All posts by Gino Romero

Tasting History: A Modernized Recipe for Bizcochos de Chocolate

This is a guest post to Illuminations for the Great Rare Books Bake Off, by Dr. Tanya M. Peres, Associate Professor of Anthropology.

Do you put together a cookie tray for the holidays? The first time I did was in 2003 with my good friend Kristin when I lived in Lexington, Kentucky. I’ve been making them every year since to share with family, neighbors, and co-workers. Not sure what a cookie tray is? The way I understand them is that they are actual platters (often decorative) on which you place an assortment of homemade cookies and other treats (candies, popcorn, muffins, etc.). These are then given out to friends, family, co-workers, or brought to potluck holiday parties. I really enjoy them because you get to make a variety of treats – all the favorites and often some new ones. Kristin and I made at least 8 different recipes that year and it was a lot of fun (though her glass top stove suffered a major crack!).

When I signed up for the Great Rare Books Bake Off I knew I wanted to try something that was suitable for a cookie tray. Since we are all crunched for time and trying to limit trips to the grocery store, the recipe could not contain hard-to-source ingredients. It had to be something that my kids would eat. I also wanted something that tied into one of my research interests – namely foods and foodways of the Spanish Colonial period. The first book I turned to was Nuevo Arte de Cocina, sacado de la Escuela de la Experiencia Economica, written by Fransican Friar Juan Altamiras of Aragon. Much to my disappointment, the sweet recipes for Feast days consisted of apples and red wine ragout or creamed rice with almond milk (at least in the translated and edited version published by Vicky Hayward in 2017). The ingredients for these recipes were easy enough, but neither was suitable for a cookie tray and in the matter of my kids liking them? It was a toss-up.

I decided to reach out to my colleague, Dr. John Worth, a historical archaeologist at the University of West Florida who specializes in the Spanish Colonial period. He has translated numerous 15th, 16th, and 17th century Spanish documents for research purposes (and I think out of his own curiosity). If anyone had a secret stash of appropriate dessert recipes, it would be Dr. Worth! My major requirement was that it contain at least one ingredient native to the Americas. 

Dr. Worth consulted the 1755 Arte de Repostería, en que se contiene todo genero de hacer dulces secos, y en liquido, vizcochos, turrones, y natas: bebidas heladas de todos generos, rosolis, mistelas, &c. con una breve instruccion para conocer las frutas, y servirlas crudas. Y diez mesas, con su explicacion, written by Juan de la Mata. You can find a digital copy here. 

(Image: Front page of Arte de Repostería, en que se contiene todo genero de hacer dulces secos, y en liquido, vizcochos, turrones, y natas: bebidas heladas de todos generos, rosolis, mistelas, &c. con una breve instruccion para conocer las frutas, y servirlas crudas. Y diez mesas, con su explicacion, written by Juan de la Mata. Text is written in difernt size and style of fonts.)

He quickly translated the recipe for little cakes called Vizcochos de Saboya (Mata pp. 94-95):

Beat eight egg whites very well, until they are very foamy, and when they are in this state, mix in just as many egg yolks, beating them in the same manner, so that everything blends, adding on top of everything a pound of sugar passed through the sieve, and dried in the drying rack [estufa], beating everything a third time very well, to which are added three cuarterones [9 Spanish ounces, or 0.25881 kg] of very dry flour, mixing it by means of the spoon with the preceding composition [boxwood], with which it should be beaten, as is stated.  And if you wish to give it an agreeable flavor, a grating from the peel of a lemon can be added.  And it should be distributed on molds of tin plate, or playing cards, all of which should be covered with a little pork lard, although not in the manner that greases them, but just sufficient to contain the pasta so that it doesn’t stick.  And if you wish to make them small, like eight-real coins, they should be placed on paper with the spoon in small portions, round, and somewhat heaping, sprinkled with sugar, blowing them curiously on one side so that it is disproportionate, with which they should be cooked in a breadmaker’s oven (horno de Panadero) at medium heat.  And in order to know when the bizcochos are cooked, and somewhat consumed, that is to say, lighter, take one out, trying it, and if it is ready, take the rest out hot, in conformity to whether they are large, from the molds, or if they are small, from the paper, with the point of a knife underneath, and they can be served or kept in a little box.

(Image: Screenshot of the original recipe for Vizcochos de Saboya written in Spanish.)

Since I wanted a recipe with an ingredient native to the Americas, he also sent the chocolate variation of vizcochos. 

Vizcochos de Chocolate … Another way (Mata pp. 97):

Take six fresh eggs, and having separated the whites, beat them vigorously until they have made lots of foam, adding six egg yolks, and beating everything together again while it dissolves, next adding twelve ounces of powdered sugar, seven of flour, and one and a half of chocolate, all passed through the sieve, beating it well for the space of a quarter hour so that it mixes.  And finally, it should be distributed, like the rest, upon sheets of paper, drying the already formed bizcocho in the same manner that was stated for those of Saboya.

(Image: Screenshot of the original recipe for Vizcochos de Chocolate written in Spanish.)

In reading over the ingredient lists and instructions, I realized that I did not have enough eggs at home (we have chickens and the weather change is slowing down their egg production + my son used a bunch this week for his science fair experiment). 

(Image: My son’s science experiment consisting of glass jars of vinegar and eggs.)

I liked the idea of making little cakes, just not enough to feed a banquet hall – at least not in 2020! 

I did what all modern cooks do – I went online and searched for Chocolate Bizcocho. Bizcocho is a general term Spanish for desserts and depending on where you are in the Spanish-speaking world will determine what you are served if you order them. For instance, in Uruguay, bizcochos may be a croissant or a cookie. In Spain, bizcocho is a single layer sponge cake. Closer to home in the Southwestern US, bizcochitos are cinnamon-anise cookies. They are so popular they were named the New Mexico State Cookie! 

I wanted something more cake than cookie and that included chocolate (because it is native to the Americas and well, why not?). I found a modern recipe that met this requirements and was scaled down for the home cook looking to feed a modest family of four. 

I further modified and updated the recipe to fit what I had available in my kitchen (no trips to the grocery store!) and modern dietary trends. I’ve named it Chocolate Bizcocho de Tallahassee.

Chocolate Bizcocho de Tallahassee (by Tanya Peres)


  • 6 TBSP unsalted butter (soften to room temp) (coconut oil would work well, too)
  • ¾ cup sugar 
  • 2 eggs (fresh from our backyard!)
  • ½ cup non-dairy milk
  • ¼ tsp almond extract
  • ¼ tsp orange extract
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour (could use a gluten-free mix)
  • ¾ cup almond flour
  • ½ cup cocoa powder (use a good one – it is the star of the recipe!)
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup dark chocolate chips (sweetened with Stevia)
(Image: Ingredients include sugar, almond meal, cocoa powser, baking powder, soy milk, eggs, dark chocolate baking chips, and butter. All-purpose flour and spices not pictured.)
 - Preheat oven to 350F.
 - Mix the softened butter and sugar until creamy.
 - Add the eggs. Mix well,
 - Add the milk, stir until combined.
 - Stir in the cocoa powder and baking powder (use a low speed or you will have cocoa powder everywhere).
 - Stir in the flours (also using a low speed).
 - Stir in the chocolate chips.
 - Spray a ceramic loaf pan with cooking/baking spray (or grease with butter).
 - Cream together the butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well in between.
 - Add the milk and stir until combined.
 - Add the orange and almond extracts.
 - Stir in the cocoa powder and baking powder (use a low speed or you will have cocoa powder everywhere).
 - Add in the cinnamon, stirring to just combined.
 - Slowly stir in the flours (also using a low speed) until combined.
 - Stir in the chocolate chips.
 - Pour the batter into the pan, spreading evenly with a rubber spatula.
 - Bake at 350F for 35-45 minutes. Mine took 55 minutes in a thick ceramic loaf pan. I recommend that you start checking at 35 minutes. It really does depend on the individual oven and the choice of pan (thin aluminum, glass, ceramic).
 - Check doneness with a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf. If it is comes out clean, the loaf is done cooking.
 - Cool for 10 minutes in pan, then invert on a wire rack to cool completely. 
- When completely cooled, slice into ½” thick slices. Check doneness with a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf. If it is comes out clean, the loaf is done cooking.

The resulting loaf was dense, flavorful, and not overly sweet. I got distracted with kids and overcooked it a smidge and we still really liked it.

This is something I would serve to guests at brunch (if we could have guests right now). My youngest child really liked it, the older one liked it but thought it was not sweet enough, though it can’t be terrible – there is very little left (24 hours after making it). I will continue to experiment with this recipe (maybe double it for a bundt pan or completely veganize it) and I will for sure try out the bizcochitos recipe from New Mexico. I might even try to convince my husband to build a traditional horno in the backyard! Either way – the bizcocho recipe, originally published in 1775 (though likely was around as part of a cook’s mental recipe book for a lot longer), let’s us taste history, which is what the Great Rare Books Bake-Off is all about.  Happy Baking Season 2020!

Les Poissons & Louisiana Lagniappe

This is a guest contribution to Illuminations for The Great Rare Books Bake Off by Adam Beauchamp, Humanities Librarian at FSU Libraries. 

I love seafood. If it lives beneath the waves, I’m willing to fry it and try it. I grew up on the Great Lakes and then spent most of my adult life in Louisiana, so I’ve never been more than a few city blocks from major bodies of water. Naturally, then, when it came to my entry into the Great Rare Books Bake Off, I gravitated to the many preparations for fish. For an added challenge, I decided to dive into classic French cooking and test my translation skills with La grande cuisine illustrée: sélection raisonnée de 1500 recettes de cuisine transcendante by Prosper Salles and Prosper Montagné. 

Published in 1902 in Monaco, La grande cuisine illustrée is emblematic of the French haute cuisine that emerged in nineteenth century France in the ritzy hotels and restaurants of the Belle Époque. These dishes scaled down the heavy sauces and ornate garnishes of the pre-revolutionary aristocracy in favor of lighter sauces that enhanced rather than masked the flavors of their expensive ingredients.

Instead of trying to make one of the many dishes that call for one or two spoonfuls of eight different sauces–I don’t think I own enough sauce pans for that!–I went with simple preparations for trout and asparagus that would let me focus on technique: Truite à la Meunière (p.214) with a side of Pointes d’Asperges à la Chantilly (p. 627). 

Challenge number one was translating unfamiliar culinary terms from French to English. The online Dictionnaire de l’Academie Française, along with my pocket-sized French-English dictionary, were key to decoding words like ebarber (take off the fins) and ciseler (score the skin). The fishmonger at Whole Foods was kind enough to scale and ebarber my fish, so I only needed to score it before seasoning inside and out with kosher salt and pepper.

Wait, that’s not a trout! Correct, mon ami, that is a red snapper, fresh from the Gulf of Mexico. There were no trout available when I made groceries. Red snapper is both a close substitute for trout and a delicious local option. When you live this close to excellent fisheries of the Gulf, why would you eat anything else? 

Also, unlike Chef Louis in Disney’s The Little Mermaid, resist the urge to cut off the head. There’s a lot of flavor in the head and bones, so cook your fresh fish whole if you can.

With my fish scored and seasoned, it was time to bring on the butter! As described in La grande cuisine illustrée, à la Meunière is a preparation of few ingredients, essentially referring to any fish prepared in melted butter. Chefs Salles and Montagné suggest using une poêle, ovale de préférence. Poêle has several meanings. Un poêle, the masculine noun, is a stove, as in a wood-burning stove. It can also mean a black cloth used to cover a coffin during funeral services. My fish was certainly dead, but I don’t think the recipe called for a funeral. The feminine noun, une poêle, refers to a frying pan. I don’t have an oval pan as recommended, so I heated up my trusty cast iron skillet and added about two tablespoons of butter. When the butter started to bubble, I gave the fish a quick roll in flour and laid it in the pan, whole. 

My sous-chef, Ophelia, wanted to eat the fish raw rather than assist in its preparation, so she was dismissed from the kitchen. Basting regularly, I cooked one side for about 7 minutes, then flipped it over to cook the other side. The nice thing about fish is that it cooks quickly, so hungry dinner guests won’t have to wait long. Chefs Salles and Montagné advise that the butter should not be too hot in order to cook the fish slowly and avoid frying the fish to a crisp. I failed in that task; my butter got too hot and I ended up with crispy, though delicious, skin. No one was sad about that.

While the fish was frying, I turned my attention to the Pointes d’Asperges à la Chantilly, or asparagus points served with crème fouettée (whipped cream). No, this is not a dessert. The whipped cream is not the sweetened variety that you might dollop on your slice of pecan pie, but rather an unsweetened cream sauce meant to melt over the asparagus. The French are not shy about their use of dairy.

Chefs Salles and Montagné instruct us to prepare the asparagus points in the “ordinary method,” which I took to mean wash them and break off the tough bottom part of the stalks. My asparagus ended up being much longer than “points,” which created some problems later, but they cooked up beautifully. Following the instructions, I blanched them in salted boiling water. 

I learned lots of French culinary vocabulary following the next steps of the recipe: Les égoutter (drain them), rafraîchir (cool), and les mettre à étuver dans une sauteuse (steam them in a sauté pan) with a pat of butter. As if that wasn’t enough dairy, I then added three spoonfuls of crème double (heavy whipping cream) to the sauté, which thickened quickly to coat the asparagus. While the asparagus were steaming, I prepared my crème fouettée, beating a healthy pour of whipping cream in a bowl until I had achieved “soft peaks.” I was ready to serve. 

This was the tricky part. Dresser en timbale, instruct Chefs Salles and Montagné. Build a timpani drum? That can’t be right. In culinary terms, dresser means to plate or arrange, and as best I can tell, a timbale is a round mold or dish. Being fresh out of timbales in my kitchen, I arranged my asparagus in teacups, which were too small for my overly long asparagus points. They hung over the sides as I arranged them around the outside of the cups, leaving a gap in the middle in which to drop une forte cuillerée (a large spoonful) of whipped cream. This seemed like an awfully fussy way to serve asparagus, but it made for a rather fancy presentation.

Overall, the meal was delicious. The fish was hands down the star of the show. A simple preparation is always best for a whole fish; it came out sweet and buttery (indeed!), and the crispy skin added a nice salty crunch. The asparagus were tender and added a nice grassy note to the richness of the fish, but the whipped cream did not add much flavor. The spiral presentation of asparagus in my substitute timbales made the whole spread feel more elegant. My partner and I enjoyed our meal, appropriately, with a French chardonnay, and blue crab beignets for lagniappe.

Louisiana Lagniappe

In Louisiana, lagniappe is a little something extra, either an extra side dish at a restaurant or a small gift with purchase from a shopkeeper. For this blog post, my lagniappe is an additional seafood recipe. Last week I spent some time at the beach on Saint George Island and filled my crab trap with fresh blue crabs from Apalachicola Bay. Crab are highly perishable, so I boiled them up right away, but brought home plenty of leftover crab meat.

My recipe for Blue Crab Beignets (p. 54) comes from Donald Link’s cookbook, Down South: Bourbon, Pork, Gulf Shrimp & Second Helpings of Everything. That subtitle is very good advice. Donald Link is an award-winning chef from Louisiana’s Cajun Country. He runs several New Orleans restaurants, including one of my favorites, Pêche. Like Chefs Salles and Montagné, Link’s recipes are simple enough to highlight the quality of the ingredients, but his rustic style and bold Louisiana flavors are a lot more satisfying. 

The beignets recipe is relatively simple. Whisk two eggs with a cup of mayonnaise and two tablespoons of Creole mustard. Stir in one quarter cup each of diced red onion and finely sliced scallions, and season with 1½ teaspoons kosher salt, ½ teaspoon black pepper, and a pinch of cayenne. Fold in one cup of panko bread crumbs, and finally, gently fold in one pound of crab meat, being careful not to break up the crabmeat. Let the batter chill for about an hour to firm up.

Using two large spoons, shape the loose batter into coherent little footballs, or what the French would call quenelles. Fry the beignets in a neutral oil at 350°F until golden brown, then remove to a plate covered with paper towels to absorb any excess oil.

These rich seafood beignets were a great way to showcase the leftover crab meat. We enjoyed them with a white remoulade dipping sauce, which added a tangy note to the fried beignets. These made for a flavorful Gulf Coast addition to our classically prepared French entrée.

Bon apétit!  

To Bake a Neates-Tongue, To Be Eaten Hot

This is a guest contribution to Illuminations for The Great Rare Books Bake Off by Matthew Burrell.

The recipe I chose came from a book published in London in 1632 by John Murrell1. Held in the Florida State University Special Collections department and available digitally. The difficult and time-consuming part of this project was deciphering the text itself. I found the database Middle English Compendium, and very useful.

One example spelled in the recipe is Vergis. The Middle English Compendium explained that it was a variation of the correctly spelled verjǒus2, (an acidic juice extracted from unripe or sour fruit, chiefly grapes but also crabapples).  Verjǒus is used today and can be found on Amazon3.

A Neates Tongue is a beef tongue. Beef tongue is not a regular dish in my home, and a little more expensive than I thought, but it compared nicely to a pot-roast. Although the recipe is over 350 years old, the ingredients were easy to find and resulted in a delicious meal.

The recipe called for boiling the tongue until tender. I boiled it for 5 hours in a crock pot. The directions did not call for any spices to be added at this point. When the tongue seemed tender, the outer skin was easily removed.

The next step was baking the meat with nutmeg, pepper and salt, minced dates and parboiled currents. Being allergic to currents, I left them out and instead used raisins.

An unusual part of the directions was to use a silver spoon to mix egg yolks with sweet cream and dried orange peel for the sauce. I couldn’t find why the author suggested a silver spoon. Sulphur in the eggs reacts negatively with silver.

Baking took one and a half hours at 350⁰ with regular basting with sweet butter “that it may not bake dry on the outside”.

The result was amazing and will forever change how I make beef tongue. Just before eating sprinkle nutmeg, sugar, and orange juice on the meat.

1 Murrell, John,17th cent. A Nevv Booke of Cookerie VVherein is Set Forth a most Perfect Direction to Furnish an Extraordinary, Or Ordinary Feast, either in Summer Or Winter. also a Bill of Fare for Fifh-Dayes, Fasting-Dayes, Ember-Weekes, Or Lent. and Likewise the most Commendable Fashion of Dressing, Or Sowcing, either Flesh, Fish, Or Fowle: For Making of Iellies, and Other Mide-Dishes for Seruice, to Beautifie either Noble-Mans Or Gentlemans Table. Together with the Newest Fashion of Cutting Vp any Fowle. all Set Forth According to the Now, New, English and French Fashion: By Iohn Murrell. London, Printed by T. Snodham] for Iohn Browne, and are to be sould at his shop in Dunstanes church-yard, 1617. ProQuest,

A Short Cut for (stewed) Mushrooms

This is a guest contribution to Illuminations for The Great Rare Books Bake Off by Matt Hunter, Digital Scholarship Librarian at FSU Libraries.

Outside of my day-job I study food in medieval England, so I was *very* interested in this challenge to see whether or not I had any skills to recreate some of the foods I study. Though the ingredients and techniques may often seem strange to modern kitchens, there’s much more that seems familiar once a bit of creative interpretation and translation is applied. Although I wasn’t aware of any medieval recipe-books in FSU’s Special Collections, I figured the mid-seventeenth century was a pretty good place to start!

A white ceramic dish of stewed mushrooms surrounded by thyme, whole nutmeg, an orange and lemon wedge, and three baby Portobello mushrooms.

For my recipe, I tried to find something from the 1658 edition of The Compleat Cook: Expertly Prescribing the most ready wayes, whether Italian, Spanish, or French, for dressing of Flesh, and Fish, Ordering of Sauces, or making of Pastry. There’s tons of fun stuff in there for those ready to experiment with historical food, but as someone who is dreadfully inept at baking and also a vegetarian, there weren’t that many recipes I could bring myself to commit to. But just as portobello steaks and burgers have come to serve as a stand-in for beef in many modern American sports bars, I figured the recipe “To ſtew Muſhromes” (pp. 97-98) would be right up my alley with a strategic substitution or two. I love mushrooms, and the mix of savory and citrus elements sounded incredibly interesting. The general modern* availability of the ingredients didn’t hurt either – though “mutton gravy” was a bit out of my grasp (it’s also the only thing I needed to swap out for a vegetarian option anyhow). All-in-all this was a pretty easy recipe and it turned out surprisingly good. There were some parts that I think I would change for future iterations, but I’ll get to those at the end.

* (Historical availability is a different matter altogether, which is discussed below!)

The Recipe

Here’s the recipe as transcribed from pages 97 and 98 of The Compleat Cook, long-s (ſ) retained:

To ſtew Muſhromes
Take them freſh gathered and cut off the hard end of the ſtalk,& as you pill
them throw them into a Diſh of White-wine, after they have lain half an
houre or there-upon, draine them from the Wine, and put them between two 
ſilver Diſhes, then ſet them on a ſoft fire without any liquor, and when they 
have ſtewed a while, poure away the liquor that comes from them which will be
very black, then put your Muſhromes into another cleane Diſhe with a ſprig
or two of Tyme, an Onyon whole, foure or five Cournes of whole Pepper, two
or three Cloves, a bit of an Orange, a little Salt, a bit of ſweet butter
and ſome pure Gravie of Mutton, cover them, and ſet them on a gentle fire,
ſo let them ſtew ſoftly till they be enough, and very tender, when you diſh
them blow off all the fat from them, and take out the Tyme, Spice and
Orange, then wring in the juyce of Lemon, and grate a little Nutmeg among
the Muſhromes, toſſe them two or three times, put them in a cleane Diſhe,
and ſerve them hot to the Table. 

My version: Stewed Mushrooms, adapted for vegetarians

 - 16oz Baby Bella mushrooms, peeled, stems trimmed
 - ~2-2.5 cups white wine (or enough to cover mushrooms)
 - 1/2 small yellow onion
 - 1/4 medium orange
 - 1/8 lemon
 - 2-3 sprigs thyme
 - 3-4 black peppercorns
 - 2 whole cloves
 - 1 tsp sea salt
 - 2 tbsp salted sweet-cream butter
 - 1/4 cup mushroom gravy

 - Rinse the mushrooms. Peel the skins and trim the stems

 - Put the peeled mushrooms in a small baking dish and cover with white wine
 (a zip-top bag would work as well). Marinate for 30 minutes. [I would
 suggest a very cheap wine since this is eventually discarded]

 - Drain the wine from the mushrooms and transfer to a 10-inch high-sided
 skillet. Cook on medium heat until the mushrooms dry and start to brown (8-
 12 minutes), flipping frequently. 

 - Transfer the mushrooms into an 8-inch saucepan and add butter, onion,
 thyme, spices, orange, and gravy. Simmer on low for 5-10 minutes (until
 mushrooms are soft), stirring frequently and muddle oranges while stirring.

 - Transfer to serving dish. Squeeze lemon and grate fresh nutmeg directly
 onto mushrooms.

 Serve hot and enjoy! 

Historical context

Title of The Queens Closet Opened, with facing page portrait of Henrietta Maria. The title page contains the text "The Queens Closet Opened. Incomparable Secrets in Physick, Chyrurgery, Preserving and Candying, &c.  Which were presented unto the Queen By the most Experienced Persons of the Times, may whereof were had in esteem, when she peased to descend to private recreations. Corrected and Reviewed, with many Additions: together with three exact Tables. Vivit post funera Virtus. London, Printed for Nath. Brooke, at the Angel in Cornhill, 1659

Based on some preliminary research, I found that the original publication of The Compleat Cook was intended to be a sort of exposé of the domestic life of Queen Mary of England, (neé Henrietta Maria, princess of France, of the house of Bourbon), wife of King Charles I of England (r. 1625-1649). The Compleat Cook was produced as a separate volume of culinary recipes alongside a larger collection of medicinal and confectionary recipes in 1655 entitled The Queens Closet Opened: Incomparable Secrets in Physic, Chirurgery, Preserving, Candying, and Cookery. (The volume of Compleat Cook we have in Special Collections is a 1658 reprinting.) Scholars have previously interpreted this collection of recipes as a bit of royalist propaganda to rehabilitate Henrietta Maria’s public image in England after the First English Civil War, which saw Henrietta Maria exiled to her home country of France in 1644, and the execution of Charles I in 1649. Whether or not rehabilitation through the publication of these recipes was successful is up for debate, but Henrietta Maria’s son Charles II did eventually reclaim the throne from the republican, English Commonwealth in 1660, at which point Henrietta Maria returned to England. This collection of recipes, then, served as a sort of tableau of the intimate domestic composure of the monarchy’s innermost lives, exposed for the English public, that included comforting English recipes intended to show off Henrietta Maria’s proper Englishness. ¹

So what does all this mean for the recipe? Primarily, it was to understand the historical context of some of the ingredients and figure out some of the un-accounted amounts. In particular, I wanted to make sure my amounts for the spices and citruses were feasible in early-modern England. The fact that the clove, nutmeg, and black peppercorn would all have been imported in the spice trade from the East Indies or Caribbean (clove and nutmeg from the Spice Islands of Indonesia or the West Indies, black pepper from India or the Middle East), and that citrus—especially the orange—had to be imported from warmer climates meant that the inclusion of these ingredients may have very well been a show of status just as much as a culinary choice. I also wanted to try to get a decently-accurate sense of what mushrooms and wines would have been included.

In the end, this historical research was more of a “good to know” thing rather than instructive in how I approached the recipe – there are too many considerations in the modern grocery environment to effectively match a historic ingredient list without some serious legwork. But thinking about the English wine landscape of the seventeenth century, and thinking about the availability of citrus and spices to the wider English public helped determine what varietal and how sparing I was in my ingredients. For things like thyme, I felt as though I could be generous, while the historically more precious spices and citrus I tried to be hold back.

My Attempt at ſtewing Muſhromes:

Based on my limited understanding of the Floridian mycologic landscape, I was not comfortable going on a wild mushroom hunt for this recipe. Instead I stuck to the safe and grocery-store available (if somewhat boring) Baby Bella mushrooms. After trimming the stems and peeling the skins, I threw them into a small glass baking dish to let them soak in the white wine, as called for.

Given that Henrietta Maria was a French queen of England, I figured the best choice for the unspecified “White-wine” would be a mildly-flavored French varietal to compliment some of the citrus flavors of the orange and lemon. But since covering the trimmed mushrooms to soak ended up requiring almost 2 ½ cups, and (especially) since this is discarded immediately after a brief 30-minute soak, I opted for some cheap (read: boxed) Sauvignon Blanc I had in the fridge. Once the ‘rooms soaked their allotted 30 minutes and were drained, it was time for their first stewing—this time in a large high-sided skillet (my interpretation of stewing between “two silver dishes”) over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes. If this were a traditional meat-based stew, this step would brown the meat  Rather than having to drain the resulting liquid, I noticed that it was boiling off rather quickly once expressed from the mushrooms, and gave a nice Maillard effect brown on the caps and stems.

Once most of the liquid had boiled off but before the mushrooms got tough, I transferred them into a high-sided saucepan with the rest of the ingredients. Since the original quantity of mushrooms was never specified, I was guessing a bit on the appropriate quantities of butter, orange, onion, and gravy so as to not overpower anything. Keeping in mind that I wanted to highlight the taste of the mushrooms and the relatively high-status of the citrus and spices in the period, I decided to err on the lower side. I settled on 4 black peppercorns and 2 cloves as a compromise, and threw it all together to simmer as if on “a gentle fire” for about 7 minutes. That gave enough time for the butter to melt, the onion to sweat out some flavor, and everything to be incorporated into the gravy. I crushed the oranges a bit as they warmed to get more of the juice out, which I think helped a lot, though thinking back I think even a quarter orange may have been generous in historical context (the flavor was great, though, so it’s pretty good luck for us Floridians!).

After things had combined well, I pulled the orange rinds, thyme sprigs and onion out of the pot and transferred the mushrooms to a serving dish, topping off with a small squeeze of lemon and some freshly grated nutmeg. 

The end result? Surprisingly complex! The earthiness of the mushrooms and thyme served as a great compliment to the brightness of the citrus and clove, all layered over the rich foundation of the butter and gravy. Unsurprisingly, the timidity of the Sauvignon Blanc was lost completely once it was expressed from the mushrooms, and since there were no other real flavors included in the ‘marinade’ that whole process seemed like a waste of both time and wine; I have the feeling that a stronger white like a buttery Chardonnay might stand up a little better, and that’s what I’d use on a second attempt. On the other hand, since the point of a marinade is to use an acid as a vehicle to pump flavor into the cell fibers of the marinant, without any other spices during the 30 minute soak, even a full-bodied white may not do much (I’d really prefer to marinate with all the spices together). Otherwise, I think the more modern, readily-available status of some of these spices would lend a helping hand – the flavor of just the four black peppercorns I used was completely lost, so I would definitely bump that up to a liberal dusting of the ground stuff during the second round of stewing. I also do want to note that the store-bought jar of mushroom gravy I used in lieu of the mutton gravy was extremely salty and rich in its own right, probably imparting a lot of flavor that would not have been present in an original version with its home-made mutton gravy. But I’ll leave that experiment to someone else to try.


Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

With a few modifications, this is definitely something I’d include into a rotation of family-gathering or holiday side dishes. The prep time for peeling the mushrooms (probably another unnecessary step with something as commercially-grown as white button or Baby Bella mushrooms) made it a little too involved for a more-common dish, though.

¹ For a deep investigation of the larger historical context of
 The Compleat Cook, see Laura Lunger Knoppers, “Opening the Queen’s 
 Closet: Henrietta Maria, Elizabeth Cromwell, and the Politics of
 Cookery,” Renaissance Quarterly 60, no. 2 (2007): 464–99.

Pick a Gourd, any Gourd: Winter Squash Soup

This is a guest contribution to Illuminations for The Great Rare Books Bake Off by Christianne Beekman.

Winter Squash (or pick any gourd) soup

I initially wanted to call this recipe “Pick Your Favorite Gourd” Soup. After some research it became clear to me that pumpkin (or butternut squash, which I ended up using) is not a gourd at all, but rather a winter squash. Hence, the last minute name change. Being from Europe, I did not grow up eating pumpkin or any winter squash or gourds of any kind! After moving to the US, pumpkins and squashes quickly became favorites of mine. While I do not really care that much for pumpkin pie (probably due to the pumpkin spice), perhaps a shocker, I absolutely love using pumpkin, or a close relative, as a veggie in any dish. I am sharing this recipe for winter squash soup because it is super easy to make, it can be easily customized, and it is a great appetizer or an easy weeknight dinner if you combine it with a salad and some bread. 

The ingredients (most are shown in the photo):

  • ½ butternut squash (you can substitute with any squash or gourd)
  • 3 green onions (I would usually use 1 small yellow onion or a shallot, but when I started with this recipe the other day I realized I only had the green onions and it worked really well!)
  • Garlic! Anything tastes better if there is garlic in it, right? I used 4 big cloves. 
  • Your favorite spices: I used 1-2Tbsp. Thyme (fresh is better, I had to use dried), ½ teasp. cumin, ¼ teasp. Ginger, ¼  teasp. Smoked paprika, ⅛ teasp. Cayenne pepper (for a little kick),  pepper and salt to taste.
  • 1Tbsp. Butter and 2 Tbsp. of flour, the butter and flour combine to make a Roux. I think this is an excellent way to bind the soup and give it a little creaminess. Note, due to lactose intolerance of my partner, I cannot use the heavy cream that most recipes call for.
  • 1 cube vegetable broth (1- 2 cups). You can add more if it is for a bigger crowd, I only made this for two!
  • 1 Tbsp. brown sugar (optional)

I started by heating some olive oil in a sauce pan and sauteing the onion for a few minutes until the white parts are translucent. I used most of the onion (white and green bits), leaving only a few green bits for garnishing. After this add the garlic and saute for another minute until fragrant. While one would put heavy cream in near the end, I add the butter and flour now, starting with the flour coating all the onion and then add the butter. The fat and the flour will make a Roux, the longer you cook it the darker it gets. If you have the time, cook it for 10 – 15 min (the darker it is the more flavor you get). If you do not have time just a few minutes is enough too.

Only the onion and garlic with the butter and flour

Now add the squash and the spices. I cut the squash in 1” cubes and boiled them for 15 min to get them soft enough to mash before adding them. You can also use canned pumpkin or something similar, if you do not want to deal with prepping the squash.

Add vegetable broth and simmer for a few minutes. I added 1Tbsp. Of brown sugar here to sweeten it slightly. You can also use honey or maple syrup.  If you want to add cream, now is the time, right at the very end, when you take it off the stove. I used an immersion blender to make the soup smooth. Garnish with the leftover green onion. You can also use toasted pumpkin seeds or any other topping.

Serve with bread, a salad, or by itself. It was delicious!

-Christianne Beekman

Slow and Steady

Progress is slow, but steady. I’m happy to say that in the time that I started this blog series, active steps have definitely been taken towards working on diversity and inclusion in FSU Special Collections & Archives discovery tools.

Gay Farm Workers in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador. (Click the image to go to our digital library!)

The main projects that we are working on right now are:

  • The Conscious Editing Initiative 
  • The Inclusive Research Services Task Force
  • LGBTQ+ Resource Guide

The Conscious Editing Initiative is focusing on systematically reviewing our catalog and examining the language used to describe different peoples. The goal of this work is to make sure that these stories are both discoverable and accurate in labeling so that they may be more accessible to people looking for them. With this we are also able to accurately assess how diverse the stacks themselves truly are and determine what gaps are in our collections and the best ways to either fill those gaps or find resources that we may direct people towards.

The Inclusive Research Services Task Force is a recently formed group that charged with analyzing our internal structure and finding ways we can improve, specifically as they relate to public services. They are rewriting policies in order to ensure that they reflect the needs of the diverse student body that populates FSU, as well as rethinking onboarding training and ways to ensure the faculty and staff are meeting Florida State’s standard of dynamic inclusiveness.

Florida Flambeau, June 28, 1979. (Click the image to go to our digital library!)

The LGBTQ+ Resource guide will be an online site that anyone will have access to. This guide was created in order to provide self education and on-campus resources about/for LGBTQ+ identities. The guide will include pronoun etiquette, do’s and don’ts, queer and trans histories, terminology, and other resources in order to make self education easier for those who may not be informed about LGBTQ+ topics. It will also include templates for students to communicate about their identities, resources on campus, and even links to faculty that are safezone allies.

Overall, there is definitely progress. It’s great to see these topics discussed more within the library, but it’s even better to see the change happen. I’m very excited and hopeful about the direction FSU SCA is going in with regards to diversity and inclusion. I hope we sustain this momentum!

What’s the Tea?

Katie McCormick, Associate Dean

For this post, I interviewed Kate McCormick in order to get a better understanding of the dynamics of Special Collections & Archives. Katie is one of the Associate Deans and has been with SCA for about nine years now (here’s a video of Katie discussing some of our collections on C-SPAN in 2014!). As a vital part of the library, and our leader in Special Collections & Archives, I wanted to get her opinion on how the division has progressed thus far and how they plan to continue to do so in regards to diversity and inclusion. 

How would you describe FSU SCA when you first started?

“…People didn’t feel comfortable communicating [with each other]… There was one person who really wrote for the blog, and maybe it would happen once every couple of months. When I came on board, my general sense was that we were a department and a group of people with a lot of really great ideas and some fantastic materials, who had come a long way from where things has been, but who hadn’t gotten to a place to be able to organize to change more or to really work more as a team… We were definitely valued as (mostly) the fancy crown jewel group. Really all that mattered was the stuff… it didn’t matter what we were doing with it.”

How do you feel the lapse in communication affected diversity and inclusion?

“While I don’t have any direct evidence that it excluded people or helped create an environment that was exclusive, I do know that even with our staff at the time, there were times where it contributed to hostilities, frustrations, an  environment where people didn’t feel able to speak or be comfortable in…Everybody just wanted to be comfortable with the people who were just like them that it definitely created some potentially hostile environments. Looking back, I recognize what a poor job we did, as a workplace and a community truly being inclusive, and not just in ways that are immediately visible.”

How diverse was SCA when you started? 

“In Special Collections there was minimal diversity, certainly less than we have now… [For the libraries as a whole] as you go up in classification and pay, the diversity decreases. That was certainly true when I got here and that remains true.”

How would you rank SCA’s diversity and inclusion when you first started?

“…Squarely a 5, possibly in some arenas a 4. Not nothing, but I feel like no one was really thinking of it.”

And how would you describe it now?

“Maybe we’re approaching a 7, I feel like there’s been progress, but there’s still a long way to go in my opinion.”

What are some ways we can start addressing these issues? What are some tangible ways you are planning to enact?

“For me, some of the first places [is] forming the inclusive research services task force in Special Collections, pulling together a group to look at descriptive practices and applications, and what we’re doing with creating coordinated processing workflows. Putting these issues on the table from the beginning is really important… Right now because we’re primarily in an online environment, i think we have some time to negotiate and change our practices so when we are re-open to the public and people are physically coming in to the spaces, we have new forms, new trainings, people have gone through training that gives them a better sense of identity, communication, diversity.”

After my conversation with Katie, I feel optimistic about the direction we are heading in. Knowing how open Special Collections & Archives is about taking critique and trying to put it into action brought me comfort. I’m excited to see how these concerns are addressed and how the department will be putting Dynamic Inclusivity, one of Florida State University’s core values, at the forefront of their practice. I would like to give a big thank you to Katie McCormick for taking the time to do this post with me and for having these conversations!

(C)istory Lesson

Our next submission is from Rachel Duke, our Rare Books Librarian, who has been with Special collections for two years. This project was primarily geared towards full-time faculty and staff, so I chose to highlight her contribution to see what a full-time faculty’s experience would be like looking through the catalog.

Frontispiece and Title Page, Salome, 1894. Image from

The item she chose was Salome, originally written in French by Oscar Wilde, then translated into English, as her object. While this book does not explicitly identify as a “Queer Text,” Wilde has become canonized in queer historical literature. In the first edition of the book, there is even a dedication to his lover, Lord Alfred Bruce Douglas, who helped with the translation. While there are documented historical examples of what we would refer to today as “queerness,” (queer meaning non-straight) there is still no demarcation of his queerness anywhere in the catalog record. Although the author is not necessarily unpacking his own queer experiences in the text, “both [Salome’s] author and its legacy participate strongly in queer history” as Duke states in her submission. 

Oscar Wilde and Lord Alfred Bruce Douglas

Even though Wilde was in a queer relationship with Lord Alfred Bruce Douglas, and has been accepted into the Queer canon, why doesn’t his catalog record reflect that history? Well, a few factors come into play. One of the main ones is an aversion to retroactively labeling historical figures. Since we cannot confirm which modern label would fit Wilde, we can’t necessarily outright label him as gay. How would a queer researcher like me go about finding authors and artists from the past who are connected with queer history?

It is important to acknowledge LGBTQ+ erasure when discussing this topic. Since the LGBTQ+ community has historically been marginalized, documentation of queerness is hard to come by because:

  • People did not collect, and even actively erased, Queer and Trans Histories.
  • LGBTQ+ history has been passed down primarily as an oral tradition. 
  • Historically, we cannot confirm which labels people would have identified with.
  • Language and social conventions change over time.

So while we view and know someone to be queer, since it is not in official documentation we have no “proof.” On the other hand, in some cultures, gay relations were socially acceptable. For example, in the Middle Ages, there was a legislatively approved form of same-sex marriage, known as affrèrement. This example is clearly labeled as *gay* in related library-based description because it was codified that way in the historical record. By contrast, Shakespeare’s sonnets, which (arguably) use queer motifs and themes, are not labeled as “queer” or “gay.” Does queer content mean we retroactively label the AUTHOR queer? Does the implication of queerness mean we should make the text discoverable under queer search terms?

Cartoon depicting Oscar Wilde’s visit to San Francisco. By George Frederick Keller – The Wasp, March 31, 1882.

Personally, I see both sides. As someone who is queer, I would not want a random person trying to retroactively label me as something I don’t identify with. On the other hand, as a queer researcher, I find it vital to have access to that information. Although they might not have been seen as queer in their time period, their experiences speak to queer history. Identities and people will change, which is completely normal, but as a group that has experienced erasure of their history, it is important to acknowledge all examples of historical queerness as a proof that LGBTQ+ individuals have existed throughout time. How do we responsibly and ethically go about making historical queerness discoverable in our finding aids and catalogs?

Click Here to see some more historical figures you might not have known were LGBTQ+.

Light. A. Fire.

For this blog post, I am choosing to write this from a more candid place, in hopes that people understand why change in library description is necessary. My last post talked about How to Transition on 63 Cents a Day, showing how there are outdated terms referencing Lee Krist’s identity in the catalog record. Those terms are still in the catalog record. My first post discussed how there are 0 results when you search “LGBT.” There are still zero results in Special Collections and Archives for that search. I started these posts as a way to facilitate the conversation about white supremacy in library settings, and to create some tangible ways to start addressing them. 

I was initially hired by Special Collections to update the artists’ book inventory, focusing on the labeling of printmaking techniques, themes, and identities to make them more accessible. One of the first books I ever worked on was How to Transition on 63 cents a Day. I remember updating the SCA spreadsheet of search terms with every term I could think of, the first one of them was LGBT. These terms have yet to make it into the catalog record. It feels frustrating to me because I have been doing this kind of work since my first day in Special Collections, but it seems progress moves at a glacier’s pace.

Tackling systemic issues within universities and other similar institutions sometimes feels impossible. Contacting the right people, organizing multiple meetings to discuss an action plan, finding the resources to do so, etc. etc. etc. and all while following “proper protocol.” Following bureaucratic etiquette, more times than not, perpetuates a mess of red tape that always ensnares progress for marginalized communities.

Meetings are important. I understand that! I just want tangible progress, and the ability to keep track of what’s been done in this effort. In a predominately white cisgender heterosexual career and institution, meetings can often feel performative rather than action-based. So much has been written about performative allyship in the workplace when it comes to racism, feminism, and anti-queer sentiment.  A recent Fortune article discusses performative allyship in workspaces, where organizations are “condemning racism through broad gestures but enabling its effects.” 

We all acknowledge that prejudice is bad. We all acknowledge that we want to “get better.” But you don’t “get better,” you DO BETTER. We haven’t uplifted the community that these problems have affected, so how can we say that we’re addressing them? One of the most important parts of creating change is recognizing that no person or institution is perfect. True allyship doesn’t lie in perfection (OR POLITENESS); it lies in the ability to accept critique and take accountability, which is what I hope we can do as a division and as a library. Next week is our first meeting about this initiative, and I want to make this about ACTION, to “light a proverbial fire.” 

I’m asking my division colleagues to do this “Privilege Check Game” prior to the meeting. We’d love for you to play along, and to think of one way that you can make your work more inclusive. This can be as big or as small as you want. 

Privilege Check Game: Start with 10 fingers!

Put down a finger if…

…you’ve ever been called a slur?

…you’ve ever had to see the same slur you were called in a catalog record?

…you’ve searched your identity (race, gender, sexuality, etc.) and no results came up?

…you’ve ever had someone (actively) not address you by your name or pronouns at work?

…you’ve ever had your identity “explained” to you by someone not of that identity? 

…you’ve ever had your identity affect how people behaved around/treated you?

…you’ve ever been anxious about your job status due to federal/state law?

…you’ve ever not spoken out in a situation for fear that you might get in trouble/people will think you’re overreacting?

…you’ve ever gotten frustrated when people use gendered language (guys, dude, sir/ma’am)?

…you’ve ever felt unwelcome in professional/academic spaces?

… you’ve ever had to switch the way you present yourself in different settings (appearance, clothes/style, language/speech, name/pronouns, etc.)

Inspiration for game:

TRANSforming the Stacks

This post is one of a series..png

***Trigger Warning: trans slurs/derogatory terms***





The object she found is How to Transition on 63 Cents a Day by Lee Krist, which is an unbound letterpress-printed artists’ book by a transgender man that describes the author’s transition and coming out story through postcards addressed to his mother and other ephemera. It is a very intimate story meant to bring us into his gender and family experience in a personal way. When students interact with it, they report feeling as though they’re digging through a collection of personal memories, like an act of voyeurism. This book was published in 2013, making it fairly recent.


Video Excerpt of How to Transition on 63 Cents a Day by Lee Krist, 2013

Though How to Transition on 63 Cents a Day is an amazing book that is well designed and a beautifully told story, and I’m excited for the opportunity to share the text here, it does not qualify for the challenge I initially raised. This project is geared towards highlighting queer and trans BIPOC voices, which are sorely lacking in FSU Special Collections and Archives. Kacee’s efforts to provide an example, though not exactly what I was looking for, both demonstrates this lack and creates an opportunity to explore problems in subject headings for these materials. 

Keeping in mind that this is a queer and trans-focused project, it is important that we also recognize history. Black and Latinx trans women were at the forefront of the fight for queer rights. Aside from throwing the first brick, which is still a point of contention, BIPOC trans individuals were at the apex of the queer rights movement and that is something that all institutions must acknowledge and recognize when collecting these histories. As FSU’s Pride Union was founded the same year as the start of the Stonewall Riots, I feel that this holds especially true for us. Out of the three titles that appear when you search the term “transgender,” none of them are by queer or trans people of color. Equitability and accessibility must be taken into consideration at all library levels, from acquisitions to cataloging.

Reina Gossett: Historical Erasure as Violence from BCRW Videos on Vimeo.

How to Transition on 63 Cents a Day is a great text and has been very useful in giving some insight into the trans experience. Many in our library commonly pick it when they want LGBTQ+ related materials. However, when I looked at the catalog record for it, I discovered outdated and now offensive terms are found in the “Subjects, general” section of the entry. I don’t have a libraries degree (yet), and I have only been working with Special Collections for a year, but it blew my mind that these derogatory terms made it into a catalog record for a book published this decade. After ranting to my roommate for 30 minutes on the impact of white supremacy in library settings, I wanted to know where these terms came from. 

In order to unpack these issues, a little background is needed, and I thought I’d share what I discovered in the process of my research. 


Subject Headings for How to Transition on 63 cents a Day

In an attempt to standardize the organization and classification of information, the Library of Congress developed a list of terms to be referenced and used when creating records for materials. This list is one of the banks that institutions may pull search terms from when intaking materials into their system. Terms were chosen based on what they thought the ‘average patron’ would search to find materials about a certain topic… 

Take a guess what the ‘average patron’ looked like to these information gatekeepers. Search headings for identity groups were, it seems, determined by what they thought a cisgender heterosexual affluent white christian male would search to find it. The record for How to Transition on 60 Cents a Day is evidence of this historical practice. The thing that’s particularly cruel about this is queer and trans people (or any marginalized person for that matter) has to comb through slurs and strife to even look at their own history.

Click here for the article I referenced for this section.


Just because a subject heading exists does not mean institutions are required to adhere to them. Cataloging decisions and methodologies are governed by best practices, but the ultimate decision lies within the jurisdiction of the institution. In the next blog post in this series, I will be exploring current/best practices and the ways they perpetuate outdated/derogatory terminology. I especially want to take a look at copy cataloging as a practice, and how we can/will intervene when a copied record contains terminology that needs to be addressed.

Quick queer and trans history:

A cursory overview of trans history: