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Book Review: A Culinary History of Missouri by Suzanne Corbett and Deborah Reinhardt

One of my favorite things about traveling is experiencing the unique food and drink of the places I visit. To be honest, I like that as much, in some cases more, than site-seeing. In Missouri, you don’t have to go far before coming across breweries, distilleries, Kansas City barbeque, St. Louis Italian, Sedalia’s State Fair food, wineries, and much, much more. Although it’s less of a “where to eat travelogue” and more of a history proper, authors Suzanne Corbett and Deborah Reinhardt take us on quite the journey in A Culinary History of Missouri: Foodways & Iconic Dishes of the Show-Me-State.

We begin in colonial Missouri with our first European settlers—the French. According to the authors, “Unlike other American Colonial groups, Missouri’s French defined themselves through their food ways.” They made mud ovens in which to bake bread from wheat they grew and milled. The enslaved Africans who arrived with them introduced okra and gumbos into their food culture.

Food itself aside, it was important to Missouri’s French colonists to maintain their food customs, including table settings and cookware. The table was always set! And cookware was largely the same in poor and wealthy households, featuring kettles, pots (iron, tin, copper, wood), baking pans, pudding molds, pepper mills, utensils, etc.

To grow food, they created common fields, which were not unlike today’s community gardens, though a bit more involved. In these fields, people cultivated a variety of row crops. Some of the fields, such as the one in Ste. Genevieve, are still visible today.

Food was very much tied to holidays and tradition. For example, the King’s Cake, “a fanciful cake enriched with butter, incorporating aromatic spices, ground nuts, and fruit glaze” was baked to celebrate Twelfth Night. As it goes, a bean was placed in the batter before the cake was baked. During the Twelfth Night Ball, the King’s Cake was served to all the gentlemen and whoever found the bean in their cake was proclaimed king and got to choose a queen. This celebration is carried on today at the Gateway Arch Museum in St. Louis. Each year, they welcome the public to their annual Twelfth Night Ball.

Another food-related holiday event takes place annually in Ste. Genevieve. La Guignolee, “Missouri’s original New Year’s Eve,” is a celebration in the streets, taverns, and cafes of the Historic District that features dancing, singing, food, and drink. Like the Twelfth Night Ball in St. Louis, Ste. Genevieve’s La Guignolee is open to the public—ring in the New Year like it’s 1769!

The authors take us linear from the 1700s into 1800s Missouri, when the English and Scotch-Irish, and their enslaved African Americans, “arrived from Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and Illinois.” Their specialty? Curing and smoking hams. In fact, they were so good at curing and smoking hams that “Missouri became and remains one of the few states included in the American Ham Belt.” Yes, that’s a thing—the American Ham Belt. Portable soup, a sort of predecessor to bouillon, is also of this era. It was a bone broth boiled down to a gelatinous paste then dried and cut and could be reconstituted with water.

We visit Arrow Rock Tavern, which was established in 1834 and is the oldest continually operating restaurant west of the Mississippi River. Soups and stews were its most common fare, with occasional special dishes, such as fried chicken. Fantastically, Arrow Rock Tavern still serves fried chicken daily.

The authors bring to light how food and the introduction of new food to an area can change, or re-establish, food production. For example, when Turkey Red wheat was introduced to Missouri by Russian immigrants in the 1870s, it “revitalized milling operations” when two men bought the old community mill, rebuilt it, and produced “Queen of the Pantry Flour,” which became very popular. It’s interesting to think that if Turkey Red wheat hadn’t been introduced to that area, the mill would have, like so many others, fallen into disrepair and likely eventually been torn down.

I didn’t realize Missouri is home to big-name food brands, such as Aunt Jemima Pancake Mix (which began as Pearl Milling Company Pancake Mix, the namesake which it returned to in 2021 “in an effort to make positive progress for racial equality”) and Saltines. Also, the Golden Delicious apple was discovered and developed in Louisiana, Missouri. Other food discoveries originated in Missouri, too, such as burnt ends in Kansas City, and the first bread slicing machine in St. Joseph.

The railroad had a tremendous impact on food, helping to overcome “regional limitations” by significantly reducing the time it takes to move food, thereby “making more food accessible and affordable.” Moreover, as passenger service increased, so did the demand to dine while in transit. Hence, the dining car (which was preceded by buffet/refreshments cars, not unlike those used by airlines today, though they failed to appease travelers’ appetites).

The Rockcliffe and Garth Woodside mansions, both of which are on the National Register of Historic Places in Hannibal, Missouri, offer a sort of breakfast reenactment in honor of Mark Twain: “Elegant breakfast served in a style that Twain would have approved.” Visitors may also dine at the Mark Twain Dinette, a circa 1940s diner near his boyhood home.

Interestingly, we learn about much more than the history of food in Missouri. We learn, too, about the history of our culture and our people. Take, for example, Crown Candy in north St. Louis. Opened in 1913 by best friends who emigrated from Greece, Crown Candy Kitchen is the city’s oldest operating soda fountain. (And, though it’s not mentioned in the book, I hear they have good BLTs!) Jazz, politics, and sports are among the cultural aspects discussed by the authors.

A culinary history of Missouri would not be complete without touching on Missouri’s breweries and wineries, of which Missouri has (and has had) plenty. The authors discuss German settlement of central Missouri and the “grape lots” that came to be in that area, which lead to the establishment of Missouri wineries. Breweries in St. Louis, as well as other areas, are highlighted, as well as the impact of prohibition on alcohol-related establishments throughout the state.

Not only does this book serve as a culinary history of Missouri, but a cookbook, too. At the end of each chapter, you’ll find the recipes referenced. Here are some that caught my eye: 1830 Chicken Pie, Cowboy Beef and Beans, Saltine Cracker Pie, Fred Harvey Railroad Cole Slaw, and Pioneer Chili.

As always, happy reading and, in this case, happy eating.

Book review by Jill Halbach Sullivan, Post Art Library Director.

Abstract Paintings by Lori Marble

Favorite Children’s Books Reimagined: What Do You See?, an exhibit featuring abstract paintings by Lori Marble, will soon be at the Library!

Remember your favorite books from childhood? Perhaps you even have one or two on your bookshelf today? Now, picture them reimagined as abstract paintings. Artist Lori Marble, the now adult child of a librarian, lovingly remembers the books that shaped her childhood.

She asked the librarians at Joplin Public and Post Art Libraries about their favorite children’s books, read them, and painted them in an abstract, mixed-media style. She paints in an ambidextrous fashion, laying down large swatches of bold color using a palette knife in her left hand, while incorporating bold brush strokes and subtle details with her right. Her love of symbolism and pattern is evident in each work on paper.

The display is purposely hung at a child’s eye-view and will prompt each viewer to ask “What do you see?” This exhibit is presented by the Post Art Library in The Bramlage and Willcoxon Foundation Gallery inside Joplin Public Library. Free and open to the public.

For more information, contact Post Art Library Director Jill Sullivan at (417) 623-7953 x1041.

 

EXHIBIT INFO:

June 9 – August 31, 2022 | Opening reception: June 9, 2022, 6:30-7:30pm

 

Sculptures by Zach VanBecelaere

We’re glad to present Sculptures by Zach VanBecelaere in the Post Reading Room inside Joplin Public Library from Sunday, May 1st – Thursday, June 30th.

Working primarily with steel and stainless steel, Zach VanBecelaere uses a variety of metalworking techniques to manipulate materials into new forms. He incorporates welding used for harsh texture, high mirror polished finishes, and patinated rusted finishes to create contrast and duality in his work. His work stems from a fascination with the natural processes of growth and decay while exploring the relationship between the two.

For more information, contact Post Art Library Director Jill Sullivan at 417-623-7953 x1041.

EXHIBIT INFO

Sunday, May 1st – Thursday, June 30th

 

The Thought Knot by Zach VanBecelaere (with PAL Director Jill Sullivan for scale).

Photography by Mitsu Harter

We invite you to visit our Local History gallery to take in the photography of Mitsu Harter. For many years she expressed her artistic vision with paint, on canvas, and even on walls and ceilings within her home. After an accident that required the rebuilding of her hand, she searched for a way to continue to share her dreams of light, color, nature’s brilliant beauty, and exquisite timeless history. She eventually picked up a camera and now uses her artist’s eye to pinpoint the miraculous dwelling among the mundane, to expose the color residing in the shadows. Harter’s photographs feature historic sites and structures.

For more information, contact Jill Sullivan at 417-623-7953 x1041.

EXHIBIT INFO

Sunday, May 1st – Tuesday, May 31st | Reception: Sunday, May 15th, 2-3pm

 

Church – Picher, Oklahoma by Mitsu Harter

COMBINE: Spring

COMBINE is a collaborative and interdisciplinary group of MSSU Art & Design students. This, their inaugural group exhibition, explores various creative responses to the concept of “spring.” COMBINE: Spring is on exhibit in the Bramlage and Willcoxon Foundation Gallery inside Joplin Public Library until Sunday, May 29, 2022. Visit the library during the opening reception on Thursday, April 28 between 6:30-7:30pm for an opportunity to meet the artists.

For more information, contact Jill Sullivan at 417-623-7953 x1041.

EXHIBIT INFO

Thursday, April 28th – Sunday, May 29th | Reception: Thursday, April 28, 6:30-7:30pm 

 

Book Review: Just My Type by Simon Garfield

Pity Comic Sans, the font that people love to hate. Developed by Vincent Connare in the mid-1990s, Comic Sans is what author Simon Garfield describes as “type that has gone wrong” in his book Just My Type, an engaging history of type (which, these days, the average person refers to as a ‘font,’ but more on that later).

Connare designed Comic Sans as a reaction against the perceived formality of Times New Roman. Specifically, as a new typeface for Microsoft Bob, a user-friendly software program designed for people who didn’t use – or were frightened of – computers. Connare believed that Times New Roman didn’t mesh well with other elements of the software, such as its “accessible language and […] appealing illustrations.” Ultimately, Connare’s new type couldn’t be worked into the package. Guess what? Microsoft Bob failed. Not long afterward, Connare’s Comic Sans was released in another software package that indeed became popular.

Then, after being included in Windows 95, Comic Sans was everywhere. So much so that people got sick of it. Like, really sick of it. Garfield tells us of Holly and David Combs, a couple who made an anti-Comic Sans website and sold “Ban Comic Sans” merchandise. It’s not necessarily that the Combs thought Comic Sans had no place in the world, but that it needed to be put back in its place. This seemingly ubiquitous hatred of Comic Sans is not unlike how people love to hate Merlot–they know little about its complexities, nuances, and when it is, in fact, a smart, or dare I say the right, choice.

Not only does Garfield give us the history of type/fonts, but, in some cases, the histories of their creators. One such case is the grisly history (that I definitely won’t mention here) of Eric Gill, whose typeface Gill Sans appeared in 1928 as “one of the twentieth century’s earliest and classic sans serif fonts” and is still widely used today.

Speaking of Sans Serif fonts, what’s the difference between that and Serif? I’ll tell you, but Garfield will tell you better with one of the fantastic visuals that accompany the text throughout his book. Serif fonts have feet and tips, which are the serifs. Remove those and voila! You have Sans Serif.

So what about this whole typeface and type/font thing? While typeface is a certain style of lettering, fonts refer to variations of a typeface, including size, weight, and so on. Garfield writes: “Fonts were once known as founts. Fonts and founts weren’t the same as typefaces, and typefaces weren’t the same as type.” He highlights this and many other more technical aspects of typography that, admittedly, readers without a keen interest in type may not find interesting. For example, typographers once had typescales (depth scales) for measuring not only the type, but the space between it, both of which are referred to as the point size, or, for typographers (and printers, as in printing presses) these measurements are grouped into picas.

“DIY” is one of my favorite chapters because it introduced me to the John Bull Printing Outfit, a DIY typographic kit released in the 1930s. It was both creative and educational and, to me, looks and sounds like loads of fun (Hello, eBay!). Garfield goes on to discuss other methods of personal printing, from Letrasets to typewriters to floppy disks, ending the chapter saying that “well-printed” materials are “fast becoming heritage,” yet “typefaces – both their preponderance and ingenuity – have not suffered a similar decline in fortunes.” He writes further that perhaps we have too many.

I particularly appreciate how easy-reading this book is. Although I didn’t learn this till 250 pages in, the book is set in Sabon, which is known for its readability. Perhaps my sharing this with you is somewhat of a spoiler, but I have good reason for doing so. That I thought the book was easy-reading before knowing a particular font was chosen to achieve just that illustrates how much of a connection we have between text – not just what it says, but how it looks – and the way we process information and, more generally, the world.

Literally every printed word was someone’s decision to use a particular typeface or font. The newspaper (or screen, if that’s your style) that you’re holding in your hand to read this review is but one example. Whether we realize it or not – or like it or not – the way that things look impact the way that we interact with them and fonts are no exception. Have you ever been put off by some fonts and not others? Made choices as a consumer based on fonts and labels? Sure you have, as have I.

Garfield reminds us that, like anything else, fonts have rules. Though he’s not necessarily opposed, he wonders “to what extent do rules stifle individuality and creativity?” (Good question.) I’ll leave you with a few so-called rules mentioned by Garfield, though he attributes them to Paul Felton: “Thou shalt not apply more than three typefaces in a document;” “Remember that a typeface that is not legible is not truly a typeface;” and “Thou shalt not use only capitals when setting vast body copy.”

As always, happy reading.

Book review by Jill Halbach Sullivan, Post Art Library Director.

Still Here: A Collection of Artifacts from the Family of Langston Hughes

We are glad to partner with Joplin’s own Langston Hughes Cultural Society to present Still Here: A Collection of Artifacts from the Family of Langston Hughes in Joplin Public Library’s Community Room on Saturday, March 5, 2022 at 10:30am.

This program features a selection of artifacts from the Langston Hughes Family Museum and a presentation from Executive Director and Curator Marjol Rush-Collet. The Langston Hughes Family Museum is a traveling museum featuring original photographs, personal belongings, household items, crystal glassware, silver utensils, and period clothing used by various Hughes family members.

This is a free, public event. Registration is not necessary. Please note that seating is limited and available on a first come, first served basis. For more information, contact Post Art Library Director Jill Sullivan at 417.623.7953 x1041.

Facebook event page: https://fb.me/e/5HqMYq2u0.

City of Hope: Resurrection City & the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign

“City of Hope: Resurrection City and the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign” will be on display from Saturday, January 15th through Monday, February 28th, 2022 in The Bramlage and Willcoxon Foundation Gallery inside Joplin Public Library.

This Smithsonian-created poster exhibition honors Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s final and most ambitious vision that each U.S. citizen have equal access to economic opportunities and the American dream. It examines the Poor People’s Campaign, a grassroots, multiracial movement that drew thousands of people to Washington, D.C. for 43 days between May and June 1968, where demonstrators demanded social reforms while living side-by-side on the National Mall in a tent city known as Resurrection City.

Although President Lyndon B. Johnson declared a “war on poverty” in 1964, tens of millions of Americans were denied livable wages, adequate housing, nutritious food, quality
education, and healthcare. Led by Drs. Martin Luther King Jr. and Ralph David Abernathy, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) organized the Poor People’s Campaign in
response to poverty as a national human rights issue. Stretching 16 acres along the National Mall between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument, Resurrection City housed 3,000
protesters with structures for essential services like sanitation, communications, medical care, and childcare. It included a dining tent, cultural center, and a city hall along the encampment’s
bustling “Main Street.”

The Poor People’s Campaign marked an important moment in U.S. history and set the stage for future social justice movements. Within months after Resurrection City’s evacuation,
major strides were made toward economic equality, influencing school lunch programs, rent subsidies, home ownership assistance for low-income families, education and welfare
services through the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and more.

Organized by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) in collaboration with the National Museum of African American History and Culture, “City of
Hope” highlights a series of newly discovered photographs and an array of protest signs and political buttons collected during the campaign. Featuring 18 posters, the exhibition will help
visitors engage and contextualize the Poor People’s Campaign’s historical significance and present-day relevance.

 

Charles McPherson: The Journey Home

Join us in February 2022 for the homecoming of world-renowned jazz musician and Joplin native Charles McPherson. Visit Connect2Culture’s Charles McPherson: The Journey Home webpage to learn more about all of the events – including a free, public performance – taking place during this multi-day celebration.

Charles McPherson: The Journey Home is a collaboration among Connect2Culture, the Langston Hughes Cultural Society, The Minnie Hackney Community Service Center of Joplin, Post Art Library, Pro Musica, Spiva Center for the Arts, and Visit Joplin MO.

Holiday Tea to feature The Opus 76 Quartet

This year, we’ve partnered with Pro Musica and Joplin Public Library to bring The Opus 76 Quartet to the library for our annual Holiday Tea!

Join us on Saturday, December 4, 2021 for one of two performances:

  • 10-10:45AM: Enjoy a delightful morning Bach-a-Bye Baby performance featuring author/narrator Leia Barrett in a new musical take on the classic tale of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.”
  • 2-3:00PM: Enjoy an afternoon performance of classical string quartet favorites. Specifically, A. Dvorak: Quartet No.12 in F Major, “American,” Op.96 and The Danish String Quartet: Selections from Woodworks. At the end of this performance, PAL will give away their take-home Holiday Tea kits while supplies last.

From its hometown of Kansas City, The Opus 76 Quartet has become recognized in journals worldwide for its entertaining and energetic interpretations of the classics. Which is to say we are very excited to welcome them to our library!

These programs are free and open to the public. Registration not necessary.

PLEASE NOTE: in an effort to offer safe programming, masks will be required for all attendees ages 2 and older (per CDC guidelines), regardless of vaccination status.

The 2021 PAL Holiday Tea is a partnership between Post Art Library, Pro Musica, and Joplin Public Library. For more information about this event, contact PAL Director Jill Sullivan at 417-623-7953 x 1041 or jhsullivan@postartlibrary.org.