She became an essential resource for cookbook publishers, for restauranteurs and academic historians.

One of the foremost authorities on the history of American cooking, Janice Bluestein Longone, died Aug. 3, 2022, at the age of 89. Her passion for collecting early cookbooks and her enthusiasm for sharing her knowledge anticipated the rise of culinary history. She became an essential resource for cookbook publishers, for restauranteurs and academic historians.

Janice Bluestein, middle child of a Jewish family in Dorchester, Mass., recalled that she grew up on traditional Ashkenazic Jewish cuisine, cabbage rolls and gefilte fish. Her father sold kitchen equipment. Janice graduated as a history major from Bridgewater State Teacher’s College in 1954. After her graduation, she married Daniel Longone, her sweetheart since they had met as teenagers. They continued their education at Cornell, where she studied Chinese history and Dan completed his Ph.D. in organic chemistry. 

An early present from Dan to Jan, the first edition of newly published Gourmet magazine, inspired the couple to subscribe, stretching their tight graduate-student budget. Jan counted that magazine as one of the formative influences on her career. 

The couple moved to Ann Arbor in 1959, when Dan joined the chemistry faculty at U-M. 

She learned about international cooking from students who came from around the world. When these students asked her for “typical American meals,” she took that as an intellectual challenge. She began a quest for the sources of American food traditions, collecting early American recipes and cookbooks. 

She told Steve Friess of Tablet magazine, “I started looking for and finding and then collecting books, and unbeknownst to me, I must have decided I was going to open an antiquarian cookbook shop because I had been buying every book I could find in rare book shops, but I’d buy four copies.” 

And in 1972, she did open a mail-order business, “The Wine and Food Library,” selling out-of-print cookbooks from her basement. Word spread quickly. According to Pat Cornett, a friend and colleague of Jan Longone’s: “Through her work at her bookshop, she came to know everyone in the culinary and cooking communities.” 

The customers of her business were impressed by her encyclopedic knowledge, and so, according to Cornett, “restauranteurs, cookbook writers and academic historians relied on her for information, especially about early American cooking.” 

She collected early cookbooks, including ephemera such as menus, diaries, food advertisements and cookbooks published to support charitable projects of religious and community groups. These obscure charitable cookbooks would typically disappear shortly after publication and get lost to history. Longone collected them as invaluable sources for recipes, but also as examples of women’s activism. Longone’s collection of cookbooks produced by temperance workers, church groups and synagogue sisterhoods anticipated and helped build a change of focus in the study of history: historians focused on domestic life of ordinary men and especially women.  

Her collections include the first known cookbook published in the United States in 1796, and the first known cookbook written by a Black woman, published in 1866. Jan Longone had a special interest in cookbooks produced by Jewish institutions, including examples from every state. She noted the regional differences between Jewish cookbooks about the kosher laws. In some regions, recipes include shellfish, but not pork; others include pork; and some do not include mention of anything Jewish. 

In these obscure charity cookbooks, Longone could see how American eating changed in ways that modern Americans can barely fathom. Imagine: 

• Buying groceries before stores sold food in standard packages.

• Buying groceries before there were national brands. 

• Cooking before your home had a continuous supply of fuel.

• Processing leftovers before you could count on regular deliveries from the iceman. 

• Unsubscribing from your iceman when you got your first refrigerator. 

In Ann Arbor, Jan volunteered at libraries in the Ann Arbor area while she founded organizations for the study of cooking. Eventually, Jan Longone became Curator of American Culinary History at Special Collections of the Hatcher Library at the University of Michigan. 

The couple began, in 2000, donating their extensive collection of culinary publications to the University of Michigan, where the Janice Bluestein Longone Culinary Archive now contains more than 30,000 items. 

She co-founded the Culinary Historians of Ann Arbor in 1983 and served as its first chair for several years. Since then, she retained the title of honorary president. She was a founding member of the American Institute of Wine & Food. 

Pat Cornett recalls that after Dan retired in 1988, “the couple would travel the country haunting used bookstores.” Dan sought especially books about wine, and she about food. Cornett observes that “they remained sweethearts as long as she lived. I never met a couple who were closer — intellectually and emotionally — than they.” 

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