In 1984, National Museum of Natural History docents teamed up to create a cookbook of their favorite recipes for staff. Alongside dish titles, like "Castle Puddings" and "Janet's Polish In-Law's Walnut Cake," are the names of the docents and their particular specialities at the Museum. Several years ago, archivist Jennifer Wright took a stab at two recipes—Elephant Hide and Ivory and Gourmet Golden Squash.
Inspired to bake a new dip for the upcoming Super Bowl Sunday, I flipped through the pages of the appetizer section to find a vegetarian-friendly dish. I landed on a “Baked Mushroom Cheese Dip,” submitted by Rose Greenfield, a docent on the “Weekday Highlights.” Dairy lovers, rejoice! Everyone else, bring your digestive aid pills!
Baked Mushroom Cheese Dip
1 Tbs. Butter
1/2 Lb. Finely Chopped Fresh Mushrooms
1/2 C. Finely Chopped Onion
1 Lg. Pkg. of Cream Cheese
1 C. Sour Cream
1/2 Tsp. Salt
1/8 Tsp. Pepper
- Preheat Oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease 1-1/2 quart casserole.
- Melt butter in skillet and saute onion and mushrooms about five minutes.
- Combine cream cheese, sour cream, salt, pepper, cayenne. Fold in mushrooms and onions. Pour into casserole.
- Bake until edges bubble and cheese is hot. Serve hot.
In quite a few recipes in this book, the docents sometimes assume their audience can cook by instinct. I assure you, dear reader, I cannot. So when Greenfield suggested I “bake until the edges bubble and the cheese is hot,” you had better believe I turned on the oven light, sat down, and stared into the abyss for entirely too long. Let me save you the time and share that you can bake the dip for about 20 minutes on the top rack.
So how did it turn out? The dip got great reviews in the Niekrasz household. I should note that I doubled the amount of seasoning Greenfield called for, but that still wasn’t quite enough. A few family members suggested we add scallions, chili powder, and even more cayenne next time for a little more flavor.
National Museum of Natural History. Office of Education and Outreach, Docent Program Records, 1974-2004, Accession 10-239, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- “A Recipe: Elephant Hide and Ivory” by Jennifer Wright, The Bigger Picture, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- “A Recipe from the Archives: Gourmet Golden Squash” by Jennifer Wright, The Bigger Picture, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- “Mealworm Chocolate Chip Cookies, Anyone?” by Jennifer Wright, The Bigger Picture, Smithsonian Institution Archives