Get a taste of Virginia’s history from centuries worth of delicious recipes. At Virginia Tech Special Collections, the Peacock Harper-Culinary Collection houses thousands of materials primarily focused on a historical perspective, with many available for browsing. Kira Dietz, acquisitions and processing archivist in Special Collections, strongly believes food “can tell us a lot about ourselves and our past.”
These delicious “receipts” – the old word for “recipe” – that detail 18th-century foods such as peanut soup, which became popular in the early 1700s, and skewered oysters, country ham and more. Another popular Colonial classic is an alcoholic mixed drink called flip. Learn how to make flip by watching an instructional video online at recipes.history.org.
“Food, foodways, food history, food culture – however you want to describe it – food is an important part of our lives,” Dietz says.
Many people aren’t aware Virginia Tech Special Collections has culinary history materials, Dietz notes. Further, many do not realize the collection is more than cookbooks.
“We have about 75 manuscript collections that include things like handwritten receipt books or household account ledgers, advertising pamphlets and ephemera, and even some menus from places of local significance,” Dietz says.
Virginia’s history and food are unique, and collecting the culinary works helps document and preserve that important history. Historical destinations, such as George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate, are a testament to public interest and connection. At the mansion, visitors savor the flavors of Colonial- era foods like soups, meats, pies, puddings, beverages and more.
“Culinary history is a history that individuals can connect to – whether it’s because they love to cook and want to try a historic recipe, or because they have particular memories of a food that a family member always made in a special way. They might also connect because they are looking to contribute to a larger body of scholarly research,” Dietz says.