Tag Archives: foodways

Engaging with Archives Using “Wayne’s Famous Pooter Dip”

[This blog post was written by Samantha Crisp, Director of the Outer Banks History Center.]

Have you ever thought about your community’s food history? What about your ancestors’ relationships to food—what did they eat? Why did they eat it? How did they get it?

Public interest in historical foodways has really taken off in the past decade, particularly relating to vintage recipes. In 2014, Duke University’s Rubenstein Library launched the Rubenstein Library Test Kitchen, a blog featuring historical recipes from the Rubenstein’s collections recreated by archivists. It was immediately popular among history lovers and foodies alike. Even popular web content producers like Buzzfeed and its subsidiary, Tasty, have made forays into experimenting with historical food, preparing recipes for 350-year-old ice cream and oyster and chicken pie, and even curating a list of “truly upsetting” vintage recipes.

A recent collaboration between the Outer Banks History Center and the Dare County Arts Council prompted my own foray into “vintage” food. We worked with a local food author, Amy Gaw, to curate a juried art show based on historical recipes from the OBHC’s cookbook collection and recipes collected by Amy for her new book, Lost Restaurants of the Outer Banks with their Recipes. About 30 local artists were each given a recipe and instructed to use it as inspiration to create a piece of art in their preferred medium, culminating in an awards ceremony and reception in which we passed out tastings of each dish recreated by local cooks. The show was called The Art of the Recipe.

Each recipe was carefully selected based on its age, ties to the local community, ease of reproduction, and availability of ingredients, except for one. My earliest contribution to the list wasn’t meant to be a contribution at all, but rather a snapshot sent to Amy of a recipe I stumbled upon and simply thought was hilarious: Wayne’s Famous Pooter Dip. As the weeks went by and the list of candidates whittled down to our favorites, Wayne’s Pooter Dip never really left our minds, and we eventually decided that it had to be included in the show, and I would be the one to recreate it for the reception. It was kismet.


Wayne’s Famous Pooter Dip appears in the Town of Nags Head’s 50th anniversary cookbook, Fifty Years and Still Cookin’, published in 2011. Unfortunately, despite a great deal of searching and asking around, I was unable to find out who Wayne was or what prompted him to contribute this recipe to the cookbook. While this recipe was less “historical” than most of the others in the show, its irreverent humor, conversational tone, and performative elements resonated with me in a way that the other recipes didn’t.

I started by gathering all the ingredients, including Colby Jack cheese (“no substitute”), Pace picante sauce, and two “your choice” beers, which in my case turned out to be two of my husband’s leftover Landshark Lagers. And, of course, “pooters,” or refried beans.


After preheating your pan, Wayne first instructs you to “open up one of the beers and take at least one drink, two if the skillet is heating up slow.” Then, add sausage and chop as fine as possible. Wayne advises that “it takes a little work but it’s worth it in the end.”

Chop, chop, chop!

Next, chop and add your onions, and take another swig of beer.


Add the Pace picante sauce, rinse the can with water, and finish off beer number 1. Then, open beer number 2 and spread your “pooters” in a Pyrex dish, making sure that you “try to be neat with the pooters as folks tend to judge you harshly if they are smeared all over the baking dish.” I’ll take Wayne’s word for it.


At this point, as can often happen with historical recipes, Wayne and I had a breakdown in communication. He states that the sausage mixture should simmer “for at least 30 minutes. Longer is better but 2 hours is too much.” I was suddenly reminded of my mother’s and grandmother’s favorite recipes, which frequently include less-than-helpful descriptors such as “a moderate oven” or “make a sauce” or “bake until it looks done.” One of the most enjoyable and sometimes frustrating aspects of recreating old recipes is attempting to decipher the cook’s bad handwriting, odd turns of phrase, or forgotten ingredients, all of which likely result from having to write down a recipe for the first time that one has known by heart for decades. I settled on an hour. I felt like Wayne would appreciate a nice, round number.

While the pooter dip was simmering, I tried to imagine what Wayne must be like. I know nothing about him other than what I can glean from this recipe. He was probably a lover of beer and simple, cheap food to enjoy with it. I suspect he was the class clown and preferred to make his home in Nags Head due to the laid-back, relaxing atmosphere on the beach. Perhaps he was a surfer. I couldn’t help but picture him standing at his stove in his tiny beach box home, wearing Rainbow sandals and an unbuttoned Hawaiian shirt, casually stirring pooter dip and sipping beer while keeping an eye on the condition of the waves through his kitchen window. I wondered how Wayne’s dip became “famous.” I wondered how he’d feel knowing that his name will be immortalized in art, or that his recipe will be preserved in the archival record in perpetuity. Perhaps he anticipated this, and the “famous” descriptor portended this very moment.

After simmering for an hour and “having beer at will,” I pulled the steaming pan off the stove and “gingerly” spread a generous amount of cheese on top. Wayne recommends melting the cheese in an oven “at low heat,” another vague descriptor that I interpreted to mean 325°. Per Wayne, “don’t burn it.” Fifteen minutes later, a pan full of spicy, cheesy pooter dip was cooling on my kitchen counter.


At the reception, Wayne’s Famous Pooter Dip was sampled by young and old alike, and I heard numerous attendees joke about it being the funniest recipe they’d ever read. Local photographer Jim Trotman’s entry, “A Pooter Tower of Power,” was even awarded an honorable mention. By the end of the night, our attendees had scarfed down almost two whole batches of the dip. Over 100 people attended our reception, and I think I overheard just about every one of them remark that it was one of the most enjoyable shows they’d ever participated in, and how much they loved the concept. I left that evening knowing I had succeeded in sharing my love of Wayne and his cheeky pooter dip recipe with the world.


Archivists know that archives change lives. We see it every day in our reading rooms, and share stories about our observations with each other. But it’s not every day that an entire room full of people can have their lives changed together by engaging with archives in a way they’d never imagined before. Archives are essential, inspirational, and powerful, but they can also be quirky, unpredictable, and fun. Projects like The Art of the Recipe encourage folks from all walks of life to come together and seek out the joy in archives, somewhere at the intersection of art, history, and pooter dip.

Join us June 1 for the FOA Meeting and NC Barbecue Lecture

Barbequeing pork over an open pit near Rocky Mount, NC, September 1944. From the Conservation and Development Department, Travel and Tourism Photo Files. Call number: ConDev4648.5C. Learn more on Flickr.

Smoking pork over an open pit near Rocky Mount, NC, September 1944. From the Conservation and Development Department, Travel and Tourism Photo Files. Call number: ConDev4648.5C. Learn more on Flickr.

The Friends of the Archives (FOA) Annual Corporation Meeting and Program will be held on Monday, June 1, 2015 at 1:30 p.m. in the State Archives/State Library Building Auditorium (109 E. Jones Street, Raleigh, North Carolina).

The speaker will be Dr. John Shelton Reed who will talk about “North Carolina and the Original American Barbecue.” For more information, see the event flyer. The Friends of the Archives is grateful for the support of The Pit restaurant and their donation of barbecue samples after the program.

The Friends of the Archives is a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization formed in 1977 whose mission is to support, promote, and strengthen the collections, services, and programs of the State Archives of North Carolina.  The mission of the State Archives is to collect, preserve and provide access to North Carolina’s documentary history and culture.

News and Notes for November

November is here, a time when many people begin planning large family gatherings for the upcoming holidays. In keeping with the themes of the season, food and family, here are some recently added digital collections  or events you may have missed.

Food and Cooking Collection

Trademark Application: J.A. Hopkins for Eno Corn Meal.

Trademark Application: J.A. Hopkins for Eno Corn Meal, part of the Food and Cooking Collection.

You may have seen the blog post by our intern, Brittany Boynton, about her work with the Food and Cooking collection. Last month, as part of our Archives Week activities, she added several cookbooks and recipes from our Private Collections, as well as food-related trademark applications dating from 1910-1930 from our Secretary of State Records. The trademarks are a particular favorite among our staff  because they give researchers a feeling for the types of products that ordinary North Carolinians likely used in their daily lives. Many of the cookbooks and recipes are handwritten; others include home remedies or advice on how to manage a household.

We’ll be adding to this collection at least through December, so expect updates as new materials are added. Currently Brittany is looking through our collections to find items related to moonshine, which should be a very interesting addition to the digital collections.

Civil War 150 Lecture to be held on Nov. 18

Poster for the Civil War 150 Committee's Second Mondays Talk for November 2013

Poster for the Civil War 150 Committee’s Second Mondays Talk for November 2013

On November 18th at 10:30 AM, Tiffanie Mazanek and I will be giving the Civil War 150 Committee’s Second Mondays Lecture on the new website and an update on the materials we’ve added to the Civil War Collection in the North Carolina Digital Collection in the last year or so. While we’ll primarily focus on the Civil War materials, we’ll also try to include a brief overview of the tools and what you will find when you use them.

Like all the other lectures in this series, it will be held in the auditorium of the State Archives and Library building in Raleigh. Many of our recent events have been recorded and put online by the Department of Cultural Resources; this one may also be recorded, but I’ll pass along more information on that once we have it.

This will be the last of the 2013 Civil War talks. More information about the 2014 talks will be forthcoming.

North Carolina Constitution Event Video Online

If you missed the “Historical Primer on the North Carolina Constitution” event presented by the State Archives and State Library during Archives Week, it is now available online through the YouTube account for North Carolina Dept. of Cultural Resources or through the State Archives NC History playlist.

Remember to check our News and Events Page for videos of recently held talks or lists of upcoming events at our three locations.

From the Search Room

For those of you interested in copies by mail, due to current staffing levels of the Correspondence unit, please expect delays in response to record search inquiries and receipt of copies. We’re sorry for any inconvenience this may cause our researchers and hope to be back to normal turn-around times soon.

News from NCLA

North Carolina Library Association (NCLA) Conference 2013 session on free online resources from the State Archives and State Library of North Carolina is now available online.

Food and Cooking Collection

[This post comes from intern Brittany Boynton and is part of our 2013 North Carolina Archives Week celebration.]

Food and Cooking Collection


Hi. My name is Brittany Boynton. I attend North Carolina Central University where I am working on my master’s degree in library science. I am currently working as an intern for the State Archives of North Carolina as part of my coursework. My internship consists of building the Food and Cooking Collection to support the 2013 North Carolina Archives Week theme of “Home Grown! A Celebration of N.C. Food Culture and History.” As part of my internship, I locate items on the topic of food and cooking in the collections at the State Archives. I also scan the items to create digital images and create the metadata for each of the items.
The Beginning

Trademark Application: New Prague Flouring Mill Company

Trademark Application: New Prague Flouring Mill Company, part of the Food and Cooking Collection in the North Carolina Digital Collections. Click on the image to see the original.

The Food and Cooking Collection for the State Archives of North Carolina was just an idea a little over two months ago. The beginning of the collection started a lot like most hidden object games. I asked questions about the types of items that were to make up the collection. I started with the private collections at the suggestion of Francesca Perez and Ashley Yandle in order to find handwritten recipe books and vintage cookbooks. I went through a good portion of the collections that had been indexed as having recipes or cookbooks within the collection. The interesting thing about the private collections is that the collections also contain letters, poems, and journals. A lot of the letters and journals contained the details of the writers’ lives, and on occasion a recipe would be amongst the day-to-day musings and correspondence. A few collections even contained full recipe books, which were called “receipt books.” Two books were published books, which definitely showed their age, but did not have any of the fun marginalia that is usually found in old books. After finding a few items of interest, I began scanning the materials. Thanks to a very fast book scanner, I was able to scan full books in a matter of hours rather than days. After scanning the recipe books that I found, I created the metadata. Creating the metadata was interesting.

The Middle

After creating the metadata for the recipe books, it was time to go back to the Search Room to find more items to add to the collection. This time it was suggested that I look through trademark applications. Going through trademark applications that have been filed in North Carolina has been a lot of fun; so far, I have looked through all of the applications from 1910 to 1928. A lot of the applications were for non-food related items, which I expected. The majority of the applications for food-related products was from flour mills and carbonated beverage companies. I was surprised by the amount of companies that were developing carbonated beverages during this time. I scanned and created metadata for some interesting trademarks as well. I am continuing to learn about creating metadata, which is more fun than I thought it would be.

Dancing in the Corn… Archives Week in Western North Carolina

Many of you already know but this week has been proclaimed to be NC Archives Week.  That means we really showcase our collections and advocate for archives and preserving the historical record beyond what we do the rest of the year.  This year, the theme is all about food culture in NC.  From farming to eating, we have documents and photos that capture it all.  In Western North Carolina, this year’s theme of “Home Grown! A Celebration of N.C. Food Culture and History” is being featured in a number of ways but none as interesting or exciting as Dr. David Silver’s work with the Black Mountain College Farm.

Josef Albers (left) hanging out in the cabbage patch

You may have heard about the college or some of its famous alumni and faculty but did you know those same folks were farming on the campus?  Can you imagine Josef Albers tending cabbage?  Or how about Merce Cunningham dancing in the corn fields?  Ok, so maybe we don’t have proof that  Cunningham was cutting a rug in the corn, but it could have happened!

Dr. Silver is an associate professor of media studies and environmental studies and coordinator of the urban agriculture minor at the University of San Francisco and is currently working on a multimedia history of the farm at Black Mountain College.  He has been using the collections at the Western Regional Archives and telling the food story of a college that normally is only looked at through artistic lenses.   Not only was he the first researcher at the WRA, he is a cheerleader for NC archives and continues to champion the collections we’ve preserved and direct scholars and students from around the world to NC!  Check out his blog http://silverinsf.blogspot.com/ or scope out the photos of his research journey and discoveries at flicker http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidsilver/sets/

Who knows, you might just find out they were dancing in the corn!

Dorothy Cole eating in the dining hall at BMC