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.

Around the Table: Digital Resources

By Sarah Peters Kernan

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, organizations cancelled conferences and events in staggering numbers. As it became clear that events would have to move online in order to continue, our organizations and institutions did so with gusto. While the Recipes Project community may not have had the chance to socialize in person at these events, we are left with a treasure trove of recordings. This is a roundup of free recipes-related recordings from Fall 2020-Fall 2021 conferences, webinars, workshops, and symposia.

The Food and the Book: 1300-1800 Conference (October 2020) hosted by the Newberry Library and Folger Institute is available online. The Newberry Library’s Center for Renaissance Studies also has a series of collection presentation videos related to food history.

The Folger Institute’s Critical Race Conversations hosted Jennifer Park and Gitanjali Shahani for the conversation “We Are What You Eat” (15 October 2020).

The Huntington Library’s conference, Ecologies of Paper in the Early Modern World (November 2020), is available on the library’s YouTube channel.

The British Society for the History of Pharmacy’s YouTube channel has videos of the BSHP March 2021 Conference sessions, as well as other 2021 lectures.

A recording of Revealing Recipes: Top Tips from Early Modern Women (4 March 2021), hosted by the Early Modern Recipes Online Collective, Royal College of Physicians, and the Wellcome Collection, is available here.

The Food Cultures research theme at the University of Warwick hosted several 2021 events. Recordings are available for their “Food and Drink Cultures through the Ages” webinar (23 March 2021) and a “Food, Religion and Writing” panel debate (11 June 2021).

Bruce Moran’s keynote address of the Science History Institute’s “The Applied Arts of Alchemy” symposium (May 2021) is available here. The Science History Institute YouTube channel also has a wide variety of lecture recordings, demonstration videos, and “Distilled,” a series of collection presentation videos.

The IEHCA – University of Tours (L’Institut Européen d’Histoire et des Cultures de l’Alimentation) hosted the 6th International Conference on Food History and Food Studies (May-June 2021). Recordings of sessions are available through the conference program by clicking on the “Detailed Schedule” link.

Cooking Recipes of the Middle Ages: Corpus, Analysis, Visualisation (CoReMA) recently hosted a symposium on The Culinary Recipe from the XIIth to the XVIIth Centuries: Europe, Islam, Far East (May 2021). Recordings and detailed abstracts of each presentation are available on the symposium website. CoReMA’s other video offerings, such as cooking demonstrations and lectures are available on their site.

Several presentations from the Institute of Historical Research Food History Seminar are available on the seminar YouTube channel.

Intoxicating Spaces: The Impact of New Intoxicants on Urban Spaces in Europe, 1600-1850 hosted a seminar series, “What’s Your Poison?” Recordings are available for Part 1 and Part 2 of the series. Intoxicating Spaces also hosted the conference, Intoxicating Spaces: Global and Comparative Perspectives (July 2021). Session videos are linked on the conference website.

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

Around the Table: Publisher Chat

Welcome to the latest Around the Table! I recently had the pleasure of chatting with Karen Merikangas Darling, an Executive Editor in the Books Division at the University of Chicago Press, about the process of publishing recipes-related research.

Thank you so much for taking the time to chat! First, could you tell me more about your role at the University of Chicago Press?

Thank you for inviting me! I am one of fourteen acquiring editors at the University of Chicago Press. The Press was one of three original divisions of the University when it was founded in 1890. Although for a year or two it functioned only as a printer, in 1892 the Press began publishing scholarly books and journals, making it one of the oldest continuously operating university presses in the United States. We publish significant scholarly and nonspecialist (trade) books by authors from within and beyond the academy; translations of important foreign-language texts, both historical and contemporary; and essential reference works, such as the Chicago Manual of Style – now in its 17th edition. In all of this, the Press is guided by the judgment of individual editors who work to build a broad but coherent publishing program engaged with authors and readers around the world.

Jennifer Rampling, The Experimental Fire: Inventing English Alchemy, 1300-1700 (University of Chicago Press, 2020).

Specifically, acquisitions editors are responsible for publishing “lists,” or collections of books in certain areas: my areas include the history of science, medicine, technology, and the environment, as well as philosophy, sociology, and anthropology of science, medicine, and technology. Sometimes we sponsor book series within our areas. For example, in partnership with the Science History Institute and an excellent Series Board, I publish books in our Synthesis series, which focuses on the history of chemistry, broadly construed.

Day-to-day, my role is to shepherd books from idea into print. Acquisitions editors evaluate proposals for books that arrive unsolicited in our inboxes, but we also seek out and invite projects that we think might result in exciting books for the Press. We work closely with authors to develop their manuscripts so that they reach their full potential. As a university press, part of this involves steering promising projects through peer review.

UChicago Press has a reputation in the Recipes Project community for publishing scholarship showcasing very high-quality recipes-related research. Your catalogue includes topics as varied as studies of vaccine and medicine development, modern industrial food systems, early modern household recipe books, and even a study of medieval feasts. Could you describe the types of research and writing the UChicago Press seeks to publish?

Paul Fehribach, The Big Jones Cookbook: Recipes for Savoring the Heritage of Regional Southern Cooking (University of Chicago Press, 2015).

I appreciate how the Recipes Project community is attentive to the many ways recipes feature in our books! Researchers have drawn on and discussed—and on occasion ingeniously recreated—recipes in books on topics as varied as travel and tourism and musicology. But most of our work with recipes is historical, contributing to art history, historical geography, American and environmental history, and the history of science, medicine, and technology. And, of course, gastronomy itself, as in our Big Jones Cookbook!

We do not have a dedicated food studies editor at Chicago, but my colleagues and I are drawn to work that approaches all range of questions from innovative angles, and deep dives into recipes, as your readers know well, is a wonderfully vivid way to recreate everyday experiences. Analyzing recipes and, relatedly, actual experiments and instruments, is also, I believe, an especially fruitful way to get at what was really going on when people practiced alchemy, science, or medicine before our modern times. Recipe research resonates with a general interest in embodiment, and across our acquisitions areas we share an enthusiasm for work that brings to the fore the senses and lenses of gender and sexuality, race, and disability studies.

Could you help our readers navigate the active UChicago series and subjects related to recipes?

Elaine Leong, Recipes and Everyday Knowledge: Medicine, Science, and the Household in Early Modern England (University of Chicago Press, 2018).

Yes! The best way to approach this is to think about who your book is for. Aspirational answers like “everyone!” are not going to be of much help, so try to think about the main message of your book and then ask questions of yourself like these: Who cares about this? Who needs to know this? Who would find this interesting? If we look at Elaine Leong’s book Recipes and Everyday Knowledge as an example, we might say “historians of early modern science and medicine,” “family and gender studies scholars,” and “recipe-researchers.” These answers are useful because they locate the book’s specific contribution in ongoing conversations across fields, methodological approaches, and individuals’ interests.

The acquisitions editor who handles the areas that are most squarely represented by your answers is the one to approach with your book proposal. Every press website will have pages that introduce the editors and outline their areas and interests, and from these personal statements or descriptions you can figure out not only who to reach out to but also, and importantly, whether the press has a commitment to and presence in your specific area. It is important to you, your book, and the press that your manuscript have support from the surrounding titles the press publishes, so look around to see who publishes the books most relevant to your own and start there.

How does UChicago Press solicit and review publications for proposals? Is it helpful for scholars interested in publishing with UChicago to first reach out to a specific editor? Are there any aspects of UChicago’s process that are particularly notable or different from other presses?

Please reach out to us! We welcome it. Along with information about who to contact, every press will provide guidance online about how to do it in “information for prospective authors” or “submission guidelines.” Generally, what we would like to see is a letter of introduction, CV, and book prospectus. The latter includes a general project overview, annotated table of contents, description of audience and related work, and particulars about time to completion, production needs, and any other special circumstances. This is standard across presses, because these documents give us what we need to evaluate how well your work might fit on our lists. In short, they tell us what your book is about and how it is structured, who you aim to reach with it, and why you are well positioned to write it.

(As a tip: because recipe work can be quite interdisciplinary, I should reiterate that at any one press, please send your work to only one editor. It is perfectly fine to say, “my book might also be of interest to your colleague who works with reference books,” but please, in the interest of efficiency (and our sanity!), please do not write to both of us at once.)

We also are happy to begin discussions with authors early in the process—we may even contact you if we see a news piece, article, blog, review, poster, talk, or hear about your work from a trusted colleague or advisor—so don’t be afraid to approach us at conferences or reach out for a quick chat. We may do the same!

The Recipes Project community includes many graduate students and early career researchers. Do you have any general advice for these scholars as they plan and try to publish their first books, whether it is with UChicago or another press?

Good question. My main advice is to think of your book apart from your other writing. Figure out what your institution needs from your thesis or dissertation and work with your advisor or committee to provide that. A dissertation is not a book. So I recommend keeping a separate folder of ideas for the book. If your dissertation focuses on one archive, begin to think about how the book might fold in research from others to stretch its scope, geographically or temporally, or both. If your thesis revises previous work by making a careful case against another scholar’s reading of sources, this is likely something to excise from the book and publish as an article.

The idea is to think big about the book, and when you’re early in your career, an easy way to make headway on this is to listen. Listen to what others say when you talk about your work. How do they connect it to their own interests? What do they pick out as being most interesting or significant in what you are up to? Listening to their answers can help you plan your next steps. And so can talking with an editor!

Thank you for the opportunity to talk with you today.

Thank you, Karen, for chatting about publishing practices at University of Chicago Press! If you would like to feature a project, scholar, or institution on Around the Table, please email Sarah Kernan.