Around the Table: Publisher Chat

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.

A Sampling of Food-Related Panels at the 2017 Berkshire Conference

By Rachel A. Snell

Held at Hoftra University June 1-4, the 17th Berkshire Conference on the History of Women, Genders, and Sexualities contained a number of panels of interest to food studies scholars. As those who study food are well-acquainted, food and food writing offer a richly rewarding lens for studying the past. Therefore, it is unsurprising that the conference theme, “Difficult Conversations: Thinking and Talking About Women, Genders, and Sexualities Inside and Outside the Academy,” generated several papers and on entire panel devoted to exploring the connections between food and gender.

“Native New Yorker,” Pura Cruz 2006.

My own research interests naturally gravitated me toward a handful of food-related panels at this year’s Big Berks, but this is by no means an exhaustive review. The full conference program can be accessed here.

On Thursday afternoon, two papers exploring home economics lead me to a panel titled, “Bloomers, Domestic Violence, and Home Economics: Print Sources and the Politics of Gender” and chaired by Carol Ruth Berkin. While all four papers were excellent, food scholars, particularly those interested in the home economics movement, will want to note the following two papers:

Food, Empowerment, and Iowa: Exploring Mrs. Welch’s Cookbook

Mrs. Welch’s Cookbook (Des Moines: 1884).

Jaycie Vos, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill/Special Collections Coordinator and University Archivist, University of Northern Iowa @jaycie_v

Jaycie Vos’s paper provided a close-reading of Mrs. Welch’s Cookbook (Des Moines: 1884). Written by the head of the Domestic Economy Department at Iowa Agricultural College (later Iowa State University), Mary B. Welch, the cookbook was a compilation of recipes used for instruction in the department. Vos argues the cookbook and Welch’s career presented food preparation as a source of empowerment for women.

The Porosity of Public and Private in Ellen Richards’s Home Economics

Serenity Sutherland, University of Rochester @serenitys37

In her examination of the career of Ellen Richards, the pioneering founder of the Home Economics movement and the first female student and instructor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Sutherland contrasted the development of scientific housekeeping with earlier moral domesticity. Her concentration on Richards allowed Sutherland to explore ideas of individuality and the overlap of public and private in the Home Economics movement.

Friday morning’s “Repast and Present: Food History Inside and Outside the Academy” organized by the Recipe Project’s own Amanda Herbert not only explored food as an engagement tool in the study of the past, it was also the opening event for a virtual conference exploring the question, “What is a recipe?” A video of the panel is available on the Recipe Project’s Facebook page, therefore, I will provide brief notes on each speaker.

Public and Professional Dimensions of Creative Food History Programs

Amanda B. Moniz, Smithsonian Institution @AmandaMoniz1 

Moniz discussed her development of historical cooking classes and the accessibility of food history.

Cooking Class: Women, Domestic Science, and Higher Education since the Progressive Era

Tandra Taylor, St. Louis University

Through a focus on Progressive-era domestic science education opportunities for African-American women, Taylor argued that cooking class was actually cooking class (i.e.: status).

A Recipe for Teaching (and Learning) Atlantic World History: Food and the Columbian Exchange

Zara Anishanslin, University of Delaware @ZaraAnishanslin

Anishanslin shared her techniques for bringing food into the classroom, describing this effort as a more uplifting aspect of Atlantic history (creation rather than destruction). Those who teach the early American history survey or Atlantic history courses will be interested in her assignment to select and study a recipe that would not exist without the Columbian Exchange.

Food for the People: How Food History is Changing the Conversation at the National Museum of American History

Paula Johnson, National Museum of American History

Julia Child’s kitchen on display at the Museum of American History – http://americanhistory.si.edu/food/julia-childs-kitchen

Johnson discussed food-related initiatives at the National Museum of American History including exhibits and live cooking demonstrations that combine food and history. Mark your calendars for this year’s Smithsonian Food History Weekend, October 26-28.

Cooking on the Internet: Historical Recipes and Public Scholarships

Marissa Nicosia, Pennsylvania State University – Abington College @Nicosia_Marissa 

Nicosia’s joint-project with Alyssa Connell transcribes, contextualizes, and updates early modern recipes for modern kitchens while sharing them on a blog titled, Cooking in the Archives. Nicosia discussed the insights that stemmed from this work and the importance of actually preparing recipes as part of the research process.

My review of food history at the Big Berks concludes with a panel exploring the politics of women’s businesses that included four fascinating and innovative presentations, but it was Maria McGrath’s history of Bloodroot Restaurant that connects with the subject of this post.

Living Feminist: The Liberation and Limits of Separatist Business and Radical Lesbian Ethics at the Bloodroot Restaurant

Maria McGrath, Bucks County Community College

Dining Space, Bloodroot Restaurant – www.bloodroot.com

In this paper, McGrath examined the founding of Bloodroot Restaurant in Bridgeport, CT, a feminist and collective restaurant and bookstore, in 1977. She explored the role of food in the pursuit of feminist and counter-cultural ideologies.

As a first-time Big Berks attendee, I was blown away by the quality and variety of presentations and the uniquely supportive atmosphere. I’m looking forward to more food history at the 2020 meeting!

Note: In the interest of self-promotion, I would be remiss to not mention I also presented, during the Digital Humanities Spotlight, on mapping cookbooks to reveal women’s networks. An early version of that work is available here.

Searching for Syphilis in Recipe Books

By Olivia Weisser

I have been on the search for syphilis – or venereal disease as it was known in England in the 1600s and 1700s. In that era, there was one broad disease category, “venereal disease,” for what we know now to be different STDs. Personal writing about venereal disease can be challenging to find because the disease was stigmatizing and disfiguring. Few individuals admitted to having venereal disorders in letters to healers and even fewer wrote about their experiences in personal writing. And yet the disease was rampant by the early decades of the 1700s. I set out for the archives with the hope that recipe books might provide rare glimpses into the private side of the disease. Of course, recipe books are by no means private forms of writing. In many instances, they were cherished objects bequeathed to friends or passed down through families. Yet the stigma of the disease created a market for treatment at home. Recipes, I hoped, could offer insights into that domestic practice.

I found a large number of recipes aimed at particular ailments, such as the falling sickness, but only a rare few targeted venereal disorders. One of these entries is from a 1680 book owned by Johanna St John. She recorded a remedy for treating heat and inflammation in venereal sores.

Johanna St. John, Recipe Book, Wellcome Library, London, MS.4338/127
Johanna St. John, Recipe Book, Wellcome Library, London, MS.4338/127

Recipes like this one are few and far between—but why? Perhaps venereal treatments were mostly cure-alls that are difficult to trace to one particular set of ailments. Peter Temple‘s “Balsome for wounds” treated 42 different disorders, for instance. Or perhaps authors chose not to label venereal cures as such in order to protect their reputations. Temple was openly interested in remedies for venereal disease, but he did not always categorize them as anti-venereals in his recipe book. He titled one entry “A drinke to heale any wound old greefe or sore,” which does not indicate a venereal cure. But at the bottom of the entry he added: “I believe this more proper for a wound given by one of venus fayr nimph.”

The ingredients in Temple’s wound drink are also telling. Several were believed to work as anti-venereals, including sarsaparilla and guaiacum. Instead of searching for a particular set of ailments, I started combing recipe books for ingredients associated with venereal cures. The most popular of these was mercury. Mercurial remedies took the form of pills, drinks, ointments, and even smoke that patients inhaled, and they were comprised of mercury in all of its forms: calomel, sublimate, liquid quicksilver, and cinnabar (mercury mixed with sulfur). Ingesting mercury causes excessive salivation, a reaction that today we associate with mercury poisoning. But within the humoral framework of health–in which abundant, imbalanced, or clogged fluids were thought to cause illness–prolific salivation was evidence of a potentially curative bodily transformation.

Caption: Albarello drug jar for Sublimate of Mercury, Italy, 1501-180, Wellcome Library, London
Albarello drug jar for Sublimate of Mercury, Italy, 1501-180, Wellcome Library, London

I found several recipes for mercurial ointments and waters. They were said to be good for treating itch, inflammation, ulcers, fistulas, or “old soares” – all common symptoms of venereal disorders. There were, it seems, recipes for venereal disease after all. They were just a bit tricky to find.

One recipe for mercury water was said to cure “all manner of Ulcers, Cancers, Fistulaes, the wolfe, and such other like infirmities & diseases.” Others targeted the physical effects of mercurials themselves. Here’s a recipe for curing bad breath caused by consuming mercury — one of the drug’s many conspicuous side effects.

A Book of Phisick, Wellcome Library, London, MS.1320/13
A Book of Phisick, Wellcome Library, London, MS.1320/13

This recipe calls for holding a piece of gold in the mouth, not the most accessible ingredient.

A recipe from Mary Birkhead’s book treated the bodily effects of consuming mercury:

Take the roots of marsh mallows gathered in the beginning of nouember and dried and kept till you haue ocation to use them take of the powder of the said roots halfe a spoonful and giue it to the patient in warme milke a good draught this euery 2 or 3 howers for 3 or 4 times but first giue the partey a vomit of a quarter of a pinte of salet oyle with bloud warme water.

My search for venereal disease in recipe books suggests that some authors were ashamed enough to veil or downplay the anti-venereal dimensions of their remedies. More broadly, my search points to an important lesson of historical research: the inability to find what we are looking for in the archive can be, itself, something worth knowing.