From the Archives: 100 Years of Culinary Ephemera

Salma Serry  |  Research on the Arts Program  |  2021  |  Egypt

This research project surveys, analyzes, and digitally archives 100 forgotten historical cookbooks and ephemera such as menus, food packaging, food businesses’ receipts, posters and ads, as well as store signs from Southwest Asia and North Africa. The research celebrates, showcases and acknowledges these forgotten or marginalized productions of the 20th century that contributed to the rich culinary history of the region beyond “national” heritages. It invites researchers, designers, writers, chefs, artists, historians, and scholars to approach food as an integral lens into the past.

The main output of the project is a book manuscript for a compendium of archival material, in English, that presents 100 pieces of these source materials, and tells a narrative of the region’s culinary history of the 20th century by situating these materials within a larger political, cultural and socio-economic context. Each presented piece will be accompanied with a brief text that explains the story behind the piece, its historical significance, and how it reflects the larger social, political or cultural events of the time. The second part of the project aims to create an online archive of these culinary materials and invite others to contribute with additional ones, to expand the database and create a community-based collaboration that sustainably lives beyond the duration of this project.