L.A. has been obsessed with ‘healthy’ foods for a century — these cookbooks prove it

“This is the ‘Castelar Creche Cookbook,’” artist Suzanne Joskow said one recent morning on the porch of her Hollywood home. Holding a delicately weathered, centuries-old green cardboard, she explained that the two dishes she had prepared, the California chewy and the Van Nuys fruit cocktail, were sourced directly from the diner. this area.

The book was published the same year her house was built, in 1922. Chewables, on Page 217, resemble granola bars and are a delightful combination of dates and nuts. Fruit salad, on Page 22, diced and soaked in Maraschino liqueur.

“You can time travel,” says Joskow. “This recipe may have been eaten here, a hundred years ago.”

Hand flipping an old cookbook.

A growing collection of community cookbooks from LA County has allowed Suzanne Joskow to “time travel,” says the artist.

(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

Originally published with the aim of raising money for LA’s “home for the homeless,” an infant center operating in Los Angeles in the early 20th century, “The Castelar Creche Cook Book” is an incredible artifact of LA culinary history. It is now part of Joskow’s growing collection of classic community cookbooks called Community Cookbook Archive: LA In addition to collecting and archiving these books, Joskow has made her project a Cooking and photographing many recipes can fall into the dusty corners of historic locales.

“Sometimes they’ve been sitting there in the store for 20 years,” says Joskow, whose visual art previously focused on maps of historically important places in Los Angeles. “I find them very interesting as documents. Once I started having this group of them, I realized, this is an incredible picture of Los Angeles over time, historically.”

Often buried at the bottom of a box when selling real estate or at second-hand book stores, these books come from all over LA County and date back to 1894, and total nearly 400. Open archives are now featured. as part of the “Something exhibit in Common” at the Los Angeles Central Library, which showcases a wide range of community groups around the city, and will be on view through early November.

“You get a snapshot of all the simultaneous experiences of this place,” says Joskow. “The way people eat and the way people talk about their food just tells you a lot.”

Two side-by-side images, a stack of cookbooks, left, and an orange cookie on a plate, right.

Joskow finds classic LA cookbooks at property stores and second-hand bookstores. That’s right, the upside down orange cookie from the cookbook Favorite Recipes (1951) in her collection.

(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

Joskow will discuss multiple cookbooks in a virtual talk Thursday afternoon at the Central Library.

Entering the vibrant exhibition space in the gallery’s Getty Library, visitors can see Joskow’s work prominently displayed. Ninety-nine carefully selected cookbooks line the walls. At first glance, it’s a cheerful display of graceful relics perched against a vibrant orange wall. Many come with hand-painted art covers and twisted plastic bindings. The entire archive, like an impressionist painting, presents a richer picture of Los Angeles, each book being a brushstroke or pixel in the city’s larger historical narrative.

One of the most obvious themes is that these cookbooks mostly contain recipes from women.

“A lot of this is geared towards women because women are excluded from so many places,” says Joskow. “So many of these groups are women’s reactions to spaces they’re not a part of, or things their husbands have done that they can’t access. So the woman created a kind of backend for that.”

Suzanne Joskow stands in front of a wooden fence with ivy to her right.

“A lot of this is geared towards women because women are excluded from so many places,” says Joskow.

(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

She gives the example of “Mission in the Kitchen,” from the Air Force Officer’s Wives Club, published in 1963, which featured recipes like ketchup with marinated vegetables – a type of gelatin. bright red bunches surrounded by cold pickled vegetables. Others include “Y Wives Cookbook” from the Downey YMCA from 1968, “Cop’s Cookery: Wives of Los Angeles Police Officers” from 1977 and “Suggestions for Housekeepers” from members of the Woman’s Relief Corps, many of some of them were the wives of veterans of the Civil War, from 1907.

“Cookbooks are often a fundraising tool that women will sell to their friends,” says Joskow, noting that women’s groups have to be creative in fundraising while men’s organizations can. access to more traditional types of capital. “Since cooking is often a women’s domain, cookbooks are written by women, shared and sold to women, often fundraisers, to a women’s group or fundraising arm. of women of an organization like a church.”

For example, the preface to “Pesticide: Dessert to Die,” a book compiled by the mystery writers group Chapter of the Sisters in Los Angeles Crime, declares its mission to “fight segregation.” treatment in the occult, educating publishers and the public as to the inequalities in the treatment of female authors. “

“Men appear in cookbooks earlier than you think,” says Joskow, in recognition of Charlie Chaplin’s contribution to “Celebrated Actor-Folks’ Cookeries,” a 1916 Red Cross fundraising program. , one of many Tinsel Town-oriented cookbooks.

“I think a lot of Hollywood as a location that is practically Los Angeles, and of course, Hollywood as a kind of fantasy,” she said, pointing to the Hollywood Bowl cookbooks from 1984 and 2002, with the Picnic-ready recipes like apple sauce cornmeal muffins. Joskow made muffins and brought some to the summer music venue along with the cookbooks — because she loves returning books to their original locations.

Entertainers and industry professionals appear throughout the collection, with recipes from the likes of pioneering actress and producer Mary Pickford to the cast of “Soul Food.” 1997.

Health food obsession

In addition to highlighting the influence of the gig business, the archive sheds light on LA’s obsession with so-called healthy food. Many of the cookbooks demonstrate early thinking about fresh food and vegetarianism, as well as an appreciation of Los Angeles as the heart of the rich West with its rich agricultural products.

Close-up of a series of classic cookbooks.

A series of classic cookbooks from the collection of artist and writer Suzanne Joskow at her home.

(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

“Our understanding of LA at the forefront of food and health has a very long history,” says Joskow.

One of the best examples of this is the book “The Healthy Diet,” a collection of recipes sent to Philip M. Lovell for the “Body Care” column. in his LA Times since 1928. It includes health-focused recipes and pages for almond, coconut, oat, and soy milk recipes.

That’s right, milk substitutes were made in Southern California about 100 years ago.

The books also reveal glimpses into issues of racial and cultural misallocation. “There is a lot of euphemism and intentional mixing of recipes from ‘Spanish’ with Mexican. You see it, all the way back [a] 1905 cookbook. There are several types of Spanish recipes, some of Spanish origin, and some of the purported Europeanization of Central American food, says Joskow.

There are Lakers cookbooks from 1985 and 2001, with recipes, if not from the players themselves, from some of their wives and mothers.

The only completely unlicensed book, “The Gay of Cooking,” from 1983, was authored under the pseudonym “The Kitchen Fairy and Friends”. Filled with humour, implication, and thoroughly tested recipes, the unnamed gay author reflects the times. “This is a time when it would probably be unsafe to include the names of the contributors,” Joskow said in a video component of the exhibition.

Each book is a time capsule. And though they are still behind glass, Joskow’s hope is that they will be brought back to life by cooking. This is why she has made all the cookbooks available to view and cook online, through her website. Communitycookbookarchive.org.

Aerial image of hand cutting rolled dough to make cookies.

Suzanne Joskow prepares an upside down orange cookie recipe from the 1951 cookbook Favorite Recipes.

(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

Todd Lerew, the library’s special projects director, said: “More often than not, these types of books are not stored and preserved in any official archive, whether it’s a learning institution. art or civic agency, such as this one,” said Todd Lerew, the library’s special projects director, who curated the “Something Common” exhibition. “So it’s quite rare to see these things put together with preservation and research in mind.”

Lerew developed the idea for the exhibition in 2018, before the pandemic hit.

“While it is difficult for the exhibition to be delayed, at the same time, it has a completely different meaning,” says Joskow. “Because we are all more aware of how we collect and its value.”

LA Made: Cookbook Repository Discussion

Join Suzanne Joskow for a live virtual talk on the LA community cookbook archive, Thursday, September 15, at 4 p.m., part of the LAPL Something in Common exhibit. More info here:

https://www.latimes.com/food/story/2022-09-14/la-fo-historical-cookbooks-los-angeles-community-history-health L.A. has been obsessed with ‘healthy’ foods for a century — these cookbooks prove it

Russell Falcon

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