I am saddened to report that Melvin J. Kirschner passed away last week on Friday, November 23, 2012. Mr. Kirschner was Doris Kirschner's husband and a great friend to and supporter of the Kirschner Collection. His full obituary can be found at http://www.lapaz-grahams.com/fh/obituaries/obituary.cfm?o_id=1832185&fh_id=13379.
Recently in Doris S. Kirschner Category
This week's post comes from Liz Gunderson of Food for Fun. Liz, a University of Minnesota alum helped to move the Kirschner Collection from Doris Kirschner's home to campus. She came back to visit the collection at Magrath Library last week and wrote a post about it.
In 1995, my friend Ann and I loaded up carful after carful (and if memory serves me correctly, there was a truck involved, too) to transport Doris Kirschner's 3000 cookbooks to the Food Science Library at the University's St. Paul Campus. I took my time going through the books, stamping each with an inky black "Doris S. Kirschner's Kitchen" stamp, reveling in the history that these books contained.
Kirschner may have lived in a different era and she certainly had a different lifestyle (lupus kept her bedridden much of her adult life), but she wore the hats many women wear: mom, wife, person of faith, student, hostess, friend, woman. Her cookbooks reflected the times in which she lived. But these books also reflect what it means to wear all of these hats. And that part doesn't change.
When I look at my collection (at 300 cookbooks, it's much smaller than Kirschner's), I see similar themes:
Children - Kirschner had two copies of the 1965 version of Betty Crocker's New Girls and Boys Cook Book. Both have been carefully wrapped in cardboard binding by library staff as the books have come completely apart. I have the same book in my collection, along with a handful of other kid-friendly cookbooks.
Feeding a husband - Admittedly, my copies of Scentuous Cookery; or How to Make it in the Kitchen (1971) and How to Keep Him (After You've Caught Him) Cookbook (1968) aren't given too much read time. The titles crack me up, though, so I keep them around.
International - Kirschner was interested in foods of other places and cultures long before it was popular to be so. Leeann and Katie Chin's Everyday Chinese Cooking may sit on my shelves, but it was Kirschner who first befriended Leeann Chin, long before this entrepreneur launched her Chinese food and restaurant empire.
Single topic - Nuts anyone? I have a copy of a Jif Choosy Mothers' Peanut Butter Cookbook from 1979. Cheese. Always a hot topic--just this past June, I picked up a recipe booklet from the first-ever Minnesota Cheese Festival. Cocktail books and branded recipe pamphlets. My copies of The Kentucky Bourbon Cocktail Book, The PDT Cocktail Book, and Hollywood Cocktails may be more recent than what Kirschner had, but they're still about booze.
Kitchen equipment - Kirschner's era meant she had books on how to cook using the blender and microwave. While I do have 1952's Magic Recipes for the Electric Blender, the books I actually cook from include those written for grills, slow cookers, and pressure cookers.
Diet - What struck me about this section of Kirschner's collection is how little things change. Low-Carb diets were being touted then, just as they are today. (Hilarious find:1966's Martinis & Whipped Cream: The New Carbo-Cal Way to Lose Weight & Stay Slim). But alongside the low-carb/high-protein diet books sits The Rice Diet Report (1987). Also on her shelves: The Doctor's Wife's Thinking Thin Cookbook (1967), The Slenderella Cook Book (1957), The Bronx Diet (1979), The Last Chance Diet, When Everything Else Has Failed (1976). My "diet" books may be more along the lines of healthy eating (Weight Watchers, vegetarian, whole-grain, dairy-free), but they represent an interest in eating well.
Here's my read on the Kirschner's Cookbook Collection: Cookbooks for children mean motherhood was important to Kirschner. The cookbooks to "please her man" meant she wanted a strong marriage. International cookbooks provided armchair travel to other cultures. (And what mom and wife doesn't want to escape reality, at least from time to time?) Single topic? I'd say Kirschner was an inquisitive woman who was hungry for knowledge. The equipment books mean she wanted to stay on trend, maybe save some time in the kitchen. And the diet books emphasized her desire to be attractive, healthy, thin.
It's easy enough to laugh at the era from when Kirschner's books were collected (How to Keep Him (After You've Caught Him)? What were they thinking?), but in these books I recognize her desires as the same as all women's. What was true in Kirschner's time was also true in the 1990s when the books were catalogued into a University-owned collection. They're still true in 2012 and I don't see that changing anytime soon. Women have many roles to fill and the fact that Kirschner captured that so well in her collection of cookbooks should be honored.
If it's at all possible for you to visit these cookbooks, please take the time to do so. You'll learn a lot about Kirschner and her era, but you'll also find timeless and universal truths for all women.
One of Mrs. Kirschner's wishes for her collection at the University of Minnesota was that it continue to grow. Through generous donations from her family, we are able to add several titles to the collection each year including the James Beard Award winners. Here is a photo of four titles that just arrived. All received Beard awards in May, 2012.
Clockwise from the top left we've got All About Roasting: A New Approach to a Classic Art by Molly Stevens, Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home by Jeni Britton Bauer, A New Turn in the South: Southern Flavors Reinvented for Your Kitchen by Hugh Acheson, and Super Natural Every Day: Well-Loved Recipes from My Natural Foods Kitchen by Heidi Swanson.
Today I received an email from a friend of the Kirschner Collection. Liz, who blogs at food for fun. Liz helped with moving and cataloging when the Kirschner Collection moved from the Department of Food Science and Nutrition to its current home in Magrath Library. She's written a post about her history with and interest in the collection. Please go take a look!
Today I am giddy because I have found Doris Kirschner's Home Economics 40: Food Preparation notebook from her time as a University of Minnesota Student. The notebook does not have a year written in it, but my best guess based on the years Mrs. Kirschner was a student and some of the dates written in the back, is that it is from Spring, 1955. The front of the notebook contains a set of typewritten recipes issued to the class, while the back contains paper with Doris's notes. I've been having a great time reading the notes and trying to match them up with their corresponding recipes.
There are also notes scribbled next to the recipes themselves ... and lots of food stains! It's a great window into the U of MN's Home Economics department (test and quiz grading breakdowns for the class are scribbled on the backs of pages) , and the culture at the time. The recipes are for standard foods (e.g. rice, eggs, various meats) and showcase what were considered the best home preparation methods in the 1950s, as well as what foods were considered staples in U.S. kitchens (tomato aspic, anyone?).
One of my favorite things about the Kirschner Collection is that it is a truly personal collection. While we continue adding newer items to the collection (per Mrs. Kirschner's request), the books that were actually owned by her have her markings all over them. You can find her notes scribbled in the margins as well as handwritten recipes and articles clipped from the Minneapolis Star tucked into the pages. Perhaps the most extensive personal touch the collection includes, however, is a microfilm reel containing thirty years' worth of Doris Kirschner's menu calendars. I finally got a chance to take a look at a few of these calendars and they are fascinating!
Here is the cover of Mrs. Kirschner's 1959-1960 calendar -- a promotional item from Dole. These calendar books brought to mind the Field Notes Memo Books used by farmers, which have recently been digitally archived.
And here is the monthly menu plan for May, 1970. I love the level of activity in this calendar with the arrows pointing all over, the way that May 27th couldn't be contained in one block (looks like there was a party), and that on the 29th "Jello?" is listed with a question mark and followed by "Ha". This is such a fun way to view the life of a family.