Archives Month: Food from the Archives

[Posted on behalf of Kelsey Duinkerken and Shaun Kirkpatrick]

visitors and institutions' displays in the lobby of the Free Library

On a rainy Thursday night, throngs of archivists and their fans descended on the lobby of the Free Library of Philadelphia‘s Parkway Central location for Archives Month Philly’s newest “centerpiece” event, Food from the Archives

Held at the main branch of the Free Library in partnership with the Free Library’s Culinary Literacy Center, nineteen different cultural institutions participated by bringing food-related material from their collections. Participants had the chance to view William Glackens’ recipe for beer from the Barnes Foundation archives, an 18th century recipe for tofu from Bartrams Garden, a letter from Thomas Jefferson describing his observations of Parmesan cheese making from The Rosenbach, WPA food models from West Chester University, and so much more.

Tables featured matching games, trivia, dioramas, artifacts, rare books, historic menus and other food-minded documents…and enough free, time-tested recipes to get any culinary history geek through the upcoming holiday season. Attendees could make salt-themed buttons with the Hagley Museum, win Peanut Chew candy bars by answering questions about the history of the candy during WWI with the Library Company, handle ancient Roman cooking utensils with the Penn Museum, decipher 17th century handwriting with Cooking in the Archives, and collect historical recipes from many other institutions.

In addition to the pop-up exhibits and activities from institutions there were also two free cooking workshops in the @freelibrary’s demonstration kitchen. The first workshop, led by Pang Xiong Sirirathasuk Sikoun of the Philadelphia Folklore Project (@philafolklore), taught participants how to make Hmong spring rolls. The second workshop, on Ancient Roman Cooking, was led by two former Classics graduate students, Kiki Aranita and Chris Vacca, who now own the food truck Poi Dog (@poidogphilly). They started off with grilled bread and ancient Roman equivalents to olive tapenade and pesto and ended with eggs poached in olive oil and garum.

a freshly made spring roll and a program from the Food from the Archives event

Overall the night was a huge success with at least 200 people in attendance. If you missed it, look out next year for another collaboration with the Free Library. In the mean time, be sure to check out all of the great workshops and events held at the Culinary Literacy Center:

(And if you want to see more pics, check out the Storify of our tweets from the event. You can tell this was fun night because of the overwhelming number of exclamation marks!

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