, for example, a book should strive to go beyond our specialized field and speak to historians in general. This is very important since many a main stream historian still thinks that food history has nothing to do with them. Our field needs to break out of what threatens to be a ghetto but to do this I am looking for new ideas and rigorous scholarship communicated in an accessible, lively manner.  

Thanks, Allen, for chatting with me! If you’d like to feature an editor or publisher on the Around the Table Publisher Chat, please email Sarah Kernan.

Around the Table: Bookseller Chat

This month on Around the Table, I am chatting with Don Lindgren, founder of Rabelais Inc., Fine Books on Food & Drink, located in Biddeford, Maine. Don has curated one of the largest selections of rare and out-of-print cookbooks in the United States at Rabelais, along with other food and drink materials including manuscripts, menus, prints, photographs, and other ephemera. Items sold at Rabelais date from the sixteenth century to the present.

Interior of Rabelais Books. Photo by Rabelais Inc.

Thank you so much for taking the time to chat! First, could you tell us how you got involved in the antiquarian culinary book trade?

I started in working in bookshops while still in high school in the late 1970s. When I arrived at college, I sought a job in a bookshop and stumbled into the Chicago Powell’s (the original!) where I was “educated” in an excellent scholarly used and rare shop. For the next twenty years I plodded my way up the ladder of the antiquarian trade, but never dealing with culinary materials. My field was always modern thought, which included philosophy, psychology, social theory, etc., as well as modern art, design, and architecture. My more narrow specialty was historical avant-gardism and the little magazines. It wasn’t until my wife (at the time), Samantha Hoyt Lindgren, and I moved to Maine that the idea of food and drink as our specialty arose. Samantha was a pastry cook at the time; we put the books and food together, and voila!

You handle a wide range of books on food and drink. How do you acquire your inventory? Could you share any interesting places you have found books?

Champignons de l’Ain, a manuscript study of the mycology of the Rhone-Alpes region, with forty-nine original watercolors of mushrooms (circa 1870). Photo by Greta Rybus.

I am interested in any type of material that is part of the wider world of food and drink culture, that includes cookbooks, but also books on subjects like wild foods and foraging, distilling, the history of packaging, food art, etc. Not just printed books, but also manuscript cookery books, and ephemera of all sorts that is part of food culture (menus, trade cards, advertising art, trade catalogues, etc.). My inventory comes from all of the various sources booksellers use: online listings, auctions, book scouts, book fairs, other, non-specialized booksellers, etc. My preferred type of purchase is a large collection from a seasoned collector, which is where I am most likely to run across books I have never seen before. Great books can be found everywhere; I once purchased a number of rare Elizabethan cookbooks from a small dealer in the Catskills. The books had come out of a private home along with other, mostly unremarkable books. 

Tell us a bit about the sale of books at your shop. How do you develop relationships with your customers and how do you know what books to match to their needs, budget, etc.? How much of your business is with institutional collections compared to private collectors?

I love selling books in the shop, because I can have a real conversation with the client. And best of all I can put a special item in their hands and see them react to holding something that might be a true piece of history, or just react to the materiality of it. But only a small percentage of my sales (less than 5%) occur in the shop. And 10% cover all sales in the shop and through online listings. The other 90% is what I’d call private client business—clients who know us and we know them. It’s a small number of individuals and institutions (about 50/50 institutions to private collectors) that make up the bulk of the sales. I like selling to both, but not just because I need sales from both to keep the business going. Institutions buy a broader range of materials, looking for subject quality, specific collections, archives, and other materials that contain a wider historical narrative. 

Athenaeus Naucratites; Bedrott, Jakob. Athenaiou Deipnosophiston biblia pentekaideka. Athenaei Dipnosophistarvm, hoc est argute sciteque conuiuio disserentum. Lib. XV, quibus nunc quantum operae ac diligentiae adhibitum sit satis fiedei erit. Basileae: Joannes Valderus, 1535. Photo by Knack Factory.

What is your process for researching, cataloguing, and pricing your inventory?

By choice I am definitely a “scholarly bookseller” even though most people don’t think of cookery, or even food history, as a particularly scholarly subject. I have a very large library of food history reference materials (over 2000 volumes) and another library of reference books on bibliography and book history (about the same size) and I use the collections as well as online sources in my daily research. The degree of detail in my cataloguing depends on the nature of the item. A well-known book, even if rare, doesn’t necessarily need the level of detail required by a less famous, but unrecognized, work. My cataloguing of early community cookbooks, for example, is extremely detailed, as almost no one has given the genre the attention it deserves. Pricing is complex and depends a great deal on the type of book: How common is it in today’s marketplace? Does it have relevant auction records? And do I have a client in mind for it? Examples of my detailed cataloguing can be found in the linked pdfs in the next response.

What are some of your favorite items you have carried in Rabelais Books over the years?

Hmmm. A tough one… but here goes.

  • An immaculate copy of Irma Rombauer’s original self-published Joy of Cooking (1931), in a pristine dust jacket, likely the best copy in existence. 

Thank you, Don, for chatting about Rabelais and the antiquarian culinary book trade! You can find Rabelais Books on Facebook @RabelaisBooks and Instagram @rabelaisbooks. If you would like to feature a project, scholar, or institution on Around the Table, please email Sarah Kernan.