Barbara Ketcham Wheaton is the Honorary Curator of the Culinary Collection at Harvard University’s Schlesinger Library and the 91-year-old has been passionate about the history of cookbooks for many decades now.
In the early 1960s, Wheaton’s neighbor in Cambridge, Massachusetts, was none other than Julia Child and the famous kitchen icon used to let Wheaton browse her collection of historic cookbooks.
Wheaton already had a background in art history, and she decided to put her research skills to good use by studying not only Child’s cookbooks, but also the Schlesinger Library Culinary Collection at Harvard.
And now we can all enjoy the fruits of Wheaton’s decades of hard work on The Sifter, a website she helped create with academics and two of her children. The website has thousands of historic cookbooks that date back incredibly to De Re Culinaria, published in 800.
The Sifter is a treasure trove of culinary history and packed with amazing information for those who enjoy cooking or learning about food in general.
Joe Wheaton, one of her children who helped put together the database, says, “Food history has been a bit awkward for many scholars because it involves women in the kitchen.
This attitude began to change in the 1980s and Wheaton published the book Savoring the past: French cooking and dining from 1300 to 1789 in 1983.
— Culinary Historians of New York (@CulinaryHistNY) May 11, 2016
A great thing about The Sifter is that you can participate in the site if you wish. You can create an account on the website HERE and you can get involved by translating books or entering information about any cookbooks you may have from 1940 and earlier or internet archive books HERE.
Check out The Sifter and get involved if you want! It looks like fun!