The New York City program classes generally take place in the Hamilton apartments, but on April 5 the class took a field trip to NYU’s Bobst Library Fales special collections. NYU is home to the Marion Nestle Food Studies Collection, an expansive array of publications documenting the 19th and 20th century evolution of food practices in America, especially New York City.
Martin Taylor, the head of Special Collections and the Fales Library and acclaimed cookbook author Beth Allen ushered the class through the collection. Allen is the president of a cookbook production firm and has co-authored Junior’s Cheesecake Cookbook and the Good Housekeeping Great American Classics Cookbook among others. Her husband, John Allen, graduated from Hamilton College in 1960.
The Cecily Brownstone Collection of American Cookery is a centerpiece of the Food Studies Collection. Brownstone served as the food editor of the Associated Press for 39 years, from 1947 to 1986. Known for her expertise and exactitude, both are evident in the faint pencil annotations and corrections she made to the first editions of The Joy of Cooking and Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Both are inscribed to Ms. Brownstone by the authors. The Brownstone Collection boasts approximately 10,000 cookbooks, including every edition of The Joy of Cooking from 1931 to 1975, a selection of James Beard cookbooks, and early American recipe books.
“What stood out to me about the Fales Collection was the expertise of Special Collections Librarian Marvin J. Taylor...and his knowledge of New York's culinary history and how it also intersects with its cultural history,” said NYC program director Professor of Creative Writing Naomi Guttmann. “It was fascinating to hear him talk about some of the personalities behind the private cookbook collections that he's integrated into the Marion Nestle Food Studies collection, such as important culinary New Yorkers, James Beard and Cecily Brownstone.”
Allen and Foster personally knew the American culinary icons behind the collection, including Julia Child, James Beard and Cecily Brownstone herself. Anecdotes about Julia Child on a trip with culinary group Les Dames d’Escoffier and meals in Ms. Brownstone’s Greenwich Village kitchen added a splash of color to the class.