Kansas State University Library houses a unique Rare Books Cookery Collection, which contains over 10,000 volumes on cookery. On June 11, 2002, the Rare Books Cookery Collection premiered an online book exhibit simply titled “The Cookery Exhibit”(www.lib.ksu.edu/depts/spec/rarebooks/cookery). Books from this show are directly extrapolated from the Rare Books Cookery Collection. This exhibit is currently open for viewers to tour. The volumes in this show present a delightful timeline of Western culinary history from the Roman Empire to the American twentieth century.
Included in this exhibit are excerpted recipes such as Spruce Beer (an American original) and a Roman era Boiled Dinner. Culinary enthusiasts are able to peek into recipes and "food talk" through the centuries. A total of thirteen books are displayed and discussed in this exhibit from France, England and the United States. Each book is treated to its own page of bibliographic description, historical perspective, images and excerpts of text.
The tour begins with Apicius, DE RE CULINARIA, which was printed in 1541. This Roman text was originally written around 400 a.d, and is believed to be, according to the exhibit’s curators, "the oldest cookbook in the Western world."
The Cookery Exhibit boasts four American originals: Amelia Simmon's American Cookery (1812), Fannie Merrit Farmer's The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book (1896) and Maria Parloa's Home Economics, A Guide to Household Management (1898) and Irma Rombauer’s The Joy of Cooking (1931).
The viewer learns that Simon's American Cookery is the first "American" cook book written by a woman. Included in the display is an excerpt from the preface, in which the author describes the book's ultimate goal to improve the eighteenth century woman's skills and social standing through culinary and hospitality instruction.
Parloa’s Home Economics, A Guide to Household Management provides more than food recipes. The display includes instruction on “How to Mend Plaster Casts and Picture-Frames” as well as a recipe for furniture polish.