The library houses a collection of over two thousand cookbooks and texts on food with a focus on local cuisine, southern cooking, and community cookbooks. The collection also includes reference sources concerned with culinary history and history of foodways, international and regional cookbooks, and guides to entertaining and hosting. It also includes a small manuscript collection comprised of papers on housekeeping in the South. These books and papers date from the 1850s to the present and are used by researchers from all over the world.
The Culinary Library also sponsors the work of the New Orleans Culinary History Group and an almost annual series of programs on culinary history. These programs rotate between lectures by nationally known culinary scholars and lectures by or discussions with prominent members of the culinary profession in New Orleans.
In these endeavors, the Center works with a number of other groups in New Orleans, including the Historic New Orleans Collection, Slow Food New Orleans, the Food and Beverage Museum, and other groups.
Richard H. Collin Collection
Although not found in the actual culinary collection, the books donated in memory of Richard H. Collin by Phyllis Mayronne and Michael Ledet can be found throughout the Nadine Vorhoff library and can be checked out as well. The most famous book Collin wrote was The New Orleans Underground Gourmet, establishing him as the first New Orleans restaurant critic.
More about our Culinary Collection
The Culinary History Collection was established in 1992 with gifts of two rather sizeable collections of historic and contemporary cookbooks. The Courtney Werner Collection dates primarily from the first half of the twentieth century and contains many specialty books featuring such topics as cooking with herbs and spices and the varieties of cooking particular to different regions of the United States. Perhaps the most impressive is the large selection of international cookbooks, many of which are published in their original languages. The Stella Adams Collection dates from the second half of the twentieth century and includes a great variety of southern, Louisiana, New Orleans and women’s groups cookbooks. An unusual example from this collection is Bon Melange (1976) a homemade book from the Amigas Club of Thibodaux, featuring original recipes for Louisiana specialties.
Because cooking and eating with others are fundamental human rituals, cookbooks provide important records of tradition and change within human cultures. Since women have traditionally been responsible for preparing and serving food, cookbooks also frequently disclose historic accounts of women’s domestic experiences as well as recipes for their own culinary creations. In addition, regional cookbooks document the rich cultural history and heritage of our population, including Creoles, Cajuns and African Americans.