Tea. Earl Grey. Cream Puffs.

I have a lot of tea. Like…a lot a lot. No, seriously, I won a twenty pound box of assorted loose teas a couple of years ago. It’s really a lot. So imagine my elation when I stumbled across the Bigelow Tea Recipes book in Victus Populi.

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Finally, I thought, a way to use up some of that tea without having to drink all of it! I mean, as much as I love my tea (earl grey hot, please), twenty pounds at 1.5 teaspoons per cup is too much to drink, especially when you work in a food-and-drink-free zone like the SCPC (because if we were allowed to have drinks at our desk, someone (almost definitely me) would wind up spilling their drink and ruining priceless manuscripts).

Twenty pounds of tea might even be too much for my dear Captain Picard

Twenty pounds of tea might even be too much for my dear Captain Picard

When Victus Populi furnished a recipe for Earl Grey Cream Puffs, I knew what I had to do. So I did it. And it was delicious.

side 1

Make them! Make them now!

The recipe is actually deceptively simple, thanks to the magic of Jell-O pudding. Seriously, don’t knock it before you try it! The whole thing came together in about fifteen minutes of prep time and baked up really quickly. I used a slightly shorter cooking time because I decided to make mini cream puffs since, you know, it’s the new year, so I’m being healthy. Eating three mini cream puffs is definitely better than eating one regular sized cream puff…right?

strawberry

SEE! There’s a strawberry! It’s healthy!!!

The only other modification I made is the addition of one teaspoon of my mom’s homemade vanilla extract to the filling. I’m sure it would be delicious without it, but if I make these again (which I most certainly will will), I will definitely add the vanilla again. I might also steep the tea a bit longer or use a larger ratio of tea leaves to water, since the tea flavor was not as pronounced as I had hoped it would be. That said, the recipe as-is is an excellent dessert for tea lovers and non-fans alike. I also imagine that they would taste incredible with coffee substituted for the tea, maybe with a bit of orange zest in the batter or chocolate pudding instead of vanilla in the filling.

I’ve posted a scan of the recipe, but please feel free to try as many versions as you can dream up. I’d love to hear from anyone who makes these or tries a variation on them. Let me know how yours turned out!

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with tea

And, of course, enjoy with a cup of tea!

New Year’s Resolutions

Happy (slightly-belated) new year, reader-friends! I hope you’ve all had lovely holidays and are as excited to get back to work as I am (seriously, I love my job!!!). With the new year, of course, comes the New Year’s resolution. Research at the University of Scranton shows that the number one resolution that Americans made in 2014 is to lose weight and that 38% of Americans made some kind of weight-related resolution. The same study also shows that only about 8% of Americans succeed at keeping their resolution for the entire year. That is not a pretty statistic.

But never fear, Victus Populi is here to help! Yes, reader-friends, that’s right. The print collection that brought you not one, but TWO full boxes of jiggly, gelatin-based desserts has an entire box marked “Healthy Cooking,” and its contents are magnificent. The items inside range from the gentle…

sunny side of life

Copyright 1934 by Kellogg Company

…to the less-than-believable…

weight watchers

Copyright 1961 by Hunt Foods and Industries, Inc.

…to the blunt…

overweight

Metropolitan Life Insurance Company

…to the…resigned?

so you have to lose weight

Am I the only one who thinks this title could make a great start to a Broadway production number?; Metropolitan Life Insurance Company

But perhaps you have also resolved to get more in touch with your cultural heritage. Well, Victus Populi has your back there, too. You can taste your ancestral cookery and lose weight at the same time. Prepare to enter “The Fascinating World of Gourmet Eating (With Calorie Control),” which sounds much more exciting if you ignore the part in parentheses.

fascinating world 1

Copyright 1967 by the Wm. S. Merrell Company

This 1967 pamphlet includes recipes from various international cuisines. In an attempt to get in touch with my cultural heritage, I flipped to the section on Jewish recipes, and there I found this:

fascinating world 2

This doesn’t not sound like my Jewish grandma, except she was usually trying to fatten me up rather than slim me down.

So if you can’t diet without giving up your bagel with a schmear and some lox, then mazel tov! You’re good to go.

And once you’re on track with your resolution, be sure to remember that Victus Populi has fifty other boxes, including eight filled with dessert recipes, so you can reward yourself with a treat!

Or, you could just adopt this guy’s strategy:

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Copyright 1964 by Cameron & Co

Let them Eat Horrified Gingerbread Boy Cake!

Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to present to you my latest collection: Victus Populi, a rather large collection of cookery pamphlets from throughout the 20th Century donated by Chef Fritz Blank.

It. Is. Fabulous.

I’ve only just started working with Victus Populi, and I am already completely enthralled. This may or may not have something to do with the fact that the first box Regan handed me was titled “Cakes.” Some of the cakes are deliciously tempting (I’m looking at you, Orange Rum Yum Cake), but my personal favorites are the ones that look absolutely ridiculous, the very best of which, in my opinion, is this layer cake featuring a small troupe of absolutely horrified gingerbread boys.

Recipe and image from Betty Crocker's Cakes Kids Love, 1969

Recipe and image from Betty Crocker’s Cakes Kids Love, 1969

Like I said, it’s fabulous. Doesn’t that gingerbread boy look like he’s just seen something AWFUL? This would be a perfect cake for a holiday party gone terribly awry or a Christmas-themed horror movie party (yes, they exist) because it is the stuff of wintertime nightmares.

What I’m really saying is: please, somebody make this cake and post pictures of it in the comments.

Finding Old Friends in Less-Old Places

I love MSG. I love monosodium glutamate, and I am not ashamed! Thus, naturally, I was quite pleased when I was handed the Melvin Benarde papers. This collection contains manuscripts for the title The Chemicals in our Food by Melvin A. Benarde, an author and professor of Environmental Studies at Temple, Drexel, and Hahnemann Medical School, all right here in Philadelphia. “Oh yes,” I thought. This was going to be lots of fun. “Bring on the doomsday warnings! Tell us about how food additives are going to make us grow extra limbs and hideously disfigured faces!”

However, I did not find any such warnings. Instead I found a surprisingly sympathetic attitude toward chemicals in food, and the Classicist in me found a few old friends. Herodotus, Benarde says, described an Egyptian practice of preserving fish by salting. This, in my book, is a huge point in favor of salted fish. If it’s good enough for Herodotus, it’s good enough for me!

Benarde also uses a Classical example to point out the fact that “natural” chemicals can be just as harmful as artificial ones: “When…the ‘elders’ decided that Socrates was too disturbing an influence on the Athenian community, he was handed an extract of Conium maculatum—the hemlock plant—with which to dispatch himself to a more propitious environment.” Ah, yes, that little incident. Let’s just call that strike one against natural chemical “comestibles” and say it cancels out with the one above…

Oddly humorous references to the death of Socrates aside, this collection was a lot of fun to work with. Seeing Benarde’s ideas on chemical food additives from a time before some of them had a chance to be normalized or vilified, as they are now, provided unique insights into how our own ideas, and doomsday fears, about chemical additives developed.

William Nickerson Bates manuscripts on Euripides and Sophocles, or “where I fall in love with academia all over again”

I put aside my last collection, a former Penn professor’s manuscripts for books on Euripides and Sophocles, about two hours ago to head to some meetings with two of my most trusted professors. Our conversations centered upon my decision to go for a PhD in Ancient History, the process of applying to do so (for the second time around, but that’s another story), and my anxieties about the whole mess. A particularly long and winding portion of one conversation about my academic history ended with the question: “Are you saying all of this because you want to figure out how to put it in your personal statement, or is this you telling me that you’re having anxieties about whether or not you want to do this?”

My answer was so sudden and succinct that I could have sworn it jumped straight out of my heart or my gut, or whatever idiom suits it best in English (but I’m going to go with my φρήν, because, as per usual, the Greeks did it better). “No.” I said, “This is what I want to do. I want to do this because it is hard, because it is the only thing that has ever challenged me so much and so satisfyingly, and because it is the only thing in the world where I feel I could wake up every morning for a very, very long time still wanting to do it.”

And I came back to my collection with a wholly different mindset. The box I opened when I returned to my desk was not, as it had been previously, a box filled with my aspirations, the things I one day hoped to do in the optative; it was a box filled with my future indicative, despite the fact that its contents most certainly reflect something closer to the imperfect. It was no longer a pile of outdated theories that I could refute if, for one reason or another, my work led me to Classical reception from the late 1920s to the early 1940s; it was, however antiquated or disproven, a physical manifestation of the discourse that I pursue. This professor woke up every morning and did this thing that I am doing, and he did it from at least 1886 to 1940.

This, I realize, is an awful lot of depth for a collection that takes up 0.4 linear feet and fits neatly into one box, with not a single sheet protruding out of line. I think a lot of people probably find this kind of collection rather boring, page upon typewritten page of what would eventually become a book you can now purchase on the internet for three dollars, but I found it totally engrossing. Now, of course, this wasn’t totally unrelated to the fact that I’m a Classicist or that I happened to write my senior thesis on Euripides, but that certainly wasn’t everything. Earlier this year I worked on the Melvin Benarde papers, which dealt with health and the environment, neither of which falls anywhere near my area of expertise, and I loved the experience every bit as much as I did this one, so I figured there must be something more. It was the conversation with my professor that made me realize what it was: I am utterly fascinated by the history and process of academia.

Before the fortuitous confluence of all these ideas, I wasn’t totally sure how much of a purpose it really served to process collections like this one; I mean, if the published version of the book is out there, and if the author isn’t a famous historical figure, why would anyone schlep all the way to Philadelphia to come look at a typewritten copy with the occasional correction or note? The thing is: there’s really not much value if you’re only interested in reading the text, but if you’re interested in the process, these manuscripts are fascinating. The published books don’t show you where the author got tired and his handwritten notes began to look like squiggles, where he literally cut up his work and pasted it back together, or where he would have had to switch typewriters to change languages (which makes me feel awfully silly about whining over the two clicks it takes to switch back and forth from polytonic Greek). I’m sure I’m not the only nerd/scholar who feels this way, so here are some highlights from the collection. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have!

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Nice to meet you. Let’s talk about hats.

Hello, Academic Blogosphere! It’s lovely to meet you. Today I’ll be sharing with you the third collection I’ve worked on since I started here in Special Collections Processing, but first, let me introduce myself. I’m a second-year Post-Baccalaureate student in Classical Studies at Penn. I also did my undergrad at Penn, so I’ve been around for quite some time. My background is in ancient history and civilization, and most of my work focuses on social history in Classical Greece. When I’m not studying dead languages and dead people, I spend most of my time thinking about food. I also write a blog for a local purveyor of cured meats (i.e., BACON! and other stuff), so if I slip in a porcine pun here or there, please forgive me.

Anyhow, on to the collection! Yesterday, Holly handed me a pair of boxes filled with the Bartholomew family’s theatrical scrapbooks. Unfortunately, a large portion of the collection was unlabeled, so it’s hard to say exactly who’s who. A rather thorough combing of the internet turned up virtually no information on the Bartholomew family and not a single picture, so it is impossible to verify the identities of some of the depicted. This leads me to believe that the Bartholomew family acting careers weren’t particularly illustrious.

Despite this letdown, the collection makes up for its labeling deficiencies with a thoroughly satisfying quantity of rather “theatrical” hats. While the scrapbooks are loaded with all sorts of fodder for research, it is the silly headgear that intrigues me most.

I think every Classicist can tell you that hats are one of the most exciting things about history. My personal favorite is the Phrygian cap, generally worn by non-Greeks as far back, allegedly, as the Trojan War. It looks like this:

See? How could Classicists not love hats! So just imagine my excitement when I stumbled across these babies in the Bartholomew family collection:

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As I’m sure you can tell, this collection was a ton of fun to work with. I found it especially interesting to see that the Bartholomew family, since they lived in Philadelphia, left tangible records of their interactions with city landmarks that still exist today. The family scrapbooks include funeral bills from the Olive H. Bair Funeral Home on Chestnut Street near Rittenhouse Square, which I pass on my way to the pharmacy, and playbills from the Walnut Street Theater, where Philadelphians and tourists alike still go to see shows. As a social historian, I’m fascinated by what quotidian things these not-so-prominent actors thought necessary to immortalize in their scrapbooks, and I’m totally blown-away by the fact that those things are still a part of my daily life.

On that note, I think it’s time for me to get started on my next collection, but before I go, let me leave you with this last little bonus image from the collection: a rather seriously-mustachioed gentleman who, much to my dismay, remains unidentified.

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