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. Culinary Ephemera cover imageThe 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.”

To learn more about the food relics contained in the book, read an interview with William Woys Weaver or view a slide show of images at the Philadelphia Inquirer.