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!

Update: April 5th

Two updates in as many days?! What is this?!

In all seriousness, Kinsey and I are finally getting a little bit of traction concerning our project data which is nice. Nothing new since yesterday on the interviews, but there is finally data to work with!

This morning I finished manually copying in the eighty-eight books that make up the Southern Appalachian Community cookbook section. Of those, seventy-seven are specifically from North Carolina with the others ranging from West Virginia to Tennessee and Georgia. A full page on the website will be going up soon as to why we think that this sub-caegory of books is important and the best data for our project, but the bullet-list below should cover the major points:

  • The books in this part of the collection are primarily WNC community cookbooks which will allow us to focus on the recipes generated by communities in and around our area. This might just be a by-product of how Pam Allison collected the books, but we will not know until we can talk to Pam Allison.
  • All of the cookbooks have very common features: a local history of the area/group of people collecting the recipes, why they think this book is important, each recipe acknowledges who it was contributed by, and space in the back of the book for notes on recipes.
  • Most of the cookbooks were created with the dual purpose of sharing the community’s food with the community but also as a fundraiser project for some local group. (Quite possibly the group that put the book together in the first place).
  • The provenance contained includes notes from the person giving the book, inscriptions from the owner, or stains/general grubbiness from being used.
  • There is a surprising amount of overlap in which presses published the books.
  • A “by the community for the community” feel.

All of the above will be fully discussed and typed up soon, but for now Kinsey and I are going to focus on manipulating this data. One of the things that we definitely want to do is create a few maps comparing where the books were published and what community they were published for!

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.

We have data!

Hey all,

Kinsey and I spent the morning in Special Collections and we are very excited about the progress we made this morning. First of all, thanks to Dr. Pauley and the archivists, I was able to move the cookbook data into Zotero. Unfortunately, there are only 551 cookbooks that I am able to work with because the rest have not been processed and made available to the public. Secondly, there is no filter on the cookbooks, so a little manual editing on which cookbooks are part of our relevant geographical region will need to happen.

Secondly, Kinsey and I began going through the available cookbooks looking for ones that we feel would give us a good representation of the set. We picked out a few books that deal with very personal food journeys, a few that are more for special occasions, one that is meant to be widespread and commercial, one that is an excellent balance between special and everyday food, and one that explains the historical and cultural context of food in the South. As we are able to work with these books more we will write up posts analyzing the information in the source and it’s purpose for our research.

In addition, we have added a few categories to our blog posts. There are these, the status updates, the source analysis posts, and a third category which will include our own stories about food and our personal thoughts/ideas about the food we are encountering.

Till next time!

Update, March 27th

Hello all, this is Dakota. Things are progressing well over here at UNCA, and this post will serve to give you a bit of a look where we are at.

The site itself will probably remain static for a few more days until we have some more concrete information to actually put up on the site. So no new pages will probably appear until the end of the week.

We have appointments set up with our archivists so that we can really get into specific books and pick out a subset to work more in detail with. Granted, a subset may only mean a handful that we do close readings of given the time constraints, but there will be a mix of looking at large data sets and smaller ones.

On the note of larger data sets, I am working on transferring the cookbook data into Zotero to be manipulated. This is taking longer than I anticipated as the online catalogue section that contains just the cookbooks is down. I am having to search for the cookbooks in the larger collection and then add them, which, while it is working, leaves a larger margin for error in terms of what is included in the data set. It is hoped that our meeting with the archivists will clear this up.

As far as interviews go, Kinsey and I are still waiting to hear back from Pam Allison. Initial introductions were made, but she has not responded to our request for a meeting. Requests for meetings with local restaurants go out tomorrow. However, despite the lack of current interviewees, Kinsey and I did draft a basic list of questions for both the restaurants and Ms. Allison. Kinsey will post those later in a blog update, and yes there is editing that needs to be done.

Finally, I wish to update everyone on my correspondence with Dr. Locklear concerning food history.  There were a few things she mentioned that were already on our list such as looking at the differences between large press cookbooks and small press cookbooks. Some of the things she mentioned that are new and we might want to consider are:

1.  The difference between “special occasion” foods and everyday foods. What types of foods make it into the cookbooks we are looking at? Are these cookbooks a viable representation of everyday food? If not, what can we deduce from the recipes that are there?

2. Janet Theophano: Eat my WordsReading Women’s Lives through the Cookbooks they Wrote (https://www.amazon.com/Eat-My-Words-Reading-Cookbooks/dp/1403962936/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1489623872&sr=8-1&keywords=Janet+Theophano)

3. Elizabeth Engelhardt et al, The Larder (https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=The+Larder)

Until next time!

Update: IRB

We forgot to mention in the previous post that we have done some digging on what the requirements  for the IRB are concerning Oral History. In planning this project, we discovered that there is a lot of Oral History that we want to include from Pam Allison to local restaurant owners. The ability to go straight to the source and ask questions is one we decided we did not want to take for granted. However, there are regulations surrounding Oral History that we need to be aware of.

Thankfully, it is not going to be as hard to include our interviews as first thought. The UNC Asheville IRB has not included Oral History in the list of things they need to review for a few years now. We will need to ask our interviewees to sign a release form allowing us to use their statements, but will not need to go through a more formal process than that.

Getting Started

Hello all! This week for us is the foundation building week where we organize and set up everything before diving in. Currently we are using the former project websites as a guide for setting up the layout of ours. (Most of those pages will be private until we at least have a description up of what will be on those pages.)

Up by tomorrow Friday will be the page with our individual summaries about ourselves and our personal interest in this project. We have contacted both Professor Locklear and Pam Allison about the project. While on a research break this semester, Professor Locklear pointed us to some additional cookbooks and resources that might help us connect all of these threads together. Pam Allison has agreed to a meeting where we can ask her questions pertaining to her personal thoughts on this project and to the reasons she began collecting cookbooks in the first place.

I (Dakota) have started moving the information from the catalogue of cookbooks into Zotero so that we can begin to manipulate the data, and both Kinsey and I have an appointment at Special Collections tomorrow to get our hands on the books and pick the brains of our wonderful archivists.