The Joy of Cookbooks

The Joy of Cookbooks
Sunday, 3:45
Presenters: Brooke Dojny and Marylene Altieri

I am so glad I decided to attend this session! As a wanna-be pasty chef and cookbook author, and a food blogger, cookbook collector, and feminist, I found this session fascinating and full of great information.

Brooke Dojny’s Presentation

Ms. Dojny is the author of several cookbooks, including The New England Cookbook, The New England Clam Shack Cookbook, and Dishing Up Maine.

The presentation started off with the some background info on cookbooks:

  • there were approximately 1956 new cookbooks published in 2006 (according to Bowker)
  • many cookbooks are self-published, community or non-profit books, or come free with appliances or another product
  • By the time all is said and done, 200 – 400 cookbooks a year are published by professional publishing houses

The IACP – International Association of Culinary Professionals publishes ethical guidelines for cookbooks so that recipes are not “lifted” or plagiarized

  • some recipes are in the public domain, such as recipes for basic pie crusts, vinaigrettes, and other “common” foods
  • the “method” of a recipe is copy-written
  • every recipe needs to be attributed to the original author in the “head note”
  • recipes evolve and change – that is part of the appeal of cookbooks

Dojny then outlined the process that she used in the creation of her latest cookbook, Dishing Up Maine, which gave tons of insight to how much work it takes to write a cookbook

  • proposal with publisher
  • her agent negotiated the contract
  • culling through the tones of notes, quotes, and magazines articles that have been collected
  • collected recipes from 25 restaurants in Maine
  • recipes are written, with special attention to original recipes inspired by native ingredients, while others are adapted changing name, yield, method, and/or ingredients
  • a detailed outline of the book is written – the number of recipes is specified in the contract
    • create lists for “balance” – she notes that this is where the “hard work” is
      • classics
      • new classics
      • farmers’ markets
      • seafood
      • poultry and meats
  • list is run by publisher
  • style sheet is applied (style is set by publisher)
  • test recipes, or have them professionally tested (and, um, how do I get THIS job!?)
  • re-write recipes with head notes
  • write sidebar info
  • write “back matter” – sources, websites, etc
  • write “front matter” – introduction, etc. Dojny says that she dislikes writing the front matter, but critics read it, so it’s an important part of the book, and it needs to be good
  • after all of this is done, the publisher has it designed, photographed, and etc
  • and here I thought you just scribbled down the recipes and PRESTO! Not.

Marylene Altieri’s Presentation

Marylene Altieri is the curator of the Schlesinger Library of Radcliffe Institute, and she described the international collection of nearly 15,000 volumes covering culinary history.

  • “The library exists to document women’s lives and endeavors.”
  • started with a collection of suffrage papers
  • the library grew a lot during the women’s movement in the 60s

The Culinary History Library

  • 15,000 titles
  • now an international collection
  • has a copy of what is likely the first professionally published cookbook by a woman, dated 1679 – Anna Wecker’s Neu, köstlich, und nutzliches Koch-buch
  • collection includes periodicals, pamphlets, photos, menus, other ephemera, microforms, community cookbooks, papers of famous women (including Julia Child), personal collections that have been donated over the years, and actual cooking tools
  • an important collection of Home Economics papers by Christine Frederick and Esther Peters
  • manuscript (hand-written) cookbooks

Altieri says that when the library decided to add cookbooks to the collection as a way to document women’s lives and women’s history, a number of the feminists of the time were not pleased.

The library has the enormously important – and huge – personal collection of Julia Child. This includes her personal collection of historically important cookbooks, and her hand-written notes and photographs from her television show.

The Schlesinger Library has culinary resources for historical research which documents the connection between food, cooking, and women’s lives. Community cookbooks are considered important historical documents because the chronicle the cooking styles of regions and historical periods, and cooking styles (such as vegetarianism).

“Food memoirs” are now a very popular genre.

Altieri’s presentation was accompanied by a great PowerPoint that had a ton of interesting photographs. I asked her to email it to me, and if/when she does, I will link it here. For more info, here’s a link to the library

And here’s a link to the Open Collections Program

This was a fascinating presentation!

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