Update: April 11

Hey all, Kinsey here. Dakota and I were working in the archives one day, poring through the cookbooks and trying not to drool, when an idea hit us; what if we had an About page?

We don’t mean an “About the Project” page or a simple “About Us” page. We did in fact have the latter in the works—just a page briefly stating who we are, all that fun stuff—but it looked strange. Barren, even. There wasn’t much about us to tell that we could relate to the project. We had our majors, hometowns, and class years, and that was about it. It had stagnated.

But this project is all about examining the role of cookbooks—specifically, the Pamela Allison Cookbook Collection—in the Asheville community, right? So why not present ourselves in the same way that the authors and contributors of these cookbooks do—through recipes? We often found ourselves comparing our research to our own experiences in the kitchen, both by ourselves and with family.

So, while we wait for the rest of our prospective interviewees to reply to us (if they even will at this point), we’ve been working on our own miniature cookbook as a form of “About Us” page that we feel fits the theme of the project more than a dry old About page. It’s currently live and accessible through the site menu. Dakota has been incredibly busy with the rest of the project, so she will be able to add her own information soon, but we didn’t want to hold off too long.

In terms of other plans, we’re moving slowly but surely. A couple of the interviewee-shaped brick walls have crumbled and we’ve been able to get through, but mostly just for initial contact. We might need to restructure our project a bit if we can’t get ahold of everyone, but we can figure it out if it comes to that. We’re also working with data by now; Dakota’s efforts with hand-entering publishing data are now in a spreadsheet ready for work. (Thanks, Dakota!) My next mission is to construct a map showing the spread of publishing data for the Southern Appalachian division of the Pamela Allison Cookbook Collection. Dakota noticed some themes when she was entering the data, and ended up discovering that there were a few presses dedicated solely to publishing community/local cookbooks. We look forward to sharing with you!

Preparing for Our Interviews

Hey all, Kinsey here. As we wait with bated breath to hear back from our prospective interviewees—Pam Allison as well as the local restaurant owners of Asheville—I figure we should share a bit of what we’re hoping to learn from these people. Only a bit, though, because what fun is it to know the script before you see the finished product?

Stories drive so much in the world, especially within communities, so it only seems right that we let Pam Allison take the reins with her own story. We’re looking to learn about her collection right from the beginning, from the days spent cooking with her family to the day she decided to make her generous donation to UNC Asheville’s special collections. What was her collection process? What does she think about making food herself rather than going out and getting it? A home kitchen can be a very private and comfortable place compared to a restaurant, and we’re looking forward to learning what role food and cooking has played in her life—and, of course, what it means to use a cookbook.

Dakota and I are also very interested in learning about the difference between the impact food and cooking have on individuals as opposed to groups of people—say, restaurants. We plan to learn about their menus, picking out which items are the most popular and speculating why, but we primarily want to know about the restaurants’ roles in the community. Do they host/participate in events? Does their design and layout foster community development and a friendly environment? What are their thoughts on our own cookbook collection? Since Asheville is a very community-driven area, we very much look forward to hearing these different viewpoints on the importance of cooking in the local scene.

Of course, we’re prepared; we have a plethora of questions sitting at the ready for everyone with whom we plan to speak, but we’re hoping that they’ll be interested enough in our project for the words to flow more organically. Whenever they do, we’ll be sure to stay true to our community values and share it with everyone.