Food Lover’s Library

By Steve Friess

Published on March 1, 2013

My understanding of American culinary history was turned on its head after visiting the Janice Bluestein Longone Culinary Archive. It was there I learned how Jewish American cookery was once celebrated more for okra-based gumbos than matzo ball soups, and how, back in George Washington's day, the apples in apple pie were often substituted with, oddly enough, peas. Located inside the University of Michigan's William L. Clements Library in Ann Arbor, the collection is home to more than 20,000 items, including cookbooks dating back to the 1500s, early Chez Panisse menus, vintage advertisements, even an 1888 Manhattan saloon map. Its origins date back to the 1970s, when Jan Longone started amassing culinary ephemera for a mail-order bookshop she ran out of her house—a business that counted Julia Child and Craig Claiborne among its customers. Jan and her husband, Dan, donated their bounty to the university in 2000. Valuable as it is, Longone, who still curates the archive, remains its greatest asset, a woman whom James Beard once credited as having "codified American culinary history."

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