Pumpkins and Pies in Special Collections

And the pumpkin pie in its covered place
Makes you wish for it so, that you have the grace
To lift the cover and flee with the pie
– “A Parody on ‘Green River,'” Jessie A. Connor in the 1895 Bomb (p. 149)

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A page from Erwin’s 1927 article, “A Systematic Study of Squashes and Pumpkins,” from collection RS 9/16/16

It’s autumn! Well, it’s almost autumn, as the equinox that marks the end of summer falls on September 22. With autumn arrives all the great comfort foods of the season. I will not speak for you, but in my mind, mashed potatoes, homemade applesauce, and squashes of all shapes and sizes come running to the forefront. What do these delicious things have to do with the archives?

Arthur Thomas Erwin (1874-1970) was a professor of horticulture who taught at Iowa State from 1901 until 1915 before researching vegetables as a staff member of the Iowa Agricultural Experiment Station for 40-plus years. As part of this work, he helped classify the various species of squash, pumpkins, and peppers. We have a box of his papers (collection RS 9/16/16) that sheds some light on his discoveries. Article titles include “Notes on Some of the Newer Vegetables” (1937), “The Peppers” (1932), and “A Systematic Study of Squashes and Pumpkins” (1927). If you are more likely to read an article than bake a pie, one of these might be your chosen reading material.


Two cookbooks from Special Collections’ rare and archival bookshelves that feature fall desserts

For people who are more of the pie-making type, we have plenty of recipes waiting for you in Special Collections. An obvious source of information is our cookbook collection. Information about the collection is available through this online exhibit and the books are all in the library catalog when you enter the phrase Cooking – Iowa into the search box. Not every cookbook will have a recipe for pumpkins or other squashes, of course, but many do. In her book Sweets Without Sugar, Marion White offers recipes with various sugars that aren’t the run-of-the-mill white stuff. The book jacket explains: “Plain granulated sugar, though easy to use and inexpensive to buy, offers little to the diet… it is harder to digest that the ‘simple sugars’ found in natural fruits and provided in honey, syrups, and molasses.” In White’s recipe for Pumpkin Pie, my go-to fall creation, she simply substitutes 1c of plain sugar with maple syrup. Sounds delicious! I’ll be giving this a try in my oven this pumpkin season.

Special Collections also holds copies of books that are written or edited by University faculty, so that section of our materials boasts a few cookbooks as well. I was both wary and delighted to see a 1998 book, Vegetable Desserts: Beyond Carrot Cake and Pumpkin Pie, by now-retired Professor of Nutrition Elisabeth Schafer and Jeannette Miller, a registered dietician. The book is helpfully arranged by vegetable: chapters include beans, jicama – a tuber that is similar to a turnip, and, more familiarly, rhubarb. A number of the recipes include squash and pumpkins in particular, including a Pumpkin Tofu Pie that… well, seems to be a pumpkin pie with added tofu. Considering how popular links that advertise “cookie dough that is made with chickpeas” and “brownies made with black beans” are on Pinterest, I think Vegetable Desserts could make a comeback. My coworkers are going to be taste-testing cocoa lentil cake with cocoa mocha frosting at some point – I’m too curious not to try it.

So go forth and bake – or research – away the autumn, friends. Make a visit Special Collections for inspiration in either!

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