Historical documents of one of Ithaca’s most famous vegetarian eateries, Moosewood Restaurant, have found a home at the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections in the Carl A. Kroch Library.
The restaurant, named one of the 13 most influential restaurants of the 20th century by Bon Appétit, has been a pioneering figure in food culture since its beginnings 37 years ago.
“This collection is important to us at the library because it has national significance,” said Brenda Marston, curator for Collection of Regional History at Kroch Library. “Moosewood restaurant made it possible to cook creatively on a vegetarian diet; they made a mark on American culture with their ideas about eating,”
Moosewood Restaurant is owned and operated by a collective of 19 people. These members — 14 women and five men who have jobs and livelihoods outside of the restaurant — also help to write its famous cookbooks. The Moosewood Collective, as they were know, has authored 12 internationally acclaimed cookbooks that have sold six million copies.
Some of the original manuscripts for these cookbooks can be found in the collection donated to Cornell. Policy manuals for the restaurant and old newspaper clippings about different entrepreneurial ventures by the restaurant, among many other items, can also be found in the collection.
Wynnie Stein, a collective member since Moosewood was sold by the original owners, said she believes it was important to donate the collection so that Cornell students can understand the rich history of the restaurant and its impact on food culture.
“I think that Moosewood in its early time really reflects an era that people are going to want to study. Our generation and what we were concerned about were the precursors for all the concerns we have today for food safety and the environment,” Stein said.
According to Stein, the Moosewood Collective’s original thinking was born from an exploration of foreign cuisine in search of more natural and healthy food choices.
This is not the first cuisine-inspired collection to be added to the library. According to Marston, the library already has an extensive menu collection and an old cookbook collection that it received from the Statler Hotel, some dating all the way back to the 18th century.
The Moosewood collection is open to the public and Cornell students are encouraged to peruse the paper history of the restaurant, said Anne Kenney, University librarian.
“Cornell is distinguished by the emphasis on research at the undergraduate level,” Kenney said. “One of the important things about research is material that speaks to you beyond scholarly focus. The Moosewood collection is some such material.”
Almost four decades after its founding, the Moosewood Collective’s principal ideas are still alive, according to Stein.
“We love to eat, cook and garden,” Stein said. “Those three things together were a winning combination.”