The Tome of the Unknown Gastronome (hereafter TotUG) is a large, rather hefty, book, measuring approximately 16 x 12 inches, with thick cardboard pages and an exterior cover of (now) very tattered thin black cloth. After perusing a few pages, I initially thought the book was originally some sort of clothing catalog, given the empty forms for sizes and vintage illustrations of suits and hats. However, then pages appeared with photographs of U.S. army troops at various camps (see subsequent posts for more details), so I am still puzzled as to the original intended purpose of the album, which is perhaps a composite of two different texts. And though both the front and back cover pages are completely filled with recipes and articles, other interior pages are the book are completely blank, suggesting that those pages (many of which contain the soldier photographs) were of some importance to the author.
After a rather tedious counting process, I found that the TotUG holds approximately 1027 recipes in addition to hundreds of articles, poems, local anecdotes, and aphorisms. I have no intention of exploring every single pasting, but will focus on select individual items that are particularly interesting, weird, or suggestive about the character of the author(s) and the historical/cultural setting. I plan to begin to begin where, I assume, the author did, with the inside left front cover page and then worked my way through the final interior right front cover. I am wary of the perils of trying to figure “the point” of this text (does there even have to be one?), for God help anyone analyzing my own scrapbooks in an attempt to locate some grand theme or universal message. I am nevertheless excited at the prospect of learning more about the time and place in which the author(s) lived by examining her contributions and hypothesizing about what inspired them. This book is a delicious puzzle and I intend to savor every bite. Even if I’m not quite sure what I’m consuming.