The Ritual Landscape of Michigan State University

Last week I attended the Society for American Archaeology annual meeting, held this year in Washington D.C. This was a particularly pertinent meeting for Campus Archaeology because a symposium was held in honor of Dr. Lynne Goldstein. As she nears retirement and the end of her tenure as professor and CAP Director, it was evident from the symposium that her influence on the field of archaeology is far from over. The impact of her mentorship to students and the collaboration with colleagues was felt throughout every paper.

One theme that prevailed throughout the symposium was landscape and the ritual use of space. Dr. Goldstein has written extensively about mortuary patterns (how, where, and why people bury their dead) and regional analysis to evaluate patterns of settlement and ritual land use. Papers from MSU’s own Dr. William Lovis and Dr. Jodie O’Gorman, in addition to former Campus Archaeology fellow Dr. Amy Michael, all paid tribute to Dr. Goldstein’s legacy by considering their own research from this spatial perspective.

This got me thinking: what is the ritual landscape of Michigan State University, both past and present? And how might we see this archaeologically?

Dr. O’Gorman discussed how migrating populations may maintain certain rituals from their place of origin, while also engaging in new rituals in order to integrate both into the social and natural environment of their new homes. This is reflected in the environment of a college campus. Students come to MSU from across Michigan, the US, and abroad bringing their own rituals and personal items with them. However, once students arrive on campus, they form and engage in a united identity: that of an MSU student. This identity can then be enacted through rituals that are often closely tied to specific locations across the campus landscape.

Football Revelry ca. 1910

Football Revelry ca. 1910. Image Source

MSU tail gaiting today. Image source.

MSU tail gaiting today. Image source.

Sports comprise an important part aspect of MSU identity. Football games and tailgating are important rituals at MSU. While football itself might not leave behind the much in the way of archaeological remains (besides a giant stadium), tailgating certainly might. Archaeologists often find refuse pits with large amounts of food refuse and broken pottery, the remnants of ancient feasting events, or large meals accompanying special occasions or ceremonies. Many ancient societies held community-wide events that left significant archaeological signatures, such a large amounts of broken pottery and food refuse. Today, the area around the tennis courts on the MSU campus are the hub of student tailgating, a form of feasting, and will likely someday be a treasure trove of interesting finds (at least those items missed by MSU’s otherwise stellar clean-up crews). If tailgating or other sport-related revelries were historically held elsewhere on campus, we may find evidences of these activities during our campus surveys.

Sacred Space during the early days of the campus

Sacred Space during the early days of the campus. Image source

Sacred Space today

Sacred Space today. Image source

The “Sacred Space” is the large open area north of Beaumont Tower, which is the unofficial “center” of campus.  New construction has been banned in this area since the 1870s. Although students certainly use this space, and in the future we may find refuse of their presence there, we would not expect to find much in the way of trash pits or construction refuse dating to after fits establishment (although the pre-1870s archaeology of this area is quite rich). This is common of many ancient city center plazas, where city-wide ceremonies were held. Sometimes the absence of structures or other archaeological evidence is the strongest indicator of ceremonial space as they are kept clean and clear of structures to allow room for ceremonies and their participants.

Sparty Statue - Image Source

Sparty Statue – Image Source

Graduation is arguably the most significant ritual enacted on a college campus. Graduates routinely get their pictures taken next to the Sparty statue on north campus, and may even hold more significance in this milestone than the location of the actual graduation ceremony. Sparty is what archaeologists call a “monument,” or large, immovable objects that visually mark space with significance and meaning. Monuments are common in the ancient world, from the burial mounds of the Midwest, to the obelisks and temples of ancient Egypt and Greece.

The Rock.

The Rock. Image Source

The Rock, a more informal monument on campus, is a large boulder which various student groups take turns painting, either promoting their student group or serving as a way to express solidarity, protest, and/or discontent with current events. It is so much a symbol an important symbol of MSU heritatage that someone wrote a whole book on it! Students sometimes camp out to ensure their chance for painting the rock, so we may one day be able to see this refuse archaeologically. A few years ago, a chunk of the hundreds of layers of paint fell off, revealing an enthralling stratigraphy representing decades of student voices and creativity. One artist made “Spartan Agate” jewelry from it, allowing alum to wear a piece of MSU archaeological history around their necks.

 Mary Mayo Hall, a stop on the Apparitions and Archaeology Tour, is said to be haunted


Mary Mayo Hall, a stop on the Apparitions and Archaeology Tour, is said to be haunted. Image source

CAP’s yearly Apparitions and Archaeology Tour is inspired by ghost stories associated with various buildings and features across the campus. These spectral legends are closely tied to landmarks on the landscape but leave no archaeological trace. These represent aspects of the past that archaeologists want to know but struggle to uncover: myths and legends. Reflective of a culture’s ideology, oral histories and myths often prove elusive to archaeologists unless recorded in the written records. Even in the age of print and social media, these ghost stories might have simply been passed down from generation to generation of students without official recordation, eventually forgotten, had they not been recorded by CAP for our famous tour.

One way oral history and archaeology can converge is through public outreach. So, I turn the rest of this blog over to you, dear readers! If you are a current or former student, faculty, or staff member, what are the places on campus that are most special to you? Are there areas of ritual or ceremonial significance that you know of (used by a specific student group, etc) from the past or present that Campus Archaeology should know about or document? Share your stories in the comments!

Campus Archaeology “On-The-Go”: Delivering Historic Meals to the Public

As our regular readers know, the Campus Archaeology Program has been deeply engaged in chronicling the culinary past of our forebears at Michigan State University. Our work involving archaeological analysis of food remains found on campus and archival research detailing historic foodways on campus culminated last year in an 1860s MSU luncheon reconstruction (detailed here and here). Prepared by MSU Culinary Services and MSU Bakers, we had a delectable spread of historically-based dishes upon which to dine and enjoy.

Cod fish balls and potato croquettes served at the luncheon.

Cod fish balls and potato croquettes served at the luncheon.

The one downfall of the historic luncheon was the limited guest list. While we were able to invite people from across the campus, our budget limited us to about thirty guests. One of the primary objectives of the Campus Archaeology Program is public outreach, and although we documented the luncheon on our blog and on other social media (such as Facebook and Snapchat), this still deprived the general public of the opportunity to taste these dishes and interact with the past on a sensory level. Chef Jay Makowski, who helped prepare the luncheon, came up with the brilliant idea to feature certain dishes in the MSU ON-THE-GO Food Truck. We thought this was a modern, trendy, and accessible way to help MSU students, faculty, and other members of public connect with the past.

Eat at State On-The-Go Food Truck. Image Source

Eat at State On-The-Go Food Truck. Image Source

Therefore, in collaboration with MSU Culinary Services, we are excited to announce that variations of historic dishes will be available as options of the MSU Eat At State ON-THE-GO Food Truck. These “Throwback Thursday” and “Flashback Friday” special lunch events will feature versions of some of the foods served in the 1860s luncheon.

The menus include a few favorites from last year’s lunch: potato croquettes (deep-fried balls of mashed potatoes), codfish balls (basically potato croquettes with cod mixed in), and chow-chow (a delicious sweet vegetable relish).

A new menu item is the “shooter sandwich” with roast turkey, a pressed meat sandwich that was a popular during the early 1900s. We featured roast turkey with oyster stuffing at the original historic luncheon, and this is a convenient “on-the-go” version of the dish. Another new dish includes a pressed beef epigram. An epigram is traditionally a breaded and fried cutlet of lamb; our version features a twist by using pressed beef, a popular dish that was served at 19th-century MSU banquets. Other hearty, traditional foods featured include smoked chicken drumsticks and a pork sausage roll.

Check out the MSU Food Truck and picnic like it's 1909

Check out the MSU Food Truck and picnic like it’s 1909! Image source.

We hope this will be a great way to engage with the public and make learning about the past an exciting experience. If you would like to “taste the past,” then come by the MSU ON-THE-GO Food Truck for some Throwback Thursday and Flashback Friday fun!

The ON-THE-GO Food Truck serves lunch from 11:30am – 1:30pm. The Rock is located just north of the Red Cedar River on Farm Lane, and 1855 Place is located at 550 S Harrison Rd, East Lansing. The menu schedule is listed below:

ON-THE-GO Food Truck “Throwback Thursday”/“Flashback Friday” Schedule

Thursday, March 29 (at the Rock)
Potato Croquette with Chow Chow
Shooter Sandwich with Roast Turkey
Smoked Chicken Drumstick with Herb Roasted Red Skin Potato

Friday, April 13 (at 1855 Place)
Potato Croquette with Chow Chow
Shooter Sandwich with Roast Turkey
Fresh Pork Sausage with Chow Chow on Pub Roll

Thursday, April 19 (at the Rock)
Codfish Balls with dipping sauce
Pressed Beef Epigram
Smoked Chicken Drumstick with Herb Roasted Red Skin Potato

Friday, April 27 (at 1855 Place)
Codfish Balls with dipping sauce
Pressed Beef Epigram
Fresh Pork Sausage with Chow Chow on Pub Roll

(And don’t worry – if throwback foods aren’t your thing, the Food Truck will also feature their famous smoked cheddar burger each of these days.)

“Club Cheese” Chronicles: If You Think That Sounds Grate, Just Wait, It Gets Cheddar

Kaukauna Cheese Crock from the Brody/Emmons site

Kaukauna Cheese Crock from the Brody/Emmons site

While a great many treasures have come from the Brody/Emmons complex (aka the East Lansing dump), the one that spoke to my heart will be of little surprise to our regular readers. It is a small stoneware crock with blue lettering that says “Kaukauna Klub, Man’f’d By South Kaukauna Dairy Company, Kaukauna, Wisconsin.” Since I grew up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin, I have written extensively about the history of dairy at MSU and other products historically imported from my home state to campus, but this artifact combined all the things I love into one li’l crock o’ creamy joy.

Peter Fassbender moved to the United States from Prussia in 1856, and, after settling in Kaukauna, a city located between Green Bay and Appleton, WI, he slowly grew his dairy and built a cheese factory in 1887. His son, Hubert, inherited the factory in 1901, thereafter expanding it into one of the largest creameries and cheese factories in the region. In 1918 he officially founded the South Kaukauna Dairy Company, which facilitated nation-wide distribution of his factory’s products.

Hubert Fassbender (left) with his brother Henry ca. 1930

Hubert Fassbender (left) with his brother Henry ca. 1930. Image source

Kaukauna crock with original wire bail lid

Kaukauna crock with original wire bail lid. Image source

Hubert invented cold pack cheese, a spreadable cheese made by combining finely ground cheese with whey solids, dry milk, and flavorings. After the end of Prohibition, Fassbender got into the beer distribution game as well, and offered businesses, such as taverns, clubs, and hotels, free cold pack cheese with substantial beer purchases. The cheese become popular among patrons, who began to refer to it as “club cheese.” Thus, in 1933, Fassbender began mass-marketing the product in its signature gray crock with a wire bail lid. Kaukauna Klub cheese became a nationwide model for other spreadable cheese products due to It popularity.

Kaukauna cheese spread on crackers still makes a tasty snack (and yes, I did use this blog as an excuse to eat cheese)

Kaukauna cheese spread on crackers still makes a tasty snack (and yes, I did use this blog as an excuse to eat cheese)

In 1973, the operation moved to a larger factory in nearby Little Chute, WI, and expanded business by adding cheese balls and cheese logs to its repertoire. After changing hands between several parent companies in subsequent decades, Kaukauna was purchased by Bel Cheese USA, the American subsidiary of Fromageries Bel, a Paris-based company. Today, Bel Brands also sells the popular Babybel and Laughing Cow cheeses, cornering the market on spreadable cheese snacks.

So, when was our li’l crock of joy originally enjoyed by some lucky East Lansing resident? The original 1930s crocks were labeled with the motto “It Spreads Like Butter” and featured a diagonal placement of the brand name. The crock discovered by CAP at the Brody Dump most likely was manufactured a bit later, probably in the late 1930s, with more embellished crocks used in later decades. And how can you get your hands on Kaukauna cheese today? Their products are currently available in Meijer and Kroger stores in East Lansing and Lansing. The original cheese spread is still sold in flavors like sharp cheddar, port wine, and garden vegetable (although now in plastic tubs rather than crocks) and cheese balls and logs likewise come in a variety of flavors. So if you want to be a member of Club Cheese like East Lansing residents of the past, buy your own li’l crock of joy today.

Cheese balls and cheese logs are other delicious Kaukauna products​

Cheese balls and cheese logs are other delicious Kaukauna products​. Image source

Sources:

http://www.kaukaunacheese.com/About-Our-Company.aspx

https://www.encyclopedia.com/books/politics-and-business-magazines/belkaukauna-usa

http://www.belbrandsusa.com/our-brands/

“Learning with Labor:” The Legacy of Student Labor at MSU

Fields and hoop houses at the MSU Student Organic Farm

Fields and hoop houses at the MSU Student Organic Farm

This past November, Dr. Goldstein, Dr. Camp, and several CAP fellows visited the MSU Student Organic Farm for a tour and to discuss a possible partnership. Tucked away in the southern reaches of campus, the farm is a tidy series of fields and greenhouses, the latter of which allow food to be grown year-round. Established in 1999 by students who wanted to learn how to grow food in sustainably, the SOF provides experiential learning opportunities resulting in productive outcomes, such as a successful CSA, the sale of produce to MSU Culinary Services, and products packaged and sold by Land Grant Goods, MSU’s first student-run business.

The Student Organic Farm is part of a long history of experiential learning from agricultural labor at MSU. If you weren’t already aware, Michigan State University was established in 1855 as the Agricultural College of the State of Michigan. It served as a model for the Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890, which allowed for the establishment of land-grant colleges that were devoted to educating students in agricultural and mechanical arts, as opposed to the typical liberal arts colleges of the day. Therefore, agriculture is inextricably tied to the foundations and history of MSU.

 Agricultural students posing with farm implements on campus,1886


Agricultural students posing with farm implements on campus,1886. Image Source.

One of the central tenets of the early College was the “judicious combination of labor and study”—meaning that labor and hands-on experiential learning was as important as classroom learning (1). The earliest students were expected to labor on campus for three hours every day, “planned with reference to illustrating and applying the instruction in the Lecture Room” (2). The earliest students spent as much time working the agricultural fields as they did clearing the lands surrounding the college for future agricultural endeavors. In his 1858 diary, Edward Granger mentioned “logging” and “chopping wood” as his daily tasks almost as often as “gardening” (3).

Students were compensated for their labor, and this remained one of the major arguments in favor of required labor. It allowed students who may not otherwise be able to afford to attend college to receive higher education. Money earned in the fields went towards the cost of room and board and made education available to poor farm boys from across the state (1).

 Agriculture class in the campus orchards

Agriculture class in the campus orchards. Image source

However, mandatory labor eventually became unpopular with students. An 1882 op-ed in The College Speculum complained about compulsory manual labor, which students felt no longer allowed them learning experiences, and instead labor assignments were made based on existing student knowledge and strengths. Individuals who did not know how to do certain tasks were not assigned to them for the sake of efficiency, which robbed them of opportunities for learning new skills (4). Discontent and resentment among the students was on the rise. By 1884, daily labor requirements were reduced to two-and-a-half hours daily (5), perhaps in response to this discontent.

Three students on a tractor in 1919, zooming into the future and leaving mandatory labor behind

Three students on a tractor in 1919, zooming into the future and leaving mandatory labor behind. Image source.

Mandatory student labor continued at MSU much longer than it did at other land grant institutions. This was made possible by the College’s unique yearly schedule. Classes were held spring through fall, with the long vacation break over the winter months. It was this schedule that allowed student labor to remain a major part of the College’s curriculum for over forty years. However, in 1896, the College moved the long break to the summer months, and without viable labor options over the winter, mandatory labor requirements came to an end (1).

This does not mean there was an end to experiential learning. Students have continued to work on the MSU Farm, Dairy, and Dairy Plant, gaining practical experience everyday. And the establishment of the Student Organic Farm demonstrates student hunger for experiential learning and the productivity such endeavors can result in.

So why did CAP visit the Student Organic Farm to begin with? Why this exploration of student labor? There is a possible collaboration between our two organizations that is on the horizon, but that’s all I can say for now. Stay tuned for more news!

 

Sources:

  1. Kuhn, Madison (1955) Michigan State: The First Hundred Years. The Michigan state University Press East, Lansing.
  2. Annual Catalogue of the State Agricultural College of Michigan, 1883-4
  3. Diary of Edward G. Granger, 1859 (MSU Archives UA10.3.56, Folder 1)
  4. The College Speculum, Vol. 2 No. 1, October 2, 1882.
  5. Annual Catalogue of the State Agricultural College of Michigan, 1884-5

Boarding Clubs to Culinary Hubs: The Evolution of Dining at MSU (Part II)

As college students return to MSU from winter break, dining halls across campus are opening back up to feed the hungry masses. As discussed in my previous blog, the original dining hall (aka boarding hall) on campus left much to be desired by the students, who took the issue into their own hands and lobbied for the establishment of boarding clubs in lieu of college-run dining. The college approved this move in 1883.

The earliest boarding clubs were housed in Wells and Williams Halls. Williams Hall, date unknown. Courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections. Image Source.

The earliest boarding clubs were housed in Wells and Williams Halls. Williams Hall, date unknown. Courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections. Image Source.

The newly established boarding clubs were managed by the students, each employing a steward in charge of purchasing provisions and managing cooks and other hired help (1). Initially, there were five clubs, each with their own dining room on campus—three in Williams Hall and two in the basement of Wells hall (2). Each club consisted of 30 to 40 students, which reportedly led to less boisterousness and “no more duels…with pickles or crackers” (2) (which, to be honest, sounds much less fun to me). Students were initially assigned to clubs but could switch as availability arose, and the clubs catered to both the taste and price point of its members (2,3). Much like today, students could earn wages by working for the clubs, so it worked to further defray costs of education for some students (2).

Front view of the original Wells Hall, date unknown. Courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections. Image Source.

Front view of the original Wells Hall, date unknown. Courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections. Image Source.

Although both the official college catalogue and The College Speculum, the student newspaper, initially labeled the boarding clubs a success (3, 4), the praise did not last long. The first sign of trouble appears in 1891, when the boarding clubs drafted Articles of Association, an incorporation that facilitated the “avoidance of bad debts by a legalized corporate existence,” (5), which allowed the Boarding Association to require payment ahead of time rather than relying on the seemingly unsuccessful honor system. Together, the boarding clubs had a total debt of $3100, quite sizable for the time (6).

Further instability of the clubs is seen in the constant fluctuation of their number. There were originally five clubs: A, B, C, D, and E. Club F was organized in a small house off campus in 1883 (4), bringing the number to six, but there were only four clubs listed in 1895, and by 1900, only two are mentioned in the college catalogue. By 1915, the clubs included A, B, C, D, E, and G (sorry, Club F), each club having 80-85 members, except Club C, which catered to the 190 female students at the college (7).

In the 1920s, there was but a single boarding club for men. While it operated in Wells Hall, the only men’s dorm of the time, its occupants were not required to eat there. Membership was purchased on a weekly basis, so the club had trouble purchasing the proper amounts of food (8). Bowls of food were brought out to tables and each person helped himself, so food often ran out before everyone had access to it. The food was generally inexpensive, lacked variety, and was high in starch and calories (8).

Women's Building (aka Morrill Hall), which housed Women's Commons dining hall. Courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections. Image Source.

Women’s Building (aka Morrill Hall), which housed Women’s Commons dining hall. Courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections. Image Source.

Furthermore, Wells Hall only housed 200 men, and in the 1930s, the remaining 3200 male students lived in fraternity houses, with relatives, or in various housing in Lansing and East Lansing (2). Since the boarding club was unreliable and limited, most of these men ate either in restaurants around East Lansing, or, much like today, ate cheap homemade meals, including “spaghetti, day-old bread, red bean, peas, [and] beef heart.” (2, p. 357). Overall, nutrition for male students of the early 20th century was lacking.

Women's Building (aka Morrill Hall), which housed Women's Commons dining hall. Courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections. Image Source.

Women’s Building (aka Morrill Hall), which housed Women’s Commons dining hall. Courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections. Image Source.

The same could not be said for the women. Club C became the Women’s Commons in 1921, coming under the control of the Home Economics Department (9). This gave female students experience in the management of institutional food service (1). The Commons had excellent food and service and subsequently was in high demand for banquets and frequented by faculty (8). In 1922-23, the women studying institution management also opened and ran the Flower Pot Tea Room, housed in the Station Terrace building excavated by CAP this past summer.  The Commons and Tea Room were successes in institution-run food services and paved the way for the future of dining at MSU.

Construction of Mason Hall, marking the beginning of the end of the boarding clubs. Courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections. Image Source.

Construction of Mason Hall, marking the beginning of the end of the boarding clubs. Courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections. Image Source.

A new men’s dorm, Mason Hall, was opened in 1938. It housed a new college-run dining hall and board was required along with the room. The College’s new devotion to providing adequate meals to all incoming students was the final death knell for the boarding clubs at the MAC (2, 8).

Although at times troubled and inconsistent, the student-run boarding clubs lasted over 50 years. They began with students voicing concerns about welfare, and while successful for a time, it seems the ever-increasing student population proved too great for the boarding clubs to handle, a problem better handled by a centralized dining program. Today, MSU Culinary Services does an excellent job with providing students, staff, and faculty with quality food in a variety of options. So if you are near campus and get hungry, EAT AT STATE!

References Cited

  1. Widder, Keith R. (2005) Michigan Agricultural College: The Evolution of a Land-Grant Philosophy, 1855-1925. Michigan State University Press, East Lansing.
  2. Kuhn, Madison (1955) Michigan State: The First Hundred Years. The Michigan state University Press East, Lansing.
  3. Annual Catalogue of the State Agricultural College of Michigan, 1882-3
  4. The College Speculum, Vol. 3 No. 1, August 1, 1883.
  5. University Club Boarding Association Articles of Association, 12 Nov, 1891 (MSU Archives UA 17.107, Folder 97, Box 2407)
  6. Letter from Harry D. Baker, to Groesbeck, Dec. 24, 1891 (MSU Archives, Madison Kuhn notes, UA 17.107, Box 2415)
  7. Annual Catalogue of the Michigan Agricultural College, 1914-1915
  8. Vail, Marion Louise (1950) A Study of Food Service Units in East Lansing, Michigan, Comparing 1929 with 1949. Unpublished M.S. thesis, Department of Institution Administration and School of Home Economics, Michigan State College, East Lansing.
  9. MAC Record, 2 No. 3, Oct 14, 1921.

All Over the Board: Student Discontent and Agency in the Historic MSU Boarding Halls

I’ve written at length about the foods purchased by the early campus boarding hall (aka dining hall), as well as the dishes they likely served. However, what we do not know is what the students thought of this food. Did they like it? Or did they find the boarding hall offerings unsatisfactory? Items such as diaries and student newspapers can provide students’ perspectives on the meals they were served. In the case of early MSU, student dissatisfaction with food eventually led to widespread changes in the early boarding system in the 1880s.

Saints' Rest, the original boarding hall and site of illicit late-night feasting activities

Saints’ Rest, the original boarding hall and site of illicit late-night feasting activities. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

Edward Granger was among the earliest students at the Agricultural College, and luckily wrote in great in detail about food served in Saints’ Rest, the first student dorm (ca. 1858-1859). Granger occasionally expressed positive feelings about the food, stating on Christmas Day that he “had a fine Christmas dinner considering that it was in the Agricultural College.” The next day, he wrote “After meeting we had a feast… Chicken and peaches, brown bread and ginger snaps. Everything was first rate, and we had a glorious meal.” (1)

However, Granger generally wasn’t the biggest fan of the food served by “the Institution,” as he refers to it. He mentions frequently skipping dinner and despairingly declares “[I] finished my supply of good things and suppose I shall have to live on the Institution or starve.” To cope, Granger and his friends ate snacks from home in their rooms or occasionally stole food from the kitchens. One late night he recounts that “Mr. Charley and Bush have just returned from an expedition to the lower regions. The booty consists in about a peck of fried cakes, to a portion of which we have been giving ample justice.” Another evening, a snack of eggs led Granger to observe, “Where Charley procured the eggs I don’t know. We asked no questions for conscience’s sake.” (1)

Cover of the first issue of The College Speculum

Cover of the first issue of The College Speculum. Courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

Student discontent with food increased over the following decades as the college grew. The students expressed their anger through the establishment of a student newspaper, The College Speculum, and dissatisfaction with food served in the boarding hall is indicated as one of the principal arguments in favor of starting the paper (2). The first issue of The Speculum contains a lengthy treatise on the “question of the students’ board”. The author notes:

“Our system itself is no doubt at fault. Two hundred different tastes and dispositions can never be satisfied with the same food. The wholesale preparation of victuals is objectionable. Food cannot be well prepared in large quantities, and with the haste that necessarily attends such preparation. The wholesale use of canned and prepared goods, which are nearly always unwholesome, is a feature which has been overlooked. The finest vegetables are now growing in the garden, and are literally wasting as fast as they become eatable. Canned beans, peas, corn, tomatoes, etc., take the place of fresh food in the dining hall. With these facts before us we do not wonder that so many students complain of ill health, and so many leave college on that account.” (3).

Holy mackerel! Was Emory Fox charging his luxury food items to the students?!

Holy mackerel! Was Emory Fox charging his luxury food items to the students?! Image source.

This treatise may have been laying the groundwork for a student movement against the boarding hall steward, Emory C. Fox. The boarding hall stewards purchased supplies, oversaw food preparation staff, and presided over the tables in the dining hall (4). Fox was the steward from 1877-1881, and was extremely unpopular with students. In 1881 they charged him with fraud, claiming that Fox purchased lemons, oysters, mackerel, and oranges but that these items were never served to the students, implying that Fox purchased these items for himself (5). The students accused Fox with several other acts of fraud, as well (6).

After a review of the charges against Fox, the college Board of Trustees found that the alleged illicit food items were actually served to sick students in their rooms, and they found Fox to be an overall competent steward (7). However, on August 15, 1881, President Abbot notes that Fox resigned following the backlash but that “there was some hesitation about allowing him to resign” on his part (8).

This was not the end of student discontent, however. The Annual Catalogue of the State Agricultural College listed average weekly boarding costs for the prior academic year. During Fox’s tenure as steward, the average cost was between $2.27-$2.38. Under his successor, Conroy B. Mallory, this cost rose to $3.15 in the Spring of 1882. Students appreciated the improved menus under Mallory’s tenure, but not the increased cost (9).

Professor Rolla C Carpenter (c. 1885 pictured with his surveying equipment) was instrumental in bringing about the boarding clubs at the College.

Professor Rolla C Carpenter (c. 1885 pictured with his surveying equipment) was instrumental in bringing about the boarding clubs at the College. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

The idea of boarding clubs was inspired by Professor Carpenter, who, after observing the boarding system of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, painted a “bright picture” of the advantages of the club-boarding system, including better food at less cost (4). The Speculum supported this idea, suggesting the establishment of cooperative boarding clubs which would be under the control of the students. The establishment of smaller clubs would also serve to resolve the “boisterous conduct” seen in the solitary boarding hall (3).

The College, likely weary of student complaints, was quick to acquiesce to this plan. Cost effectiveness and practical concerns for feeding the increasingly large student body undoubtedly also played into the decision to do away with the traditional centralized boarding system. The transition is mentioned once in the Board meeting minutes:

“Prof. Carpenter presented the petition of the from the students of the College asking the Board to allow them to adopt the System of Boarding in clubs & made recommendations regarding the carrying out of this plan… It was resolved that the Secretary be Authorized to have the College Carpenter construct moveable partitions according to the plans of Prof. Carpenter in the basement of Wells & Williams Halls for five clubs at a Cost not to exceed $150.00 dollars.” (10)

The College Catalogue for 1882-1883 includes the first formal proof of the establishment of such clubs, stating, “A new plan of boarding in clubs has lately been put into operation. Separate kitchens and dining halls have been provided, and five clubs have been organized, by which the students are divided into groups not exceeding forty persons” (11) The average cost of board was $2.45, much less than the previous year.

Following this move, The Speculum reported that “not a word of complain was heard as to [the club system’s] price or quality,” marking a drastic change from prior discontent (2). However, this level of satisfaction would not last forever, and the boarding club system would see critiques, modifications, and eventual dissolution. But that’s a story for another time…

This account of MSU’s early food services is full of the kind of drama that makes for exciting history. More importantly, it exemplifies the power of unified student voices in times of great discontent, and just how much food-related issues can drive people to question and challenge powerful institutions.

 

References:

  1. Diary of Edward G. Granger, 1859 (MSU Archives UA10.3.56, Folder 1)
  2. The College Speculum (1883) Vol. 3 No. 2, p.12
  3. The College Speculum (1881) Vol. 1, No. 1, p.7
  4. Beal, W.J. (1915) History of the Michigan Agricultural College. Agricultural College, East Lansing (p. 216)
  5. State Agricultural Board of Trustees Meeting Minutes, 15 August 1881 (MSU Archives)
  6. The College Speculum (1881) Vol. 1, No. 2
  7. State Agricultural Board of Trustees Meeting Minutes 28 July 1881 (MSU Archives)
  8. Diary of Theophilus Abbot, 15 August 1881 (MSU Archives UA.2.1.3, Box 861)
  9. Kuhn, Madison (1955) Michigan State: The First Hundred Years. The Michigan state University Press East, Lansing.
  10. State Agricultural Board of Trustees Meeting Minutes 27 November 1882 (MSU Archives)
  11. The College Catalogue for 1882-1883 (1883). Agricultural College, East Lansing (p. 38)

Spirits and Cemeteries: Burial Traditions of Michigan and Beyond

Dr. Goldstein, Mari, and Jack investigating a possible mound

Dr. Goldstein, Mari, and Jack investigating a possible mound

In mid-October I went with Dr. Goldstein and CAP Fellows Mari and Jack to check out a possible precontact-period Native American burial mound. Although we are Campus Archaeology, we like to do outreach that extends beyond MSU. This usually entails activities at elementary schools, the Apparitions and Archaeology tour, Michigan Archaeology Day, etc., but this was a unique opportunity to help out a landowner who was curious about a unique feature on his land. More importantly, it was a potential opportunity to document an important aspect of Native American cultural heritage.

Mounds constructed by Native American groups are found across Eastern North America, some of the earliest dating back thousands of years. Some of these are large platform mounds, such as Monk’s Mound at Cahokia in Illinois (if you haven’t heard of this ancient city, look it up!), which were used for ceremonial purposes, but there are few of these in Michigan. More common in this area are conical (round) burial mounds, attributed primarily to Woodland groups (1000 BC – AD 1600). Mounds are often found in groups, and while you may equate this to an ancient cemetery, you should instead be careful of such a simple comparison.

Euro-American culture generally separates the physical remains of the deceased from any spiritual significance. Cemeteries are where bodies are laid to rest, while the individual’s spirit or soul continues on elsewhere. Therefore, cemeteries are places of memorial for those who remember the deceased, typically secular in nature. While we respect human remains, their significance lies in the memory of the living, and memory, as we know, is often fleeting.

On the other hand, Native American societies believe that the human remains hold spiritual significance and power. Therefore, burial grounds, including mounds, are sacred spaces – sanctified grounds of great ideological importance. Native peoples past and present feel that they are spiritually linked to all their ancestors and are therefore responsible for protecting their physical remains in perpetuity, ensuring they are undisturbed.

A burial mound in Kalamazoo County, MI

A burial mound in Kalamazoo County, MI. Image Source

Understanding this ideological difference about human remains is important for understanding why archaeologists strive to preserve and protect these burials. While archaeologists find ancient skeletons very informative about past lifeways, we have come to understand the value of human remains to their descendant communities. We now identify mounds in order to protect them, and no longer excavate them unless they will be destroyed by construction and an agreement has been made with affiliated Native American tribes to move the remains elsewhere. Laws such as NAGPRA have been enacted to aid in the protection of these important heritage sites. We encourage our readers to respect these sacred mounds and leave them undisturbed.

Turtle Effigy mound on Observatory Hill, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Turtle Effigy mound on Observatory Hill, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Image Source

While we don’t have any burials, ancient or recent, on the MSU grounds, The University of Wisconsin-Madison (my alma mater) has a few effigy mounds on its campus. The Effigy Mound Tradition (AD 650 – 1200) of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, and Illinois constructed burial mounds in the shapes of birds, various quadrupeds, and even the mythical water panther (a tear-drop shape). Our own Dr. Goldstein (1995) wrote a wonderful piece on how the effigy mounds not only represented clans, but also mapped out important resources across the landscape. These mounds, therefore, were layered with meaning and integrated the sacred remains of the dead with the spiritual and physical sustenance of the living.

Ultimately, our mound hunting expedition turned up short. The feature we investigated was sadly not an ancient Native American mound, but we are grateful the landowner called on us to check it out. We would rather investigate a false mound than allow a legitimate mound to remain undocumented and endangered. In the end it was a fun expedition to the woods, and we all learned a lot from the experience.

Where ancient and modern burials meet: Forest Hill Cemetery in Madison, WI, is built around a Effigy Mound group

Where ancient and modern burials meet: Forest Hill Cemetery in Madison, WI, is built around a Effigy Mound group. Image Source

And if you find yourself wandering about a modern or historic cemetery this Halloween, try to remember that these are places for memorial of those who have gone before us, and be respectful. But… that doesn’t mean that you can’t look for some lingering spirits along the way….

 

Sources

Goldstein, Lynne
1995   Landscapes and Mortuary Practices: A Case for Regional Perspectives. In  Regional Approaches to Mortuary Analysis, edited by Lane A. Beck, pp. 101 – 121. Plenum Press, New York.

https://naturalhistory.si.edu/arctic/html/repattb.html

You Eat What You Are: Consuming Identities of the Recent and Ancient Past

Chicken and waffles from Eastside Fish Fry in Lansing, MI.

Chicken and waffles from Eastside Fish Fry in Lansing, MI.

Two days ago, Dr. Goldstein, Dr. Camp, and the Campus Archaeology fellows went to Eastside Fish Fry in Lansing to have some chicken and waffles, and we had a deliciously good time. Why did we embark on this endeavor? The Flower Pot Tea room, operating from 1922-1923 (Kuhn 1955) in the Station Terrace building the CAP field school excavated this summer, listed this dish on one of their menus. It struck us as odd that a dish so closely associated with southern cuisine would have been served in Michigan during this early period.

Although I love trying new foods, I must admit that I never tried chicken and waffles until about a year ago. This was partly because I had little opportunity to do so—it still is not a common dish in the Midwest—and partly because, well, it sounded weird. I didn’t grow up eating it and the combination, quite honestly, sounded strange to me.

This demonstrates an interesting point: the foods we choose to eat and the way we prepare them are often closely associated with the contexts in which we are raised. In other words, what we choose to eat is shaped by and representative of our identities.

This concept is evident when looking at personal accounts of early MSU students. Peter Granger, who kept a diary during his first year at MSU in 1858-1859, demonstrates this in his writing. Although from Detroit, getting used to the food at the College seemed difficult for Granger, who several times laments the lack of chicken on the menu and also wrote:

     December 28, 1859: “Didn’t get home till they were most through eating supper. Ate       a little down there and then had something good in my room.”

     January 1, 1859: “Finished my supply of good things and suppose I shall have to           live on the Institution or starve.”

Granger also several times laments the lack of chicken served in the boarding hall (he likely would have gladly enjoyed chicken and waffles!). While these accounts may simply reflect the poor food options served by the boarding hall, we must also consider our own experiences. Isn’t your mother’s or grandmother’s way of cooking a dish your favorite? No one can seem to rival mom’s roast beef or grandma’s pie. Students continuing to eat food from home or longing for the moment when they can visit home and have a home-cooked meal is something nearly all college students, past and present, can relate to. Food that evokes memories of home and comfort might best represent our personal identities.

What else is often integral to a college student’s identity? Why, getting into trouble, of course! There are a great many accounts of students stealing food from various sources across the university. Granger once “hook[ed] a loaf of bread and some molasses” while another night he and his friends feasted on a “booty [of] about a peck of fried cakes” after an “expedition to the lower regions.” Anecdotes from the class of 1895 demonstrate a similar penchant for mischief. Instead of stealing food from the kitchens, these young men concentrated on fruits from the orchard. In one hilarious tale, the boys tied the bottom of their pant legs and stuffed them full of apples. Upon getting spooked by an approaching figure, they had to dash off in pants full of fruit! (Kains 1945).

Students in the MSU Apple Orchards, 1912

Students in the MSU Apple Orchards, 1912. Image Source

These personal accounts of food habits are easy to access in the written records, given the right sources. Understanding eating behaviors of individuals in the archaeological record, however, is a bit trickier. Food remains found in ancient trash pits and historic privies can be connected to general groups, but not necessarily individuals. Sometimes trash pits can be associated with individual households, such as at Fort Michilimackinac, an 18th-century fort in northern lower Michigan. Here, archaeological faunal remains showed that French households consumed local wild animals, while later English houses ate a variety of imported domesticated livestock, as did Jewish families, with the exception of pigs (Scott 1996). The French were adaptive to their new environment, while the English wanted to express their superiority and sophistication through the consumption of animal species they had dominated and domesticated. Jewish consumers expressed their ideological identity by choosing NOT to eat pork, as dictated by their religious customs.

Colonial Fort Michilimackinac

Colonial Fort Michilimackinac. Image Source.

These archaeological and archival evidences can show how people may have expressed their identities through what they chose to eat and what they refused to eat. We have yet to find food remains in contexts associated with certain population subsets (such as students vs. faculty or men vs. women) at MSU, so determining food identities on campus archaeologically is not yet possible. Thankfully, we have the archival information to help us fill in the gaps. And as we dined on chicken and waffles, we expressed our identities as archaeologists eager to connect with the students of MSU past, as we ponder their food choices and attempt to understand them.

 

Sources:

Kains, Maurice G., editor.
   1945   Fifty Years out of College: A Composite Memoir of the Class of 1895 Michigan State College of Agriculture and Applied Science. New York: Greenberg.

Kuhn, Madison
1955   Michigan State: The First Hundred Years. The Michigan state University Press  East, Lansing.

Scott, Elizabeth M.
1996   Who Ate What? Archaeological Food Remains and Cultural Diversity. In Case
Studies in Environmental Archaeology, edited by Elizabeth J. Reitz, Lee A.           Newsom, and Sylvia J. Scudder. Plenum Press, New York.

Michigan State University Archives & Historical Collections:

UA10.3.56, Edward Granger Papers, Folder 1
Diary of E.G. Granger, 1859

The Tell-Tale Tart: Chronicling Campus History with Cake

Birthdays—at my age, they are just another day in our gradual and inevitable march through time, but my one pleasure in marking my incremental increase in years is eating cake. Cake is my favorite food, and I’ve mentioned it in other blogs before, but since I had a blog due on my birthday this year, I decided to exploit the situation for my own advantage and write about this exquisite dessert.

Cake is an iconic, beautiful marker of momentous occasions and our biggest celebrations: birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, and graduations. Birthday cakes have a long history in Europe, where they began as fruitcakes. The modern layered birthday cake became popular in early America where there were fewer bakeries and home bakers used layers to make taller cakes more quickly (Byrn 2016:266). Although bakeries are more plentiful now and bake many birthday cakes, they carry on the tradition of being tall, layered spectacles. Check out the awesome options offered on campus by MSU Bakers!

Bakers along side MSU centennial cake. Image source: MSU Archives

Bakers along side MSU centennial cake. Image source: MSU Archives

Anniversary celebrations also frequently include cake. For its centennial anniversary in 1955, MSU had a large and ornate layered cake made. For MSU’s sesquicentennial (150th) anniversary in 2005, the Dairy Store released an ice cream flavor that remains a favorite today: Sesquicentennial Swirl. It is vanilla ice cream with white cake and green frosting swirls. Cake evokes such feelings of communal celebration that it was incorporated into this celebratory flavor.

Last year I wrote about an 1884 banquet held for the MSU class of 1886. They served ten (10!) different types of cake at this occasion, including chocolate (my personal favorite). My perusals of earlier cookbooks found they rarely included chocolate cake, and it only became popular in the 1880s after companies like Hershey arose and railroads facilitated travel and the spread of ingredients and ideas. The first chocolate cake recipe wasn’t published in the US until 1886 (Burn 2016:68), so these MSU students were ahead of the curve!

Although cake can act as a public symbol of jubilation, it can also play an important role in everyday life. As much as I enjoy birthday and wedding cake, so do I enjoy grabbing a coffee and cupcake with a friend, or enjoying a slice at home by myself when relaxing after a long week. It is these little moments that do not get captured in photos posted in the newspaper, but instead these are moments captured in the memories of students as part of their experiences here at MSU.

The earliest mention I can find of cake on campus is from the diary of Edward Granger in 1858. On Christmas Eve he wrote, “12 o’clock (midnight) Mr. Charley and Bush have just returned from an expedition to the lower regions. The booty consists in about a peck of fried cakes, to a portion of which we have been giving ample justice” (UA10.3.56, Folder 1). Whether these fried cakes were more like donuts or johnny cakes we cannot be sure, but it’s obvious that these scandalously-procured items were a sinful treat for these mischievous college students. Granger also revealed an affinity for ginger treats, which inspired the ginger cake we served at our 1860s meal reconstruction last spring.

Ginger Cake and Charlotte Russe made for CAP's 1860s Meal Reconstruction

Ginger Cake and Charlotte Russe made for CAP’s 1860s Meal Reconstruction

One of the most entertaining accounts of cake come from Maurice Grenville Kains in a memoir from the Michigan State College of Agriculture Class of 1895. He recounts a take from Boarding Club A, when the notorious Joe Bush would sneak into the dining hall before everyone else so that he could position the pie or cake of the day near his seat so he could choose the biggest piece and also assure that he would get a second piece once the dessert was passed back around. His fellow students grew tired of his hijinks and delayed him from entering early one day, and “when he saw his place, the whole room burst into a roar of laughter; for beside his plate was a little pig trough!” (Kains 1945:135).

The Anna E. Bayha Home Management House was one of four buildings on campus built to give women students the task of living in and running their own homes (see Lisa’s post from a few years ago for more information). Each year, the Bayha House residents made photo albums documenting both everyday and special events that went on in the house. In the Fall 1949 Album is a delightful page titled “Char Baked a Cake” with comments such as “frosting is good!” inscribed on the page (UA.15.3, Vol. SB10, Scrapbook 10, 1947-1953). This is a lovely peek into the lives of women on campus, and it appears they enjoyed both baking and eating their culinary creations.

Page from the 1949 Bayha House Scrapbook. Image used with permission of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

Page from the 1949 Bayha House Scrapbook. Image used with permission of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

The Bayha scrapbooks even provided us with a clue to an archaeological mystery on campus. CAP found pieces of distinctive plates with raised edges at the Gunson trash pit. The Gunson house later became the Bayha House, and a photo from the 1946 scrapbook shows the ladies serving cake on the same style plates!  We do, however, know that this type of plate was likely used for serving cake and other desserts, and may have been specially reserved to function as cake plates on campus.

A page from the 1949 Bayha Home Management Scrapbook showing the serving of birthday cake on glass plates. Image used with permission of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

A page from the 1949 Bayha Home Management Scrapbook showing the serving of birthday cake on glass plates. Image used with permission of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

Fragment of a glass plate recovered from the Gunson/Admin Site.

Fragment of a glass plate recovered from the Gunson/Admin Site.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cake has undoubtedly played a significant role in the history of MSU, acting as a symbol of celebration, community, friendship, leisure, and even defiance in both the public and private lives of student and faculty alike. With the popularity of Sesquicentennial Swirl, the vast array of cakes available in the cafeterias, and the gorgeous creations of the MSU Bakers for birthdays and graduations, I think cake will continue to be an iconic treat on campus for a very long time.

Well, that’s enough from me. Writing this blog has made me hungry, so I’m going to follow in the footsteps of my MSU predecessor’s and go eat some cake!

Sources:

Byrn, Anne. American Cake: From Colonial Gingerbread to Classic Layer, the Stories and Recipes Behind More Than 125 of Our Best-Loved Cakes. New York: Rodale, 2016.

Kains, Maurice G., editor. Fifty Years out of College: A Composite Memoir of the Class of 1895 Michigan State College of Agriculture and Applied Science. New York: Greenberg, 1945.

Michigan State University Archives & Historical Collections:

UA10.3.56, Edward Granger Papers, Folder 1
Diary of E.G. Granger, 1859

UA.15.3, College of Human Ecology Records, Vol. SB10
Scrapbook 10, 1947-1953

Eating Our Way Through History: A Preview of CAP’s Historic MSU Meal Recreation

As I’m sure any of our regular readers are aware, CAP has been looking into the foodways of the early MSU campus this year.  Our ultimate goals for the project were to create a website documenting early foodways on campus, and to recreate an 1860’s MSU-inspired meal based on archaeological and archival research. Autumn is almost ready to launch our website, and our meal recreation is this Thursday, April 27!

​MSU Culinary Services will be preparing the lovely meal for us.

​MSU Culinary Services will be preparing the lovely meal for us.

We have worked closely with Chef Kurt Kwiatkowski and Chef Jay Makowski of MSU Culinary Services and Cindy Baswell of MSU Bakers to create a historic menu fit for a king… or maybe just a nineteenth-century college student. In any case, I believe this will be a delightful treat.

Here is the menu, with explanations as to why each dish was chosen:

Appetizer: Codfish Balls

Codfish balls closeup!

Codfish balls closeup! Image source

​Historic cookbook from Port Huron, MI. Image source: MSU Special Collections

​Historic cookbook from Port Huron, MI. Image source: MSU Special Collections

While we have no evidence that anyone ever made codfish balls on the early college campus, codfish was purchased by the boarding halls in the 1860s. A church cookbook from Port Huron, MI, lists this appetizing recipe:

“Parboil fish, pick it up; mash a few potatoes, mix well with the fish; add a little butter, enough sweet cream to moisten, then make in small cakes, dip into corn meal and fry in pork gravy.”

Basically, it is a fancy fish stick that will clog your arteries faster than you can say “I love Midwestern cuisine!” So naturally, we had to include it as our appetizer.

Main Dishes: Walleye; Spiced Beef; Turkey with Oyster Dressing; Beef Tongue

What initially inspired our meal recreation was the food remains found in a privy excavated on campus in 2015. Many fish bones were encountered, including walleye, a quintessential Midwestern fish. There is no mention of walleye in the boarding house account books, so this fish may have been caught locally rather than purchased.

Beef was purchased by the early college boarding halls and undoubtedly was a common item on their menu. A menu from 1884 (for the Class of ’86) lists both “pressed beef” and “beef tongue, spiced” on the menu. Both pressed beef and spiced beef are brined and cooked slowly, then pressed and served cold. Spiced beef has, well, more spices and presumably more flavor, and it is common in nineteenth-century cookbooks, so we selected that as our primary beef dish. Beef tongue is also frequently featured in historic cookbooks, and we threw it in there just to have a more oddball option that we can dare our guests (and ourselves) to try!

​Beef tongue - you know you want to try it!

​Beef tongue – you know you want to try it! Image source

Turkey was a special dish served at the Agricultural College. It was purchased seasonally for Thanksgiving and early students took part in hunting and feasting on wild turkeys as well. We have written much about oysters on our blog in the past, and so we felt we had to include them in our dinner. Since we felt we should adhere to the historic habit of consuming canned oysters, which sound wholly unappealing, we decided to incorporate them into a stuffing for the turkey. Together, the turkey and stuffing represent the “special occasion” dish for this meal.

Sides: Chow-Chow; Potato Croquettes

​Chow-chow. Evidently still popular in Tennessee

​Chow-chow. Evidently still popular in Tennessee. Image Source

Chow-chow is a popular vegetable relish in the nineteenth century, and it is still popular in parts of the South. Made with tomatoes, peppers, onions, as well as with other vegetables such as cabbage and cauliflower, it consists of foods that would have been easily grown in the college gardens. Chow-chow is also featured on the 1884 banquet menu, suggesting it was an important and common side on historic tables.

Potato croquettes are basically deep-fried mashed potato balls, so naturally we wanted to eat them. A cookbook from St. Paul’s Episcopal Church of Lansing (ca. 1890) had a whole section devoted to croquettes, suggesting their local popularity. Early campus boarding halls did sometimes purchase potatoes, but also grew their own, as student work logs record them “working in potatoes” and “hoeing potatoes and peas” in 1869.

Desserts: Ginger Cake; Charlotte Russe with Raspberries

Is this what we mean by "ginger cake"?

Is this what we mean by “ginger cake”? Image source

It is apparent from nineteenth century cookbooks and banquet menus that cake was a popular dessert. And can you blame them? Cake is amazing. There is nothing in the MSU records specifically mentioning ginger cake, since specific recipes weren’t written down and specific spices were never recorded in the account books. In his diary, Edward Granger mentions stealing cakes from “downstairs” (presumably the kitchens) and eating ginger snaps at Christmas in 1859. Recipes for gingerbreads and cakes are abundant in historic cookbooks, meaning it was likely a common dessert at the time.

Our final dish will be Charlotte Russe. Nowhere is this fancy molded dessert of custard, gelatin, and cake mentioned in the MSU records but it is heavily featured in historic cookbooks, as are molded and gelatin desserts in general. Furthermore, an abundance of raspberry seeds were found in the historic privy on campus, so the raspberries will be incorporated into the meal in the Charlotte Russe.

Bread: Graham Bread

Graham bread is just a fancy term for whole wheat bread. While today we consider whole wheat to be the healthiest and premium flour, in the past it was not considered as refined as bleached white flour. The early boarding halls purchased graham flour and undoubtedly made much of their bread and rolls using it. It may sound like a healthy component of our meal, but historic recipes often incorporate molasses into the bread.

​We will eat many grams of graham bread

​We will eat many grams of graham bread. Image source.

***

We are very much looking forward to our lovely meal on Thursday. Invitations have been sent out and we hope to have a wonderful time with guests from across the campus. Autumn will be writing a summary of the event, so look for that next week!

 

Sources:

What the Baptist Brethren Eat, and How the Sisters Serve It, a variety of useful and reliable recipes compiled by the Ladies of the first Baptist Church, Port Huron, Mich. Times Company, Port Huron, 1876.

Michigan State University Archives:

Edward Granger Papers, UA10.3.56
Diary of E.G. Granger, 1859

Peter H. Felker Papers, UA10.3.44, Folder 2, Box F.D.
Peter Felker Diary, 1869

Madison Kuhn Collection, UA 17.107, Vol. 32,
“Accounts 1867-1873”.