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College of Human Ecology

Alumna's papers on culinary curiosities make their way to K-State

Monday, September 19, 2005

MANHATTAN -- To Clementine Paddleford, a radish was no mere garnish, but rather "passionate scarlet, tipped modestly in white." And chowder was a living being that "breathes reassurance. It steams consolation."

The noted 20th-century food writer, with a flair for concocting lavish descriptions of epicurean proportions, graduated from Kansas State University in 1921 with a degree in industrial journalism. Now, a collection of her papers, given to her alma mater, is ready for researchers to sink their teeth into.

K-State Libraries and its department of special collections are co-sponsoring a celebration of Paddleford's life and work, as well as the opening of her collection, with a series of events Monday, Sept. 26. Speakers include writers from Saveur magazine and the Kansas City Star.

The day's program begins with opening remarks from K-State's Lori Goetsch, dean of libraries, and Tony Crawford, university archivist and curator of manuscripts, at 9:30 a.m. in Hale Library's Hemisphere Room. Other presentations, all in the Hemisphere Room, include:

* 9:45 a.m. -- "An Introduction to the Life and Papers of Clementine Haskin Paddleford" by K-State's Cynthia Harris, processor in special collections.

* 10:45 a.m. -- "Hunger for America: Restoring and Celebrating the Legacy of Clementine Paddleford, Pioneer Chronicler of the Kitchen" by Kelly Alexander, consulting editor for Saveur magazine.

* 1:30 p.m. -- "We've Come A Long Way, Maybe: Women's Role in Journalism Education" by Carol Oukrop, K-State professor emeritus of journalism and mass communications.

* 2:30 p.m. --"'How America Eats: Food Journalism in the 21st Century" by Jill Wendholt Silva, Kansas City Star food editor.

* 3:30 p.m. -- "Teaching Food Production: 'Practical Cookery' and 'Food for Fifty'" by K-State's Jane Bowers, professor emeritus of food and nutrition, and Mary Holt, assistant director of housing and dining services and assistant professor of hotel, restaurant, institution management and dietetics.

The program also includes a reception and special Paddleford exhibition from 4:30 to 6 p.m. at the Special Collections Gallery at Hale Library. The exhibition will remain the gallery until the end of the year.

After a writing career spanning five decades in publications like the New York Herald Tribune and Gourmet magazine, Paddleford died in 1967. Even though a New Yorker most of her life, the Stockdale, Kan., native asked that her collection -- comprising 363 boxes plus 19 boxes of printed material -- be housed at K-State.

"I'm sure she continued to have a love for K-State and Kansas," Crawford said. "There are many alumni like Paddleford who can trace their successful careers to K-State."

Although the collection contains recipes and clippings of her columns, the meat of the collection is in the exchanges Paddleford had with people in her research, Harris said.

"She really wrote about the people and not just food," Harris said.

Because her columns often detailed the people behind the recipes, Harris said in organizing the collection she had inquiries from people looking for reference to family members. Harris expects to see more such research -- and academic inquiries -- as the collection's presence at K-State becomes known.

Harris said the collection also included Paddleford's photographs of celebrities of the time, such as Lucille Ball and Raymond Burr, as well as revealing details of her work habits. For instance, Harris said Paddleford never typed her own work.

Time magazine called Paddleford the "best-known food editor in the United States" in 1953. Known for traveling the country in search of regional food, perhaps her most popular cookbook, "How America Eats," was published in 1960.

Paddleford's influence was so far-reaching that Harris said the food writer received some 35,000 letters for a "Cook Young" promotion she later turned into a cookbook. Harris said the letters came from preteen cooks to grandmothers. But beyond just recipes, Harris also said the letters often included notes about how long the writers had been reading Paddleford's columns or how much they enjoyed seeing her at a particular convention or other event.

"To really get to the backbone of Clementine, it's all about people," Harris said.

This article was posted on Monday, September 19, 2005, and is filed under College News.