Author: Susan Kooiman

Getting to the Root of History: Reviving Past Crops with the Student Organic Farm

Getting to the Root of History: Reviving Past Crops with the Student Organic Farm

For the past several years, the Capturing Campus Cuisine project has resulted in some wonderful collaborations and outreach opportunities between CAP and other MSU programs. Our partnership with MSU Culinary Services has resulted in a successful historic luncheon reconstruction and “throwback” meals with the MSU ON-THE-GO […]

The Ritual Landscape of Michigan State University

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 […]

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

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

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

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, […]

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

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

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 […]

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

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

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 […]

Spirits and Cemeteries: Burial Traditions of Michigan and Beyond

Spirits and Cemeteries: Burial Traditions of Michigan and Beyond

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 […]

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

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

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 […]