Sunday, August 22, 2010

Cookbooks Reflecting our Religion

On my blog, Gena's Genealogy I have a weekly theme called Church Record Sunday. These postings deal with archives, books and records that might help you find church records for your ancestor. On occasion I have written about cookbooks as part of Church Record Sunday.

In studying community cookbooks, considering the beliefs of the group who is publishing the cookbook can help in learning more about your ancestor's life. Their beliefs about food including the use of alcohol, meat, vegetables and desserts will become apparent in the pages of their cookbook. While a recipe might hint at an ethnic origin so too will it reflect a religious belief system.

I like something that Steve Luxenberg, the author of Annie's Ghosts said in a presentation I attended. He pointed out that you have to go beyond a document and what it says; you have to look at what the document tells us. Initially a community/church cookbook may just reflect at the very least the name of the person who submitted the recipe. But in truly reading the recipe you may learn more about their life.

The following posting appeared origianlly on Gena's Genealogy on May 23, 2010.  I thought it would be approrpiate to repost it here.

Church Record Sunday: Seventh-day Adventists and Food

This morning I finished reading a great book that was a history of America told through cookbooks. From Hardtack to Home Fries: An Uncommon History of American Cooks and Meals by Barbara Haber was an excellent read that detailed cookbooks from the FDR White House, WWII Japanese Interment Camps in the Philippines, African American Cookbooks and more.

One of the chapters, Chapter 3: They Dieted for Our Sins: America's Food Reformers,  discusses dietary reformers such as Sylvester Graham and the Kelloggs. Their 19th century food ideas are intertwined with the dietary ideas of Ellen G. White, founder of the Seventh-day Adventists.  Haber has some interesting history of these early diet reformers and how their ideas has shaped the way we eat today.

For those with Seventh-day Adventist ancestors, you may want to read more about the history and beliefs of the early church.  Haber includes in her annotated bibliography some books that you may be itnerested in.

Numbers, Ronald L. Prophetess of Health: A Study of Ellen G. White. New York: Harper & Row, 1976.

Graham, Roy E. Ellen G. White, Co-founder of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. New York: Peter Lang, 1985.

She also includes books about Graham and Kellog in this bibliography as well.

While this posting isn't the typical posting about church records, I think the social history of our ancestors is important and this look at the dietary reformers is one that is vital to understanding the history of the Seventh-day Adventist church.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Welcome to Food.Family.Ephemera

Some readers may know me as a genealogist. As a genealogist, I am very interested in the records that our female ancestors left behind. Family history researchers often get frustrated by the lack of records for women and the difficulty in researching women. This concern led me to thinking, what records exist that are unique to women? What resources are not necessarily considered genealogy sources but may hold clues to women's lives?

One such record is the diaries/journals of women which hold rich information about the author's life and the lives of the women she knew and wrote about. Midwife's journals provide us a glimpse of the midwife and her work as well as the families she served.

Another source that is like a name's list of women is signature/friendship quilts. These quilts document a place in time and typically an event. Signature quilts are another interest of mine and I will be writing about those in the future. One recent melding of genealogy and quilting is a new blog that a few of us dreamed up Genea-Quilters, where you can post photos and stories of your ancestor's quilts. (Join us on Facebook too).

Finally, what this blog is all about. One of the sources that are part of women's lives are cookbooks. There are different types of cookbooks, some written by food companies, manufacturers, some written by chefs, and a host of others. But it's the community or charity cookbooks that provide information about what women cook and share with their families. Community cookbooks began to be published during the time of the American Civil War. They provide recipes from a group of women and at the very least include their names and affiliation. Sometimes they include much more information that tells us something about their lives.

This blog will explore community cookbooks, what they tell us about women's lives and where you can find them. My research into the topic is going to include presentations to various societies and articles as well as a database of these cookbooks searchable by the individual woman's name (more on this to come). This is an ongoing project that will show the valuable resource that community cookbooks are to genealogists and historians.

So welcome to this blog. I hope it brings to life the great sources left behind by our female ancestors.