You can take away HBO, cable TV and what the heck, even the television itself, and I can be perfectly happy because I have a library card and I know how to use it.
Granted, to answer a trivia question or do some fast research, the internet is a godsend but I’ll put a good reference librarian up against Wikipedia any day when real research has to be done. Actually, it doesn’t even have to be hard core research, it can be just for fun facts too.
It’s not all about research either. Last week I found two great books on my library’s browsing shelf: “Marshmallow Madness” by Shauna Sever and “American Food by the Decades” edited by Sherri Liberman.
Let’s start with marshmallows. Living in places that tend to be hot and muggy I have never tried to make marshmallows but after turning the pages of this book I may have to give it a try. Ms. Sever has some of the best sounding titles for her creations: Cookies ‘n Cream, Mocha Kahlua-Filled, Key Lime Pie, Creamsicle, Margarita, Fuzzy Navel, Sea Salt Caramel Swirl, Red Velvet, blonde rocky road. Hungry yet?
“American Food by the Decades” is an entirely different book. Once you have read this book you’ll want to check your calendar for plenty of open dates for cocktail parties and church socials; anywhere you can astound groups of people with your knowledge of food trivia. Did you know the “Club Sandwich” was actually invented by someone in the 1900s? The Saratoga Clubhouse in N.Y., where the potato chip was also invented, lays claim to the club sandwich. Carvel Ice Cream was started in 1929 when Athanassios Karvelas (Tom Carvel) borrowed $15 from his future wife. And though it seems to have been part of my life forever the Egg McMuffin has only been part of the McDonalds family since 1973.
Actually the reason I was at the library last week had nothing to do with food but as usual food seems to creep into everything I do. It was while I was scrolling through a seemingly endless roll of microfiche, reading the local newspaper from around 1898 that I found an unusual reference to food. What I was trying to find was information for a talk I’m giving later this month on the Philippine War but through the bolo knives, Krag rifles, and information about the climate in the Philippines I found this food tidbit. In 1898 it cost the U.S. Army 18 cents a day to feed a soldier. By my calculation that is $5.40 for food for a month or about $140 adjusted to today’s economy. Eighteen cents when in 1898 one meal consisting of a meat, mashed potatoes, corn on the cob and a glass of buttermilk at a restaurant could cost up to 35 cents or more. For less than the cost of one dinner the Army was feeding a solider for the entire day. I would say I’m impressed with the Army’s frugality but then again I’m not sure I would want to eat what was being served.
When the Hobby is Food there’s no telling what my local library has to offer.