If you had to compose a meal using only one ingredient, what would you choose? If you want your menu to stand the test of time, corn’s not a bad idea. William Woys Weaver’s latest book, Culinary Ephemera, tells the story of a “corn festival” hosted in 1886 by the Ladies’ Aid Society of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. The offerings were “corn mush, corn bread, corn-starch blanc mange and—I kid you not—corn coffee,” notes a recent review in the Wall Street Journal. The menu was even printed on a corn husk, which has survived to this day—”a comment on the serendipitous nature of ephemera collecting,” says Weaver.
Here are some other choice bits described in the Journal review:
“an 1887 advertising circular for the pork products of the Strawberry Hill farm in Florence, Mass. (a drawing of a pig emblazoned ‘No cholera here!’); an 1870s business card for the J.F. Hoffman & Co. Pie Bakers in Pittsburgh (their pies were ‘O.K.’); and a candy wrapper for Black Jacks molasses treats made in the 1890s in Salem, Mass.”