No Mere Culinary Curiosities: Using Historical Cookbooks in the Library Classroom

Kathryn G. Matheny


Cookbooks are neglected as information sources and teaching tools in academic libraries, especially for undergraduate learners. Approachable but complex primary sources, they can be examined as a records of people’s food habits, as a window on the authors or their societies and cultures, or as texts with rhetorical aims involving more than just cooking and eating. This study surveys the literature on the use of cookbooks in scholarship and pedagogy, especially in the context of interdisciplinary food studies. It also explains their relevance for the library or archives classroom, both as potential research sources and as tools for teaching primary source literacy skills, and the common barriers to their collection and discovery. Finally, it outlines uses for and approaches to teaching with cookbooks and offers examples of the author’s experience doing so in a special collections setting.

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