The Ryerson has mounted its own modest exhibition called “devouring Books” in conjunction with the big “Art and Appetite” exhibition at the Art Institute, which is reviewed elsewhere in the critical. The library is famed for its comprehensive collection of architectural texts, so the display of books from the collection that address subjects related to food is a lovely surprise.
But for the steep cost of admission to the museum, the little show at the Ryerson alone is worth a visit; for that matter, the vaulted reading room lined with elegant shelves itself merits attention. If you are a member, do not miss it or the treats currently there.
Among the treasures to devour; a scrapbook kept by an unknown English person between 1795 and 1840 that includes, among other things, culinary caricatures by Cruikshank. Also by Cruikshank is a set of twenty-six illustrated lottery tickets depicting characters who include Toby Fillpot (a cask with a pitcher for his head and human legs, holding a tankard) and The Grand Turk (a turkey clad in what passes for exotic Turkish clothing).
Reflecting the Field Museum exhibit dedicated to the Chicago World’s Columbian Exhibition of 1892, you can glimpse something closer to home, The Home Queen’s World’s Fair Souvenir Cook Book published by J. F. Waite the year before the big fair that a third of the American population visited. Its cover depicts the central structure at the White City and numerous illustrations of its predominantly beaux arts building are interspersed with the text. Collectively these buildings and their classical layout would have a profound impact on architecture and campus planning in the United States over the course of at least a decade. The book also features some 2,000 recipes. Turtle soup and devilled chicken are only two of the British standbys among them.
A nice copy, available on Etsy.
Like “Art and Appetite,” “Devouring Books” has gotten little attention outside Chicago or, at the moment, ‘Chiberia’ as its inhabitants have christened it while enduring an arctic vortex. Brave the cold and help rectify the oversight.