More than 200 people gathered in April 1996 to celebrate the donation of the Esther B. Aresty Collection of Rare Books on the Culinary Arts to the University of Pennsylvania Library. Mrs. Aresty's collection of cookbooks spans five centuries and represents most of the world's cultures. It includes 576 book and 13 manuscript titles. The collection has been praised by some of the most notable gourmets of our age, including Craig Claiborne.
Mrs. Aresty and her husband Julian ("Jules"), of Princeton, were honored for the gift at a reception and dinner that featured recipes from several 19th century cookbooks and a beer brewed from a 1792 formula. The Aresty family has a three-generation Penn tradition, which began with Jules Aresty, Wharton 1929, and his brother Joseph, Wharton 1943.
Several generations of Arestys participated in the opening of the exhibition, Household Words: Women Write From and For the Kitchen. The exhibition was curated by Penn folklore professor Janet Theophano to showcase aspects of the collection which offered insights into the social and domestic lives of women since the late 1400s.
In brief remarks to the gathering, Professor Theophano talked about the influence that antique cookery books have had in her own life, and how that stoked her enthusiasm for the project. Esther Aresty also received hearty praise from cookbook author and food historian Elisabeth Rozin, second vice president of Les Dames d'Escoffier. Dame Rosalie Rivera, president, also honored Mrs. Aresty with a few words as she inducted her as a Philadelphia Dame. Jules Aresty discussed the acquisition of the books and how Penn came to be heir to the collection.