About the Culinary Historians of BostonOur Membership
Members share an interest in the social history of food and an eagerness to learn. Beyond that their interests and backgrounds are eclectic. We are cooks, writers, teachers, architects, dentists, salespeople, students. We are men and women, young and not-so-young. We are welcoming.
Speaker meetings take place monthly, on a weeknight. All speaker meetings are open to the public. Meetings are at either the Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe Institute, or the library gallery at Newbury College, 129 Fisher Avenue Brookline, MA 02445-5796.
The culinary Historians of Boston welcomes new members. Annual dues are $45 per person and $15 for students. Non members will be charged $5 per meeting which may be applied toward memberships. Membership forms will also be available at each meeting. See Membership Form link at left, or click the "Jelly-mould."
The festive annual banquet is usually held in the spring. We charge attendees a nominal fee to cover expenses. All members participate by cooking, setting up, or cleaning up. The banquet committee meets separately to prepare menu and recipes, and to cook a major dish. Serving on the committee is a good way to meet members informally.
Occasionally, we sponsor trips to view pertinent exhibits. We've visited the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Plimoth Plantation, the Culinary Museum at Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island, and elsewhere.
The first culinary historians organization in the United States began, appropriately enough, over lunch.
Early in 1980, Ann Robert, a restaurateur, invited Joyce Toomre and Barbara Ketcham Wheaton, both of whom are writers, to lunch. She knew they shared an interest in the history of food and thought they'd enjoy becoming acquainted. They recall eating salmon in puff pastry and forming an instant friendship. On May 29th of the same year, the trio invited a few other like-minded friends and acquaintances to join them at the first meeting of what was to become The Culinary Historians of Boston. That meeting, held under a maple tree in Radcliffe Yard in Cambridge, was a brown-bag lunch.
The group began meeting at different locations, eventually finding a home at Radeliffe's Schlesinger Library, where then-Curator of Printed Books Barbara Haber was acquiring a formidable collection of cookbooks and other works having to do with food. They drew up bylaws, elected a board, began publishing a newsletter, and gained official nonprofit status as The Culinary Historians of Boston. Today the CHB has members from all over the country and the newsletter has an extensive readership.
The CHB meets one evening a month, from September through May. Each meeting features a speaker on topics that range widely. They have included: "The Cuisines of Mexico," "The Food of Emilia-Romagna," "Careme's Architectural Drawings," "Corn," "The Emergence of Paris Restaurant Culture," and "the Goober Pea." The names of those who have spoken at CHB meetings read like a who's who in the world of food: Gary Allen, Jean Andrews, Virginia Bartlett, Alan Davidson, Betty Fussell, Darra Goldstein, Karen Hess, Nancy Harmon Jenkins, Sheryl Julian, Madeleine Kamman, Lynne Rossetto Kasper, Zarcla Martinez, Ellen Messer, Marion Nestle, Nawal Nasrallah, Sandra Oliver, Andrew F. Smith, and Rebecca Spang. The meetings always include time to socialize and, naturally, to enjoy refreshments.
At the conclusion of each year, the group celebrates with a period banquet that tries to be as authentic as possible. A committee selects a place and time, researches the recipes and serving style, and the members prepare and enjoy the feast. Banquet themes have included the foods of the Raj, the Philippines, the Italian Renaissance, the Civil War, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Ancient Rome, Fiestas of Southern Mexico, the court of Ferdinand and Isabelle, Samuel Pepys, Thomas Jefferson, Native American Indians, 5000 Years of Iraqi Cooking, and New Orleans.
Copyright © 1999-2018 by Culinary Historians of Boston. Button images adapted from Miss Parloa's Kitchen Companion (1887), The New Franklin Primer and First Reader (1885), and St. Nicholas magazine, March 1877.