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Chinese Culinary History

by Nyitray, Kristen and Patterson, Lisa


Spring Volume: 2012 Issue: 19(1) page(s): 33 and 35

The complete title to this article was going to be: Chinese Culinary History: A Guide to Conducting Research with the Dr. Jacqueline M. Newman Collection at Stony Brook University and Beyond. However, the editor truncated, saying it out of character with other article titles in this magazine.

AT STONY BROOK UNIVERSITY: Queens College retired professor and lifetime collector of Chinese cookbooks, Jacqueline M. Newman, donated her collection of almost four thousand of them to Stony Brook University. They volumes are almost all in English or English and another language. They are are the largest collection of this kind in the world. The first gift, more than half that number, was received by Special Collections of the University Libraries in 2002. Dr. Newman has continued to add to this collection, most recently in the summer of 2011.

Special Collections selects, acquires, preserves, and provides access to rare, valuable, and scarce primary and secondary materials in a variety of formats. They support educational and research endeavors of Stony Brook University's students, faculty, and staff. The department also extends its services to other nationals and international people to use its books, manuscripts, and maps dating from the 17th century; University Archives; audio/visual materials; and a digital repository. All are welcome to explore any or all of their unique collections.

Dr. Newman's books provide a valuable record of the Chinese Diaspora that has carried its rich cuisine to every corner of the world. In addition to the cookbooks, she also donated a large set of herbal medicine books, collections of haute cuisine magazines, audio-visual materials, and more than four thousand Chinese food slides.

At the time of the first donation, Newman commented, "I hope that this collection does more than just produce interest in Chinese cuisine... because food is a lot more than cooking." She went on to say the collection can "broaden conceptualization with its anthropologic, sociologic, cultural, and historic significance, and more. I looked at several places for my collection and chose Stony Brook for a variety of reasons...the fact that it has a special collections area means that the books will be preserved in perpetuity and in the proper fashion."

Dr. Newman has collected Chinese cookbooks for more than fifty years, her first Chinese cookbook was a wedding present. Chinese cooking has since developed into her area of research and special interest. She wrote her Ph.D. thesis on changing Chinese food habits in New York City, is the editor and publisher of the award-winning, quarterly magazine Flavor and Fortune, and is the author and editor of several books on Chinese cuisine and culture. "This collection is like a child to me," she said, and "it is hard to part with it, but I know that it will be in excellent hands at Stony Brook."

In order to facilitate worldwide access to the collection, a web page for the collection was developed and can be accessed at: http://www.stonybrook. edu/libspecial/collections/manuscripts/newman.shtml. The library also converted Dr. Newman's extensive annotated bibliography to a web-searchable database, thereby making the collection of cookbooks accessible at: http://sbufind.library.stonybrook.edu/vufind/Search/Advanced

USING THE NEWMAN COLLECTION AND OTHERS: to further enhance discovery of the resources in the collection and to connect researchers to supporting materials, a LibGuide was developed; there are many such freely-accessible ones, and we recently developed such a guide for Chinese culinary history. It is published on the website of Stony Brook University Libraries, and researchers and all interested parties can connect to it at: http://sunysb.libguides.com/chinese-culinary-history.

In the spring of 2011, Lisa Patterson, currently Curriculum Librarian at St. Joseph's College, pursued an archival internship in Special Collections and University Archives at Stony Brook University. One of the projects assigned to her by department head and University Archivist Kristen J. Nyitray was to research library materials, books, articles, and internet resources that complement the collection. The culmination of this assignment was published as a 'LibGuide' website portal that organizes and shares content on a specific subject. More than one hundred twenty-five thousand guides have been produced by libraries around the world.

This LibGuide developed by the two authors of this article is specifically for Chinese culinary history. They divided resources into: web sites; books; electronic resources; multimedia; primary sources; and articles. Mrs. Patterson writes about her experience, as follows:

As a student at the Palmer School at Long Island University, I was eager to see what my archival internship in Special Collections and University Archives at Stony Brook University would entail. Ms. Nyitray and I discussed collaborating on the creation of LibGuide to assist researchers in attaining quality resources, but I did not know what the topicS would be. When I discovered that Ms. Nyitray had selected Chinese Culinary History and the Culper Spy Ring as subjects, I was excited. What diverse and interesting topics! She gave me a tour of the department in order to familiarize me with the collections.

The Dr. Jacqueline M. Newman Chinese Cookbook Collection was amazing in both scope and content. An avid cookbook collector myself, I was now looking at the largest Chinese Cookbook Collection of its kind. I wanted to stay, read, and copy down recipes. There were thousands of Chinese cookbooks, including historical books on Chinese regional cuisines, traditional Chinese medicine, and rare magazines.

As I began to research Chinese culinary history, the first problem encountered was determining the best search terms for the topic. I wanted to identify materials on culinary history, not every Chinese restaurant in the United States. Eventually, I came across two terms unfamiliar to me: foodways and foodpaths. These words proved instrumental as I located books that pertained to my topic as I compiled a list of the subject headings. Using these search terms, I surveyed the holdings of Stony Brook University, the WorldCat database (worldcat. org), and the Worldwide Web.

A sample of the Library of Congress subject terms can assist future researchers; they appear on the first page of this Libguide. These terms include but are not limited to:

food habits—China
food habits--China--early works to 1800
cooking, Chinese--social aspects
cooking, Chinese--Manchuria
cooking--China--Fujian Sheng

As I researched books, it was all smooth sailing until I reached books with Chinese titles. Did I mention that I do not speak nor read Chinese? I had selected them based on subject headings in English, and was able to use WorldCat to determine proper citation format.

Ms. Nyitray and I collaborated on developing a framework for the LibGuides delineating resource categories to be used. This was my first experience in developing a LibGuide and I had a wealth of quality resources. I learned through trial and error and by experimenting with different fonts and layouts making this LibGuide as user friendly as possible. LibGuide templates, I discovered, are fully customizable allowing inclusion of multimedia elements. LibGuides are not only available online, but they are Mobile and Smartphone friendly. Once you have visited the LibGuide, please leave feedback or suggest further resources.

Collaborating on the creation of the two LibGuides was great. I loved the hunt for quality and pertinent resources relating to Chinese culinary history. The scope of the collection at Stony Brook is broad and deep, much more that a collection of recipes. It includes a vast array of primary and research materials on regional and ethnic cuisines, cultural traditions, medicinal cures, anthropological findings, political, religious, and historical events. All of these influenced Chinese history and Chinese culture through the ages.

This Chinese Culinary History LibGuide makes this remarkable collection accessible to all and it creates pathways to other global resources. We want to recognize Dr. Newman for her vision in creating this one of a kind collection and for her generous donation to Stony Brook University.

For more information, feel free to contact Kristen Nyitray at kristen.nyitray@stonybrook.edu or visit: http://sunysb.libguides.com/chinese-culinary-history.
Kristen J. Nyitray is Associate Librarian and Head of the Special Collections and University Archives/University Archivist at Stony Brook University; Lisa Patterson is Curriculum Librarian at St. Joseph's College in Patchogue, NY.

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