Let’s Dish

Published on: Tue, Jan 08, 2019

TWU’s Cookbook Collection serves up more than just good food

You can learn a lot about a community by studying its relationship to food.

Cookbooks and recipes are windows into timely culinary trends, food variety and scarcity, economic class and social mores. Tracking and analyzing that information is one of the goals of the Cookbook Collection, an offshoot of the Woman’s Collection at Texas Woman’s University’s Blagg-Huey Library, which is an eclectic assortment of an estimated 78,000 items.

Kimberly Johnson, TWU Libraries’ Director of Special Collections, says, “We collect everything. Every type of cooking, regardless of country or style. It’s more than just cookbooks; it’s anything that has to do with cooking and nutrition.”

The collection was developed by Julie Bennell, who worked for 25 years as a columnist, news anchor, and food editor at the Dallas Morning News. During the 50s and 60s, Bennell was something of a local celebrity, and a trusted authority on all things cooking. She even published a cookbook of her own, titled Let’s Eat at Home.

Although Bennell’s personal tomes launched the Cookbook Collection, the project is now much bigger than any one contributor, featuring both global and local fare. “We have a large selection of community cookbooks and books from women’s organizations, church auxiliary leagues, garden clubs, PTAs,” Johnson says.

But this display also houses a huge number of rare manuscripts, cooking leaflets — such as the small recipe books that are included in manuals for new appliances — and menus from around the world dating back to the early 1900s. Johnson says the Cookbook Collection is estimated to be the second-largest collection of its kind in the country, just behind Harvard University’s collection.

The library’s Special Collections team recently digitized these artifacts, making them available for a broad audience. Anyone who’s interested can visit the library and peruse the many cookbooks and leaflets on-site.

As Johnson points out, it’s not just Food Sciences students who come in to explore the collection. “One thing we all have in common is that we have to eat. And the best way to learn about people and about culture is through cookbooks.”

TWU Cookbook Collection

Part of TWU Libraries Woman’s Collection

Features 25,000 cookbooks, 20,000 pamphlets and

2,500 international menus

Visit Monday-Thursday from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Call 940.898.3751 to set up a tour

More info: twu.edu/library/womans-collection