Are you a collector of food memorabililia and person of some consequence? Good. Maybe a university that aquires papers will be interested in your collection.
Nathalie Dupree, the esteemed author of 13 cookbooks and the host of more than 300 cooking shows for The Food Network, PBS and The Learning Channel, sold hers recently. The University of South Carolina, The Libraries, which acquires papers, bought them.
It’s different than donating your cookbook collection or other items. Several people in our food world have done that, including Jacqueline Newman’s 4000 Chinese cookbooks.
And while none of us has had Nathalie’s impact on the world of cooking, some of us might be wondering what to do with all our clippings, cookbook collections, menus, and other memorablia.
Here’s how a university acquires papers, and what was involved in Nathalie Dupree’s case:
Q. How did this sale occur?
So when Pat sold his papers, I spoke to a friend, Cliff Graubart, who had kept all of Pat’s papers intact: all his handwritten books and journals. He took care of them and kept them in a moisture-free place. When Pat was dying and the university came forward, they wanted his notebooks.
Q. Did Cliff know what you had?
A. At one point Cliff lived above me. I was going on a trip and I didn’t want to keep my notebooks in the house. I didn’t want anyone reading them. So I put them in a suitcase and asked him to put them in the back of his car until I got back. A few weeks later he didn’t remember and took a screwdriver to the suitcase and saw my notebooks. So when the university procured Pat’s papers, Cliff approached them about the fact that I had all of these notebooks.
Q. What exactly is in “papers?”
A. Journals, menus, photographs of food, manuscripts of cookbooks, notes written on recipes for when I’m testing recipes. notes from different organizations I’ve been part of, and minutes. I have journals going back all the way to the founding of IACP. Articles from food magazines. Reference materials.
An accountant said if I wrote down the meals in a restaurant, it was deductable as research. So I started doing so in journals and notebooks. In restaurants, I made diagrams of how the food was arranged on the plate, and what was on the plate. Then that information became valuable to me for other reasons. I refered to it when I was writing a book to see what the dish was – was it a restaurant dish or a home dish, and how popular was it? I wrote down who I was with, what we ate, and I stole menus with abandon during the era of beautiful menus. Particularly during the 3-star era in France. I wanted the menus to have a nice home.
They took the masters of my TV shows too.
These collections are important for posterity. My papers will help define when Southern food became important, and help define the changes and influences. And they will be preserved.
Q. How many boxes did you have?
A. One hundred, by the time we were through.
Q. Wow. Did you have to get everything together?
Cliff organized my papers and numbered things. He received a commission from The Libraries, and negotiated the procurement of Pat’s papers and mine. He owned a bookstore and I introduced him to Cynthia Graubart, my co-author, whom he married.
Q. What will the university library do with all those boxes?
A. They catalog and digitize the contents. Eventually they’ll be available to anyone who wants to do research.
Q. Do you feel any sense of loss?
A. Oh yes. I really want to look at those journals, and I want to have them here in my bedroom to look up what it was like to go to a 3-star or country restaurant, or what someone looked like. But I don’t want them to go up in a fire or have my stepchildren toss them because they don’t know what to do with them.
Q. What if you want to see something that’s in them?
I can go anytime.
But I’m collecting papers all the time! They come from time to time to unearth me. They drag boxes out and they find more boxes and more articles.
Q. Was it hard to see them go?
Yeah, like anything, like a child off to college. I’m 80 years old! What’s going to happen to this stuff? Now I know.
Q. How does someone figure out the right place for their papers?
A. You have to do your footwork, which means you have to figure out who the people are who are interested in what you’re doing. You might find out about an organization and volunteer there or do a talk,. If the organization has money or a donor, they might aquire papers, or use your collection to raise money to pay for someone to digitize it.
It’s our time now to make sure that the information for the time we have lived in is living on after us. And to make universities aware of the importance of the food culture. Look at the Smithsonian! Julia was wonderful, but she cannot be the only one who leaves a legacy about food in this century.
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