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Published: 12/19/2004

The gift of culinary history

BY KATHIE SMITH
BLADE FOOD EDITOR
Daniel and Janice Longone with part of the Longone Center for American Culinary Research. Daniel and Janice Longone with part of the Longone Center for American Culinary Research.
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This page is from <i>Culinary Conceits for Good Housekeeping</i>, from Collingwood Avenue Presbyterian Church, 1894. It illustrates the practice of including ads with recipes. This page is from <i>Culinary Conceits for Good Housekeeping</i>, from Collingwood Avenue Presbyterian Church, 1894. It illustrates the practice of including ads with recipes.
LONG / BLADE Enlarge

ANN ARBOR, Mich. American culinary history has found a home at the University of Michigan s William L. Clements Library, thanks to the donation of thousands of items from Daniel and Janice Longone of Ann Arbor.

The items form the centerpiece of the Longone Center for American Culinary Research at the Clements. Primary source materials in all formats relating to the history of food in America prior to the mid-20th century complement the Americana holdings of the Clements.

The couple has spent 30 years collecting artifacts and literature on gastronomy. Mrs. Longone, who majored in Chinese history at Cornell University, became an antiquarian book dealer in 1972, specializing in food and wine, including advertising ephemera. Mr. Longone is professor emeritus of organic chemistry at the University of Michigan; he is interested in the history of wine and early printings on cookery.

The natives of Massachusetts came to the university in 1959 when he accepted a position there as assistant professor of chemistry. She began giving courses on gastronomy, first in her home and later through the University of Michigan extension service.

The Longone Center includes relevant holdings of the Clements and the Janice Bluestein Longone Culinary Archive which has items from the 16th to the 20th century books, pamphlets, magazines, graphics, menus, maps, manuscripts, diaries, letters, catalogues, reference works and advertisements. It contains more than 100 manuscript cookbooks dating from 1698 as well as hundreds of classic European books dating from 1514 which influenced American cuisine. The collection is priceless and irreplaceable. Many of the books are one of a kind, Mrs. Longone said, declining to give a monetary value.

We have the first American charity cookbook from 1864, the first edition of the first American cookbook, the first black-authored cookbook in America, and the first Jewish cookbook in America, said Mrs. Longone. Many are so fragile that they are carefully stored and can only be handled with special arrangements.

This is an archival library which is protected in terms of humidity and light and against water damage, she said. If a book is fragile, [researchers] have to wear gloves. Some books are too fragile to photocopy.

The first American cookbook, which dates to 1796, is Amelia Simmons American Cookery. Domestic Cook Book, written by Mrs. Malinda Russell of Paw Paw, Mich. in 1866, is the first black-authored cookbook in America, Mrs. Longone says. She was a free woman of color who wrote the cookbook to raise money for her son to go back to reclaim her bakery and spa in Tennessee (she had moved from Tennessee to Michigan). This is the only copy known.

Everyone thought the first black-authored cookbook was What Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking, Oakland, San Francisco in 1881. This was 15 years after the Paw Paw cookbook. Mrs. Longone found the Paw Paw cookbook in California at least five years ago in a private collection belonging to a cookery writer. When the owner wanted to divest the collection through a book dealer, it was the dealer who called Mrs. Longone, inquiring if she wanted to purchase it.

There s also a slice of Toledo culinary history in the collection, with three of the earliest Toledo cookbooks. These are terribly important historically, said Mrs. Longone. The charity cookbooks include the 1876 The Home Cook Book by the Ladies of Toledo and Other Cities published for the Joint Benefit of the Home for Friendless Women and the Orphan s Home, and the 1894 volume Culinary Conceits for Good Housekeeping from Collingwood Avenue Presbyterian Church in Toledo, Ohio. The third book was the St. Paul s M.E. Church Directory 1899 Cook Book.

The collection is a source of culinary Americana. In 1876, foreign visitors to the American Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia asked, Have you no national dishes? said Mrs. Longone. The creators of the Centennial s cookbook tried to answer that: There was Virginia Batter Bread, Brown Bread from Lowell, Florida Sweet Potato Pone, and Kansas Pudding in grasshopper time. This refers to a time of hardship when locusts appeared and ate the crops.

Another rare book is Everybody s Cook and Receipt Book, but more particularly designed for Buckeyes, Hoosiers, Wolverines, Corncrackers, Suckers, and all Epicures who wish to live with the present times by Philomelia Ann Maria Antoinette Hardin, believed to be published in Cleveland by the author in 1842. When Mrs. Longone gave a lecture at Oxford University during a symposium on culinary history sponsored by St. Anthony s College in 1981, not one person at Oxford had heard of this. That s when I decided to learn more about American culinary history, she says.

Since Mrs. Longone was named curator of American Culinary History by the Clements in 2000 (the first person to hold the post at the University of Michigan), she has been systematically moving her private collection to the library with plans for the completion of the transfer in May next year, to be celebrated with the center s symposium on American Culinary History May 13-15.

We didn t want to just give the books, she said. We want to make them useful. Docents are helping to catalog in new ways. Everyone wants to help. You could not pay to have someone do this. They have put in thousands of hours.

We will have an incomparable collection, she said, noting there are other fine culinary libraries in the United States such as the New York Public Library and the Library of Congress. Ours is so special. It is the definition of American culinary history with anything that influenced America or anything America influenced.

For more information about the Longone Center for American Culinary Research, visit www.clements.umich.edu/culinary/. Or call the library at 734-764-2347 in advance of visiting to indicate the culinary area you are interested in. This is a research library and a work in progress.

Contact Kathie Smith at: food@theblade.com or 419-724-6155.



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