The Amelia Award
Named in honor of Amelia Simmons, the author of "American Cookery" (1796), the first cookbook written in America, the first Amelia Award was represented by a trifle bowl, designed to showcase the classic English dessert made (at least in modern recipes) from sponge cake, fruits, custard, and whipped cream, the cake generously soused with sherry or another tipple. Helen J. Saberi, in volume 50 of "Petits Propos Culinaires," muses that, “Trifles offer a rare combination of sensual and intellectual pleasures.” That, of course, also defines excellence in culinary history.
As Saberi further explains, modern trifles, like so many culinary evolutions, bear slight resemblance to the first recipe to wear that name. Found in Thomas Dawson’s "The Good Huswife’s Jewel" (1596) and made from heated cream, ginger, sugar, and rosewater, with nary a crumb of cake nor berry to be found, this ur-trifle was served in a silver dish or bowl. By the mid-seventeenth century, trifle recipes might include manchet, a fine-crumbed bread; a generation later, the cream was set with rennet. Not until the mid-eighteenth century did jellies or fruits appear. By the nineteenth century, even Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., a studious intellect, was seduced by the trifle, describing it as: “That most wonderful object of domestic art called trifle with its charming confusion of cream and cake and almonds and jam and jelly and wine and cinnamon and froth.”
Simmons’s "American Cookery" marked the pivotal point in forging a national identity through cuisine. Although the warp and weft of "American Cookery" reveal the culinary traditions of the English and Dutch colonists who settled in the New York region, it offered the first published recipes for New World ingredients such as cornmeal and cranberries and patriotic-sounding cakes for Independence and Election Days. Miss Simmons, who described herself as an "undereducated orphan," was America’s first cookery writer, and her trifle recipe follows:
Fill a dish with biscuit, finely broken, rusk, and spiced cake, wet with wine, then pour a good boiled custard (not too thick) over the rusk, and put a syllabub over that; garnish with jelly and flowers.
A Whipt Syllabub. Take two porringers of cream and one of white wine, grate in the skin of a lemon, take the whites of three eggs, sweeten it to your taste, then whip it with a whisk, take off the froth as it rises and put it into your syllabub glasses or pots, and they are fit for use.
The Culinary Historians of New York Scholar's Grant
The Culinary Historians of New York Scholar's Grant, instituted in 2005, is designed to promote research and scholarship in the field of culinary history and is given to support a well-developed project that will culminate in a book, article, paper, film, or other scholarly endeavor, including ephemera. The grant is unrestricted and can be used to support research, conference attendance, or other activities; recipients of the CHNY Scholar's Grant are expected to report on their project in the academic year following the award. The CHNY Scholar's Grant is merit-based; financial need is not considered in making the award.
In 2014, CHNY -- with major support from the Julia Child Foundation for Gastronomy and the Culinary Arts -- will again award two grants in the amounts of $3,500 and $1,500. This is the third year that CHNY has been honored to receive generous support from the Child Foundation, enabling CHNY to continue in its mission to promote education in the history of food and culture.
Previous CHNY Scholar's Grant Winners
2013: Jennifer Wallach: "Eating High and Low on the Hog: African-Americans, Food Reform, and Racial Uplift."
Eric Dursteler: "Around the Mediterranean: Foodways and Identity."
2012: India Mandelkern, "In Da Club: Dining and Taste-making in 18th Century London" ($3,500)
Larry H. Spruill, "Down By the Creek: Cooking with Rebecca Taylor in Early Eastchester's Guion Tavern" ($1,500)
2010: Kimberly L. Sorensen, for continuing research on the carved mahogany cake boards used to raise designs on New Year’s Cakes in early nineteenth century New York
2009: Ellen Schnepel, "The Cooking of History: Early Travelogues as Gastronomic Adventure"
2008: Willa Zhen, "The Transmission of Knowledge in Cantonese Cooking Schools”
2007: Megan J. Elias, "Cooking the Books: Nationalism, Regionalism, and American Cookbooks, 1865-1917"
2006: Elizabeth M. Simms, "Tuskegee Experiment Station / Papers of George Washington Carver" Project
2005: Elizabeth Alsop, "America Eats" Project
Instructions and Grant Application
There are four parts to the application for the CHNY Scholar's Grant:
(1) An Unsigned Essay of up to 500 words detailing the project for which the CHNY Scholar's Grant is sought, submitted in six (6) copies;
(2) a Letter of Recommendation from an individual familiar with the applicant's work in the field of culinary history (single original);
(3) a Résumé or CV (single original); and
(4) a completed Application Form and Release (single original).
The most important part of the Scholar's Grant application is the Unsigned Essay, in which the applicant should describe, in detail, the culinary history project for which the grant is sought and its projected contribution to the field of culinary history. Creativity and scholarship are the main criteria by which projects will be evaluated. Projects dealing with American, and especially New York, culinary history are warmly encouraged, but the scholarship is not limited to such topics. Applicants may wish to review Barbara Haber’s essay in the Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America on “Culinary History versus Food History” in framing their project.
The Unsigned Essay evaluation will be blind, that is, the judging committee will not be given information that would enable its members to identify the author of the essay. Do not sign the essay, rather, give it the Project Working Title that you also provide in the appropriate place on the Application Form and Release.
Applications and all supporting documentation may be postmarked any time after January 1, 2014 but no later than May 31, 2014 and mailed via U.S. First Class Mail (i.e. not via registered or certified mail) to:
Culinary Historians of New York
Attn: Scholar's Grant Committee
P. O. Box 3289
New York, NY 10163
If you would like confirmation that CHNY has received your application, please enclose a stamped, self-addressed postcard or envelope. It is anticipated that the recipient will be announced on or before July 31, 2014, with the funds disbursed in August 2014. The winner will be a featured speaker at a Culinary Historians of New York meeting during the 2014-15 season to share the fruits of the funded research.
The CHNY Scholar’s Grant is open to all individuals age 18 and older. Affiliation with an academic institution is not required, although students and others affiliated with such institutions are encouraged to apply. In selecting a recipient of the CHNY Scholar’s Grant, Culinary Historians of New York does not discriminate on the basis of race, gender, religion, or national origin.
The committee reserves the right not to award the grant if, in its sole judgment, none of the projects submitted for its consideration is appropriate for Culinary Historians of New York sponsorship. The decision of the committee is final. By applying for the CHNY Scholar’s Grant, the applicant expressly agrees that Culinary Historians of New York assumes no financial obligation to any person, institution, or creditor of the recipient. Culinary Historians of New York reserves the right to demand refund of the CHNY Scholar’s Grant if the recipient fails to conduct the project for which the grant was awarded or fails to present a program to Culinary Historians of New York based on the funded research.
Contributions to the CHNY Scholar's Grant Fund
Culinary Historians of New York would like to increase the amount or number of grants given in the future and contributions to the scholarship fund are encouraged. Further information is available by writing to us.
Culinary Historians of New York is a tax-exempt organization under § 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Please consult your tax advisor for advice on the tax deductibility of contributions.