Arts and Entertainment

Libraries' 'A Full Course: Encounters with Food' exhibit is a visual feast

On display through Jan. 13 in Eberly Family Special Collections Library

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — To survive and thrive, we must all consume food everyday: eating is therefore one of the few universal human experiences. Beginning with this basic fact, a new exhibit featuring appetizing books, award-winning cookbooks, manuscripts and archival materials from the Penn State’s University Libraries’ Eberly Family Special Collections and the Libraries’ circulating collection of culinary art is on display through Jan. 13.

The exhibit is located in the Special Collections Library, 104 Paterno Library, and in Sidewater Commons, located on the first floor of Pattee Library on the University Park campus.   

The exhibition will consider the more contested and continuing questions surrounding food: Where does it come from, what and how do we cook and eat, and what role does food play in our collective imaginations? The books, manuscripts, posters, and ephemera on view will offer a feast for the eyes and food for thought by examining our various experiences with food, from producing and selling it to preparing and eating it.

Diverse cookbooks from Penn State's collections demonstrate that while cookbooks are commercial enterprises, they can also help establish communities, and copies with beloved recipes are passed down through generations. Highlights in the Eberly Family Special Collections part of the exhibit include a handwritten recipe for mead in a 17th-century book; a French treatise on ice cream paired with early records of the Penn State Creamery; WWI food-rationing posters, a German children's cookbook with miniature dishes and place settings; a first edition of "The Savoy Cocktail Book" from 1930, and a signed copy of "Where the Wild Things Are" by Maurice Sendak. 

The portion of the of the exhibit located in Sidewater Commons features cover art from award-winning cookbooks housed in the Libraries’ general collection of circulating materials. With a colorful and vibrant array of flavors, colors and textures, these books will fill your imagination with all things food. For example, “The Perfect Egg: A Fresh Take on Recipes for Morning, Noon, and Night,” by Teri Lyn Fisher, offers ideas for serving up one of the world’s most humble foods: the egg. For those interested in health, “The Book of Greens: A Cook’s Compendium of 40 Varieties, From Arugula to Watercress with More Than 175 Recipes,” by Jenn Louis, is a comprehensive guide to over 40 varieties of leafy greens. If on the other hand, you’re inclined towards the sublime, “Sweet: Desserts from London's Ottolenghi,” by Yotam Ottolenghi, is not to be missed. Finalist for the 2018 International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) Cookbook Award, “Sweet” includes such delectable as Hazelnut Crumble Cake with Gianduja Icing, Apricot and Amaretto Cheesecake and Rolled Pavlova with Peaches and Blackberries.

“We apologize in advance if this exhibition makes you hungry," said Jose Guerrero, Diversity Resident Librarian at Penn State Libraries and one of the co-curators of the exhibition. "Our hope is that you will leave with lots of food for thought since, as the exhibition shows, our relationship with food can be complicated. From a practical point of view, you might also be inspired and leave with new ideas about what to have for dinner."

"A Full Course: Encounters with Food" is curated by Guerrero; Clara Drummond, curator and exhibitions coordinator, Eberly Family Special Collections Library; and Christina Coyle, exhibitions coordinator, General Collections Library. The exhibit, scheduled for display until Jan. 13, 2019, is open for viewing in the Eberly Family Special Collections Library and Sidewater Commons during the libraries’ regular hours.

For more information or for questions about accommodations provided for this exhibit, contact Clara Drummond at

Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

Last Updated October 31, 2018