by Rachel Bohlmann, American History Librarian and Curator
As we approach the end of the term, when research projects materialize like spring flowers, Rare Books and Special Collections (RBSC) highlights some recent acquisitions that emerged from a student’s research interests.
Last fall a history major inquired about sources RBSC held about new thinking about food during the latter part of the twentieth century. We began talking about alternative cooking and restaurants and the vegetarian Moosewood Restaurant in Ithaca, New York came up. RBSC didn’t hold any of the famous cookbooks (of the same name) that emerged from that 1970s collective, so we purchased three editions (1977, 1992, and 2000).
Mollie Katzen, one of the founders of the Moosewood collective, compiled, wrote, illustrated, and self-published the original book of recipes in 1974. That first edition (with several reissues) circulated in a spiral-bound notebook format and in limited numbers.
Three years later, in 1977, a small, independent publishing house in Berkeley, California, Ten Speed Press, published the cookbook. (The press also produced What Color Is Your Parachute? (1970).) In this first commercial publication, Katzen described herself as the volume’s compiler and editor and she listed all of “The Moosewood People” who contributed to the book’s content. The book’s multiple sources is one of its central themes. Recipes come from different cooks as well as a variety of food cultures.
Commitment to a plant-based diet is another main focus. In the 1977 edition Katzen included a quotation by William Blake that announces the book’s vegetarianism, and her illustrations reinforce the idea throughout (see the speaking duck above the recipe for Chinese duck sauce).
Katzen retained important visual aspects of the 1974 book in later editions. Her original drawings, page layouts and cartouches, as well as her hand lettering, were translated into the commercialized editions and provide some of the book’s most identifiable characteristics over its long publication history.
For all its warm, visual familiarity, The Moosewood Cookbook has also changed over time. Katzen has revised its content, layout, and format. In 1992 she added “A Personal History of This Book” section, which has appeared in all later editions, and photos of the Moosewood Restaurant were removed. The 2000 edition includes glossy, professionally staged photographs.
Each edition presents the reader with differences (in format, content, and flavor). Holding multiple editions, a researcher gains side-by-side access for comparative analysis. Libraries and special collections often acquire complete or near complete runs of editions to support research questions that such comparisons can spark.
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