Over the past century, many towns, organizations, and churches in Iowa have gathered recipes from members and published them, essentially preserving and documenting the culinary heritage of this state. These cookbooks often contain family recipes, ethnic dishes, and history about the organization or area. The Iowa State University Library is working to preserve these valuable wells of social history for use by future generations in understanding Iowa culture and history. The photo above includes the Field Sisters. From left to right: Mrs. Fischer, Mrs. Eaton, Mrs. Shambaugh, Mrs. Driftmier, Mrs. Conrad.
These cookbooks contain not just recipes, but the history of the ethnic flavor of Iowa's people. Their contents can be used to illuminate the past and document the changes occurring in our population. We currently have about 3000 cookbooks dating back to the 1800's for Iowa in addition to about 100 historical America cookbooks dating back to the early 1700's. This project began in the early 1990's spurred on by two rather substantial gifts of cookbooks from Robert Smith or What Cheer and the family of Ruth Ellen Church, an ISU graduate and food editor for the Chicago Tribune.
We have also worked very hard to include cookbooks and recipes with an Iowa State history that also illustrate how much Iowa State was involved in the development of foods that illustrate the special concern for diet and nutrition that has continued throughout our history. The wife of the first president of Iowa State, Mary B. Welch, published a text on domestic science, Mrs. Welch's Cook Book. Later recipes were developed in the areas of quantity cooking by Lenore Sullivan and the staff of the Tearoom.