Tag Archive | Food

Object: Cookie iron

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Krumkake Iron
Late 19th- early 20th Century
Materials: Metal, Wood

 Krumake panorama in a Minnesota home. Photo by NorskPower, via Wikimedia Commons.

Krumake panorama in a Minnesota home. Photo by NorskPower, via Wikimedia Commons.

This object is a Norwegian krumkake iron.  Not to be confused with crumb cake, this Norwegian cookie is pronounced kroom-kai-kuh, and means bent or curved cake.  The plural is krumkaker. Krumkake is a traditional Norwegian Christmas cookie.  Krumkaker are made from flour, sugar, eggs, butter, and cream.  They look and taste very similar to waffle cones, and are made in a device that looks similar to a waffle iron.

Krumkake irons are decorative two-sided iron griddles, with intricate patterns that vary based on what region of Norway it’s from.  Older irons were designed to be held and turned over an open fire, and had wooden handles to be able to turn them without getting burned.  Newer versions are electric, and allow bakers to make more, in a shorter period of time.

Once the batter is poured onto the griddle, it’s baked to a light golden brown.  While still hot, it’s rolled into small cones with the use of a conical rolling pin.  Krumkaker can be filled with virtually anything- from whipped cream, to chocolate, to berries, or can just be sprinkled with powdered sugar.

It wasn’t until the 19th century that the term “Christmas cookie” became popular, possibly due to the fact that ovens became popular household appliances around that time.  However, cookies in Norway were categorized as one of three types: those baked in an iron, those that were deep fried, and those baked in ovens.  Cookies baked in irons- like krumkaker– can be traced back at least a thousand years.

In the pre-Christian Viking tradition, during the dark afternoons of the Winter Solstice, children would go from house to house looking for treats.  Because Norway is so close to the North Pole, darkness came by 4 o’clock during the months of December and January.

Before Christmas began being celebrated in Norway, around 1000- 1100, Norwegians celebrated Jul (the English tweaked this to yule) a time to celebrate the last of the harvest, and a way to look forward to spring.  It was a celebration of light manifested through the yule log thrown on the fire.

Norwegian Christmas is a celebration of more than a thousand years of beliefs and traditions, all tied together in a month-long celebration.  The baking, the solstice, the celebration of light, and Christian faith, all come together for the holiday season.

Seven Sorts – Traditional Norwegian Christmas Cookies. Photo by www.mylittlenorway.com

Seven Sorts – Traditional Norwegian Christmas Cookies. Photo by http://www.mylittlenorway.com

Perhaps this explains why krumkake has endured.  Today, it is a featured element in the tradition of “seven sorts,” which is a Norwegian holiday baking custom.  Per tradition, seven traditional cookies are to be baked and served during the holidays.  Although which cookies are included in the seven are disputed, krumkake is the most widely accepted, along with pepperkaker (gingerbread).

Norway’s holiday traditions are still honored by Norwegian immigrants and their descendants across the American mid-west, and communities in Texas.  The krumkake is just one of many elements of Norwegian tradition that interlock the past and the present. [Carrie Klein, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]


Cornelius, James M.  The Norwegian Americans.  New York: Chelsea House, 1989.

Mellbye, Anne-Lise, Dana Fossum.  Christmas in Norway.  Oslo, Norway: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 1996.

Stokker, Kathleen.  Keeping Christmas: Yuletide Traditions in Norway and the New Land.  St. Paul, MN: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2000.

University of Texas Institute of Texan Cultures at San Antonio.  The Norwegian Texans.  San Antonio: University of Texas, 1970.

Object: Decanter

I-0631a (2)

HemisFair 68 Jim Beam Decanter Souvenir
San Antonio, Texas
Materials: Ceramic and Paint

This object is a souvenir Jim Beam decanter commemorating the HemisFair of 1968. A decanter is a decorative ceramic or glass bottle, with a stopper, used to store alcohol. This Jim Beam decanter has the Tower of Americas and part of the state of Texas and its landscape sculpted into the shape of a decanter. The Tower of the Americas is a famous landmark in San Antonio, TX dating back to HemisFair of 1968. This decanter was mass-produced by Regal China Co., and sold during HemisFair, as a cross-promotion for the James B. Beam Distilling Co..

The HemisFair was a World’s Fair that was held from April 6, 1968 to October 6, 1968, in San Antonio, Texas. HemisFair welcomed over thirty nations and six million visitors. The Tower of the Americas was built especially for HemisFair, and was completed just days before the start of the fair. The tower measures 622 feet tall from ground to the highest architectural element, with the observation floor at 579 feet, making it the 29th tallest building in the state of Texas. It was the tallest observation tower in the United States until 1997, when the Stratosphere Tower was built in Las Vegas.

Blueprint of the Eiffel Tower by one of its main engineers, Maurice Koechlin (ca. 1884). Image via Wikimedia Commons

Blueprint of the Eiffel Tower by one of its main engineers, Maurice Koechlin (ca. 1884). Image via Wikimedia Commons

Observation towers have been associated with several World Fair venues. The 1889 Paris World’s Fair commemorated the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution, and included the construction of the now world-famous Eiffel Tower. Built by Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel‘s construction company, Eiffel et Compagnie, and largely based off designs by Maurice Koechlin. Observation towers were also built for the 1962 World’s Fair in Seattle, the 1964 New York World’s Fair, the 1982 World’s Fair in Knoxville, and others. [Adriana Christian, edited by Joscelynn Garcia]

Additional Resources:

Hodges, Justine. Tower of the Americas: Guidebook. San Antonio [Tex.]: Edward O. Goetz, 1968.

Holmesly, Sterlin. Hemisfair ’68 and the Transformation of San Antonio. 2003.

Lemoine, Bertrand. The Eiffel Tower. Cologne: Taschen GmbH, 2008.

Wallace, Thomas M. 2016. “The Tallest Buildings In The World”. The Civil Engineering Blog: Being Brunel. 2016-05.

Texas Folklife Festival is next weekend!

2016 TFF card

The 45th annual Texas Folklife Festival is just around the corner, don’t forget to get your tickets! Advance tickets can be purchased HERE. This year the ITC has collaborated with VIA Metropolitan Transit, Lyft, and B-Cycle to help everyone get to the festival with reduced fares and park-and-ride service from Crossroads Mall.

In addition to all the great music, dancing and food you’ve come to expect from Folklife over the years the museum is adding some great new attractions to the event. Be sure to check out the new El Zócalo, a specially curated area by Chef Johnny Hernandez. It will include Mexican artisans, food demonstrations by chefs from Culinary Institute of America and  Pharm Table, as well as a a pop-up of El Machito.

Don’t miss out on this great RAIN OR SHINE event, June 10th-12th at the Institute of Texan Cultures.

Object: Pamphlet

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Materials: Paper/Ink

This object is a pamphlet entitled “Mexican Cookery in American Homes” containing recipes by Willie Gebhardt, the inventor of Chili Powder. William Fredrick Gebhardt was born in Germany in 1875. His family immigrated to the United States and settled in New Braunfels. Willie had a passion to cook and opened a café in 1892, that he owned for 4 years.  While living in New Braunfels, Willie met his wife Rose Mary Kronkosk. Gebhardt would often visit San Antonio roughly 30 miles south of New Braunfels and was fascinated by the variety of spicy Mexican food available. Willie soon began to experiment cooking with different chilies. In his café Willie served chili to his patrons and gained a reputation as a great chili cook. At this time people all over Texas knew about chili and enjoyed it with venison which was easily found around the country side. Although popular, chili was a seasonal food and only served from late spring through summer. During the 1800s it was difficult to keep chilies fresh during the winter months but Willie discovered if he dried the chilies and ground them into powder the potency of the chilies would remain fresh.

Mexican official examining chili powder.

Mexican official examining chili powder. Photo via UTSA Libraries

Gebhardt decided to order ancho peppers from San Luis Potosi, Mexico. He ordered a wagon load so he could have a stock for an entire year. He continued to experiment with the chilies and came up with a method for grinding and mixing them to transform them into what is now known as chili powder, or as he called it “Tampico dust.” Willie would package the chili powder and sell it around town. In 1896 Willie registered his trademark chili and changed the name to Gebhardt’s Eagle Brand Chili Powder. He also opened an establishment in San Antonio to manufacture the chili powder. The Powder was a huge success, however, the market for chili did not go beyond Texas because few Americans living outside of the state knew how to cook with chili powder.

In order to get Americans to embrace chili powder a cookbook entitled “Mexican Cooking” was created. This cookbook was one of the first Tex-Mex cookbooks. By the time Gebhardt received his butchers license in 1908 the name of the company had changed to Gebhardt’s Chili Powder Company. Tamales as well as canned chili con carne were added to the items sold by the company. Although Gebhardt was the first person to make a large scale business from selling chili con carne he was not the first to sell it. In fact there was a whole culture surrounding the sell of chili con carne in the city of San Antonio.

From the 1860s till the late 1930s women called the Chili Queens would sell chili con carne and other Tex-Mex and Mexican foods outside in the plazas from dusk until dawn. The plazas had a festive atmosphere filled with musicians and singers. Many authors who passed by San Antonio and encountered the Chili Queens wrote about them in their stories. Travelers passing by San Antonio were also fans of the Chili Queens. The Chili Queens were in business until about 1940 when they were shut down by the health department. San Antonio however, became a forerunner in the production of Tex-Mex food which included William Gebhardt’s foods, as well as Pace Picante Sauce, and Fritos.

Advertisement from Gebhardt's Chili Company

Advertisement from Gebhardt’s Chili Company. Image via: UTSA Libraries

As the Gebhardt company grew more cookbooks were created, and advertising for it was everywhere including radio commercials, and newspapers and magazines. The slogans for the ads included sayings like “Gebhardt’s. If you think its just a great chili, you might be missing something.” Willie Gebhardt died in 1956 at the age of 81. By this time he had been retired from business for 20 years. The company was acquired by a Chicago based company in 1960 and that company was acquired by another. In 1984 the company was renamed Gebhardt Mexican Foods Company and sales increased in places like California, Arizona, and Oregon. Some products can be found in Texas stores like H.E.B. and today chili powder is one of the most common seasonings found in American homes. [Joscelynn Garcia]

Additional Resources:

Arreola, Daniel D. Tejano South Texas: A Mexican American Cultural Province. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2002.

Gabaccia, Donna R. Why We Eat What We Eat: Ethnic Food and the Making of Americans. Harvard: Harvard university press, 2000.

Martinello, Marian L. The Search for a Chili Queen: On the Fringes of a Rebozo. Fort Worth, Tex: TCU Press, 2009.

UTSA Libraries. “Gebhardt Mexican Foods Company Collections.” Gebhard Exhibit. 2016. http://webapp.lib.utsa.edu/Gebhardt/.

Asian Festival this Saturday!


Image via: Institute of Texan Cultures, Asian Festival 2015

Be sure to stop by the Institute of Texan Cultures this Saturday for all the great music, entertainment, and FOOD at Asian Festival!

Park and ride service will be offered to Asian Festival from the Crossroads Park and Ride, and service will begin at 9:15 a.m. and will run until 5:30 p.m.

Uber is also offering a special promotion for the festival. Sign up for Uber and insert the promo code TXASIAN to receive up to $20 off your trip! This promotion is for first time riders only and you can get started here! If you’ve already taken your first Uber trip, share this promotion with friends and family so that they can enjoy their first ride. This promo doesn’t expire until 2/29/16.

Don’t forget to order your Asian Festival tickets!

2016 Asian Festival card with time1

Asian Festival tickets are on sale now! Call 210-458-230, or click here, to get yours today.

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