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When books don’t have dates, PhD students get confused. And then they get angry…

18 Jul

Dorothy Daly’s Italian Cooking has been cited as one of the first Italian cookbooks written in English. It doesn’t have a date of publication on it, but no less than the Boston Public Library (BPL) has declared it was published in 1900, at least according to the Open Library and Internet Archive, which would mean, like Janet Ross’ Leaves from our Tuscan Kitchen, it was indeed one of the first:

Italian Cooking entry on the Internet ArchiveExcept it wasn’t published in 1900. It couldn’t have been. It’s wrong and it’s making me crazy. So, how do I, a lowly PhD student, dare to doubt establishments such as the BPL? Well, here’s some proof:

  • The book includes a “Table of Equivalent Oven Heats” which features heat settings for different manufacturers’ ovens. Not only does it seem like one oven, the Cannon with Autimo settings, didn’t exist until at least the late 40s, Daly’s chart also bears a striking resemblance to one published in the 1950s by British food writer Ambrose Heath in Kitchen Wisdom:
Oven temp chart in Italian Cooking

The oven temperature chart in Dorothy Daly’s Italian Cooking features some ovens that didn’t exist till after World War II…

Chart from Ambrose Heath's Kitchen Wisdom

Many of the same makes of oven appear in Ambrose Heath’s Kitchen Wisdom (1950).

  • It repeats as fact the myth that Marco Polo brought pasta to Italy from China, a myth which a number of scholars believe came from a 1920s item in the Macaroni Journal, a trade publication for pasta makers in the US.
  • Daly uses the term “pasta” throughout the book, but this word was not in common use in English-language cookbooks until at least the 1950s, with “macaroni” the preferred umbrella term for different pasta shapes up until then.
  • Sun Books published an Australian edition in 1969 under the title Cooking the Italian Way. Except for the title, and some minor editing, there isn’t much difference between this version and the so-called 1900 edition. It seems pretty unlikely that a book would require little editing when so much has changed in the kitchen from 1900 to the late 60s, unless it was marketed as some kind of nostalgia trip, which it wasn’t. Much more likely is that the book was first published in London in the late 1950s, which British historian Panikos Panayi notes in Spicing up Britain: The Multicultural History of British Food.

    Cooking the Italian Way by Dorothy Daly 1969

    The cover of Cooking the Italian Way, published in Melbourne, 1969.

  • The illusive Ms Daly also wrote a bunch of other books on Italy, all of which feature publication dates in the 1950s, 60s, 70s and even 80s. Some of these are reprints, but unless Daly was a prolific genius writing from the age of 2 until her old age, it’s difficult to account for the fact that the rest of the woman’s work was published 50 years after her first book. Incidentally, I have found very little biographical information about the mysterious Dot Daly, like when she was born and when she died, so if you know something, say something.
  • Stylistically, typographically and linguistically Italian Cooking just doesn’t look or sound like a book written at the turn of the last century. Don’t believe me? Have a look yourself and you will no doubt find a hundred other reasons why this book couldn’t have been published in 1900.

So this wrong date is now all over the Internet, with some categorising it incorrectly, even Google,  and others trying to make a quick buck. It makes me mad, not because people are potentially getting ripped off, although that’s never nice, but because a wrong date can lead a student of history to make incorrect assumptions about, well, everything. It also proves you can’t just accept what other people –  even if those people are big, established, respected libraries –  say. You have to question everything. Though, let’s be honest, we could’ve saved a hell of a lot of time if the publisher HAD JUST PUT THE DAMN DATE ON THE BOOK IN THE FIRST PLACE!

Sorry for yelling, but I was angry. I feel better now.

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Update: Australia’s first Italian cookbook

4 Apr

The lovely folk at SBS Radio’s Italian program have joined the appeal to help find Australia’s first Italian cookbook – La Cucina Continentale.  Carlo Oreglia interviewed me, and you can hear the interview – and me mangle the beautiful Italian language – around the 38 minute mark of this morning’s program.

Thanks both to Carlo for the interview, and the awesome James Panichi for helping me get the word out.

The quest continues…

Related links
Australia’s first Italian cookbook – MIA

Australia’s first Italian cookbook – MIA

2 Apr

Every so often you make a discovery. Something you think no one else knows. This makes you happy, so very, very happy.

Being a PhD student is a bit of a drudge most of the time. There are books to find, notes to take, references to record, forms to complete and reading, so much reading, some of it interesting, much of it leading to a lifelong hatred of anyone whose name comes prefaced by the words “French philosopher”.

But when that moment happens, the point of a new discovery, you forget about the references and the forms, you even forget that your annual salary is below the poverty line, and you think it’s all worth it. For you are now making a real contribution to your field. It’s you they are going to reference and your name they are going to struggle to spell correctly in EndNote or Mendeley (For the record: C-A-M-M-A-R-A-N-O).

This happened to me quite recently. It was good for a bit. And then it all went to shit. Here’s how it unfolded:

Working at the State Library of Victoria, I was examining a 1930s cookbook called the First Australian Continental Cookery Book. While the book says its about European cooking, there seem to be more Italian recipes than anything else, and after I read:

It is time for Australians to realise, in fact, that what one may call Mediterranean cookery has much to offer them. Italian cookery, for instance, embodies ideas, aims and methods that have not only been ripening for literally thousands of years, but have been doing so under climatic conditions far more closely resembling those of Australia than do the British.

I somehow deduced this book had to be written by an Italian. In fact, I half thought it might be my Uncle Tony. But with no author listed, I looked into the publisher – the Cosmopolitan Publishing Company – and found that the same company published a bunch of other Italian-related books. Dig just that bit deeper and guess what, the company is run by a group of Italian migrants who also published the principal fascist newspaper in Australia, Il Giornale Italiano.

This is seriously good stuff. I’m feeling pretty great about what I’ve found, and then the cake gets iced. By the same publisher, I find in the NLA’s catalogue, published in the 1930s as well, La Cucina Continentale. I think I may well have just stumbled upon Australia’s first Italian cookbook. All I have to do is go to Canberra and check it out.

La Cucina Continentale

Happy days! La Cucina Continentale in the NLA’s catalogue.

So off to the nation’s fine capital I go. When I get to the NLA, I become a member, request the book and spend 45 minutes looking at the exhibition next door while some hairy librarian type – they are always hairy – fetches it for me. I log back into the computer to check the status of the book, but see just one word – Missing. I think I stop breathing for a second. Missing. I go and tell the nice, bearded man (see, I told you they are always hairy) behind the desk. It’s the only known copy in the world, I say in not my usual calm way, and it just can’t be missing. He tells me that I am wrong – it can be missing. But, I say, no, it really can’t. Nice man gets the feeling this could go on all day so he tells me to go home and request an official investigation. This happens, and two weeks later the official investigation sends me a lovely email in which, it concludes, the book is not just missing now – it’s officially missing.

Excellent.

So now, dear reader, in a bid to save this discovery from the dustbin, I am launching an appeal to find La Cucina Continentale. If you know of it, or anything about it, I would love to hear from you. You know where to find me. Please, because I really want to be in EndNote…

La Cucina Continentale missing

Not so happy. La Cucina Continentale is now officially missing.

Bibliography:

  • Cappello, Anthony. “Italian Australians, the Church, War and Fascism in Melbourne 1919-1945.” Masters’ diss.,Victoria University of Technology, 1999.
  • Cresciani, Gianfranco. Fascism, Anti-Fascism and Italians in Australia, 1922-1945. Canberra: Australian National University Press, 1980.
  • First Australian Continental Cookery Book. Melbourne: Cosmopolitan Publishing Co. Limited, 1937.