Richard H. Collin
Richard H. Collin
Richard Harvey Collin
March 4, 1932
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, US
|Died||January 19, 2010 (aged 77)|
|Occupation||Historian, food writer|
|Spouse(s)||[Frances Wene] (1954-1969; divorced)|
Rima Drell Reck (1969–1998; her death)
|Partner(s)||Phyllis Mayronne (2000-2010; his death)|
Richard H. Collin (born Richard Harvey Collin; March 4, 1932 – January 19, 2010, or January 20, 2010) was an American historian, university professor, food critic, and cookbook writer. He was notable for his research in the life and presidency of Theodore Roosevelt. Collin's contributions to Theodore Roosevelt scholarship included his dissertation, two monographs on Roosevelt, editing a book length collection of papers on the President, journal articles, and book reviews related to other writers' works on the President. His food writing, much of it written together with his wife Rima, included cookbooks and restaurant reviews.
Early life and education
Collin received his undergraduate degree (AB) from Kenyon College in 1954. At Kenyon College, Collin was an English major and belonged to the Middle Kenyon Association. During Collin's time in the Middle Kenyon Association, he became friends with fellow student, Kenyon graduate, and future novelist E.L. Doctorow.
Collin's parents were immigrants from England who settled in Philadelphia. According to the announcement published in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Collin became engaged to Frances Wene in 1954. He married Wene on August 15, 1954. They were divorced in 1969. . After their divorce, Wene married Robert H. Levy, an attorney. During the 1960s, Collin met his second wife, Rima Drell Reck, a professor of comparative literature at the University of New Orleans. They were married from 1969 until her death in 1998.
Two years after Reck's death, Collin met a widow, Phyllis Mayronne. Mayronne's late spouse, Harry Mayronne, Sr., had worked in advertising. According to Larson, the two shared a travel agent, and this agent introduced them to each other. Mayronne was to become Collin's partner during his last years. Fitzmorris writes that Collin and Mayronne met "on a European trip."
Career as historian and university professor
Collin jointed the faculty at Louisiana State University in New Orleans in 1966. In 1974, the university underwent an official name change and became the University of New Orleans. Collin taught history and was a specialist on the life of Theodore Roosevelt. In his book Theodore Roosevelt: Culture, Diplomacy, and Expansion: A New View of American Imperialism, Collin seeks to correct the caricatured view of Roosevelt as the imperialist Rough Rider. Collin reminds his readers that Roosevelt was a man of various accomplishments, was well educated, sophisticated, was a published author, and who possessed considerable interests in science, literature, and fine arts. In addition, Collin argues that, during Roosevelt's presidency, the United States itself became more sophisticated and cosmopolitan.
With changing mores in the 1960s, Collin went from being a conventional dresser in a business suit and a necktie to a more bohemian appearance, and he was known around the campus for wearing sandals and often wearing purple clothing. His love of purple extended to his car, as Collin owned a purple and white Cadillac, and, during the 1970s, Collin demonstrated his unconventionality by owning an Edsel.
Collin maintained longtime friendships with his former University of New Orleans students, including Michael Ledet, an artist and book designer, and Tom Fitzmorris, a food critic. In an interview after Collin's death, Ledet stated that Collin "...was an eccentric, sweet man, an intellectual in every sense of the word... [and he] ...was my best friend for 45 years."
Collin enjoyed teaching and would sometimes don costumes in his classes. According to Ledet, Collin was a "magnificent teacher, very dramatic" and that the students "really loved him, a lot more than the restaurants did."
Collin was a restaurant critic, writing under the guise of the "Underground Gourmet."
In 1970, Collin heard about the "Underground Gourmet" series of restaurant guidebooks, published by Simon & Schuster. Collin wrote to the publisher, asking if they would be interested in a New Orleans version, and the publisher agreed. The contract was negotiated with the help of his first wife, Frances Collin, who is a literary agent. The resulting restaurant guide, The New Orleans Underground Gourmet, published in the summer of 1970, was "the first rated restaurant guide in the city's history." According to Gene Bourg, a former restaurant critic at The Times-Picayune, Collin's book was successful for Simon & Schuster and it "...sold like hotcakes." Another food writer Mary Tutwiler said that Collin had "...a cult following; one found his book, dog-eared and gravy stained, next to the phone book in houses all over the Crescent City. He was so witty, knowledgeable and influential..." Collin's book established him as the first New Orleans restaurant critic.
Several months after Simon & Schuster published Collin's book, the New Orleans States-Item hired Collin to write a weekly restaurant column. Collin employed an elaborate rating system for the quality of food at various restaurants. For exceptionally good dishes, Collin used the phrase platonic dishes – a reference to Plato and the Socratic dialogue The Republic. Collin used the designation platonic dishes sparingly. Lesser culinary offerings received ratings of highly recommended or – for more prosaic menu items – recommended.
From 1970–1980, Collin served as a columnist for the New Orleans States-Item and regularly published reviews of restaurants in New Orleans and the surrounding region. The regular newspaper column also bore the title Underground Gourmet.
Collin reviews encompassed all sorts of restaurants and cuisines, including fine-dining establishments such as well as fast-food restaurants. He was especially enamored with Po-Boy sandwiches and wrote of them at length. Collin had an intense dislike of stuffed artichokes, a dish associated with Italian restaurants in New Orleans.
Collin's work as a restaurant critic was not without controversy, however. If a restaurant received a favorable review, the restaurant owner was happy. If Collin gave an unfavorable review, restaurateurs complained, and one sent an angry letter to Collin's publisher, Simon and Schuster. Later, at a 1975 meeting of New Orleans restaurateurs, Collin's reviews "were subject to protest...", and these restaurateurs launched "...accusations that he lacked objectivity and, worse, that his wife, Rima Collin (also a UNO professor), had a professional interest in seeing some restaurants better rated than others." Generally, however, Collin was complimentary about restaurants in New Orleans. In a 1975 interview, Collin discussed restaurants in France and in New Orleans. He asserted that "I think they're equal. I miss New Orleans when in France, and miss France when I'm in Orleans." In the same interview, when he was asked if New Orleans restaurants were in decline, Collin stated, "New Orleans restaurants are not on the decline. There's as much good eating now as ever."
In one instance, a review from Collin resulted in a lawsuit. A restaurant owner, Donald James Mashburn, sued Collin, the newspaper, and the publisher for defamation over a pointed review of his restaurant, Maison de Mashburn, which was located near Hammond, Louisiana. Collin's inflammatory review appeared in the June 22, 1974 issue of the States-Item.
Collin's review began with a mixture of harsh criticism and compliments with an emphasis on the former:
- "T'aint Creole, t'aint Cajun, t'aint French, t'aint country American, t'aint good. There's been a lot of fuss about this handsome new restaurant on the Covington-Hammond Rd. and more than the usual amount of letters telling me to try it. Mashburn's is an impressively setout restaurant located on a large and beautiful estate, in a fine 1907 house, with all of the amenities of a good European country inn.
- I don't know how much real talent in cooking is hidden under the melange of hideous sauces which make this food and the menu a travesty of pretentious amateurism but I find it all quite depressing. The line between genius and eccentricity is sometimes a thin one but at Mashburn's it is not really in doubt for very long... "
With his spouse, Rima Drell Reck, Collin wrote The New Orleans Cookbook (1975), The New Orleans Restaurant Guide (1976 edition), The Pleasures of Seafood (1977), and the 1982 edition of The New Orleans Restaurant Guide. The New Orleans Cookbook has gone through multiple printings, has sold at least 100,000 copies, and remains in print; Associated Press book critic Cecily Brownstone called it "one of the best regional contributions we are likely to have".
Later years and death
After Hurricane Katrina struck southern Louisiana in August 2005, Collin relocated to Birmingham, Alabama. Collin made periodic trips to New Orleans to eat at his favorite restaurants, and his last New Orleans appearance was at the 2008 Po-Boy Fest. He continued to reside in Birmingham until his death, however., from cancer.
Although Collin was a history professor at the University of New Orleans for decades and known for scholarship on Theodore Roosevelt, he is more likely remembered for his food writing. Collin stopped writing restaurant criticism in the 1980s, but his work continued to influence later restaurant critics such as Tom Fitzmorris. Peggy Scott Laborde, a New Orleans documentary and television host, includes an interview of Collin in her 2001 public television documentary Lost Restaurants of New Orleans.
The New Orleans Cookbook has gone through multiple printings and remains in print and The New Orleans Underground Gourmet, while out-of-print, remains a sought after book in second-hand bookstores and online auction sites. According to blogger Pontchartrain Pete, Collin's book is useful as a historical text, as it illustrates the New Orleans restaurant scene in the 1970s. According to Susan Tucker, and archivist and student of culinary history, Collin's books are "...remarkable scholarly editions with a good mix of practical culinary treasures..." and they "...remind us that food history and observations of foodways form a wonderful part of our heritage as scholars, cooks, and indeed as human beings."
Peggy Scott Laborde dedicated her television documentary New Orleans Restaurants with a Past to Collin's memory.
Many of Collin's books, personal papers, and music compact discs are now housed at the Library of Southeastern Louisiana University. Collin's longtime friends Phyllis Mayronne and Michael Ledet were instrumental in bringing these materials to the University. This large collection reflects Collin's "wide-ranging interests." When Collin resided in Birmingham, his books "were scattered throughout his condominium and had over-flowed into a 60-foot storage unit, filling shelves on both sides of the unit." Among the items that Collin bequeathed to Southeastern University were "...more than 4,000 books on history, art, music and popular culture and 500 opera and vocal CDs. Also included are Collin’s collection of books and papers associated with President Theodore Roosevelt..." Another commentator stated that the bequest included, "a large number of coffee table books on artists and art movements, a collection of books and papers on Theodore Roosevelt along with Roosevelt memorabilia, cookbooks and books on food and drink, writings on culture and taste, classic literature, and many books on baseball, one of his passions." At the time of their accession, the materials in the collection were valued at $100,000.
In addition to the materials at Southeastern Louisiana University, the Nadine Vorhoff Library at Newcomb College holds over 400 books from Collin's personal collection. These deal with culinary history and other food-related topics.
Collin was a member of the American Historical Association, the Organization of American Historians, the American Studies Association, and the Society of Historians of American Foreign Relations.
Partial bibliography of publications by Richard H. Collin
- New Orleans Underground Gourmet, Simon & Schuster, 1970, revised edition, 1973.
- "Theodore Roosevelt's Visit to New Orleans and the Progressive Campaign of 1914," Louisiana History (Winter 1971) XII:5-19.
- "Henry Pringle's Theodore Roosevelt: A Study in Historical Revisionism," New York History (April 1971) 52(2):151-168.
- (Editor) Theodore Roosevelt and Reform Politics, Heath, 1972.
- (With wife, Rima Collin) New Orleans Cookbook, Knopf, 1975.
- (With Rima Collin) New Orleans Restaurant Guide, Strether & Swann, 1976, 4th edition, 1982.
- (With Rima Collin) The Pleasures of Seafood, Holt, 1977.
- Theodore Roosevelt, Culture, Diplomacy, and Expansion: A New View of American Imperialism, Louisiana State University Press (Baton Rouge, LA), 1986.
- [Review of] "The Learned Presidency: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Woodrow Wilson," Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography (April 1988) 112(2):312-313.
- Theodore Roosevelt's Caribbean: The Panama Canal, the Monroe Doctrine, and the Latin America Context, Louisiana State University Press (Baton Rouge, LA), 1990.
- "The 1904 Detroit Compact: U.S. Naval Diplomacy and Dominican Revolutions." The Historian (May 1990) 52(3):432-452.
- [Review of] "Admirals and Empire: The United States Navy and the Caribbean, 1898-1945," The Journal of American History (1992) 79(2):689-690.
- "The Big Stick of Weltpolitik: Europe and Latin America in Theodore Roosevelt's Foreign Policy," in Natalie A. Naylor et al., eds. Theodore Roosevelt: Many-Sided American, Heart of the Lakes Publishing (Interlaken, NY), 1992, pp. 295–316.
- [Review of] "The Presidency of Theodore Roosevelt," Journal of Southern History (1992) 58 (4):737–738.
- [Review of] "Theodore Roosevelt: Many-Sided American," Presidential Studies Quarterly (Summer 1994) 24(3):625-627.
- "Review: Public Collections and Private Collectors," American Quarterly (September 1994) 46(3):448-461.
- "The Tage's Visit to New Orleans, Mardi, Gras, 1903: Changing French Naval Strategy and Carnival Goodwill," Louisiana History (Winter 1994) 35(1):51-66.
- "Symbiosis versus hegemony: New directions in the foreign relations historiography of Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft." Diplomatic History (1995) 19(3):473–497.
- Travels with Rima: A Memoir, Louisiana State University Press (Baton Rouge, LA), 2002.
- "Richard Harvey Collin". Contemporary Authors Online. Gale. 2009. Retrieved February 9, 2015.
- "Richard H. Collin". Directory of American Scholars. Biography in Context. Gale. 2002. Retrieved February 9, 2015.
- Walker, Judy (January 22, 2010). "Richard H. Collin, 'the New Orleans underground gourmet,' dies at age 78". The Times-Picayune. New Orleans, Louisiana: The Times Picayune. Retrieved February 4, 2015.
- "Obituaries: Richard "Dick" Collin '54". Kenyon College Alumni Bulletin. Gambier, OH: Kenyon College. Spring–Summer 2010. Retrieved November 4, 2015.
- Larson, Susan (Winter 2010–2011). "The pursuit of pleasure and perfection". Louisiana Cultural Vistas. Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities. 21 (4). Retrieved February 11, 2015.
- "Literary giant". Kenyon News. Gambier, OH: Kenyon College. July 22, 2015. Retrieved November 4, 2015.
- "A group of Middle Kenyon (non-fraternal) residents in 1952. Included are Roger Hecht '55, Richard H. Collin '54, E.L. Doctorow '52, William T. Goldhurst '53, Martin Nemer '52, Harvey Robbin III '52, and Stanford B. Benjamin '53". Kenyon News. Gambier, OH: Kenyon College. July 22, 2015. Retrieved November 4, 2015.
- "Along the Social Way" (PDF). The Philadelphia Inquirer. The Philadelphia Inquirer. June 12, 1954. Retrieved June 30, 2017.
- "Robert H. Levy, Lawyer, at 42; Was With the Legal Aid Society". The New York Times. The New York Times. May 15, 1977. Retrieved June 30, 2017.
- McCleary, William (2002). "[Review of] Travels With Rima: A Memoir". Louisiana Libraries. 65 (1): 23–24. ISSN 1535-2102.
- Anonymous (February 2010). "An Appreciation of Richard Collin - the late New Orleans restaurant critic & cookbook author". British Food in America. British Food in America (4). Retrieved November 6, 2015.
- Fitzmorris,, Tom (April 2010). "Dining Diary". The New Orleans Menu. Tom Fitzmorris. Retrieved January 25, 2016.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
- Iriye, Akira (June 1988). "Review:Exceptionalism Revisited". Reviews in American History. Johns Hopkins University Press. 16 (2): 291–297. doi:10.2307/2702538.
- Gould, Lewis L. (Summer 1986). "Review: Theodore Roosevelt, Culture, Diplomacy, and Expansion: A New View of American Imperialism by Richard H. Collin". The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society. Kentucky Historical Society. 84 (3): 330–332.
- Smith, Ephraim K. (Winter 1987). "Review: Theodore Roosevelt, Culture, Diplomacy, and Expansion: A New View of American Imperialism by Richard H. Collin". Presidential Studies Quarterly. Wiley on behalf of the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress. 17 (1): 151–153.
- Dorwart, Jeffery M. (February 1988). "Review: Theodore Roosevelt, Culture, Diplomacy, and Expansion: A New View of American Imperialism". Pacific Historical Review. University of California Press. 57 (1): 104–105. doi:10.2307/3639698.
- Marks, Frederick W., III (October 1986). "Review: Theodore Roosevelt, Culture, Diplomacy, and Expansion: A New View of American Imperialism by Richard H. Collin". American Historical Review. 91 (4): 1009–1010.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
- Ricard, Serge (November 1986). "Review: Theodore Roosevelt, Culture, Diplomacy, and Expansion: A New View of American Imperialism". Revue Française d'Etudes Américaines. Paris: Revue Française d'Etudes Américaines. 30 (1): 518. Retrieved November 6, 2015.
- Fitzmorris, Tom (October 13, 2014). "### 5Star: The Food Almanac". The New Orleans Menu. Tom Fitzmorris. Archived from the original on February 13, 2015. Retrieved February 12, 2015.
- Abadie, Rene (October 17, 2011). "Southeastern Library announces Richard Collin collection of books, papers and CDs". Southeastern Louisiana University. Retrieved June 26, 2015.
- Faure, Stephen and Webb Williams (March–April 2007). "Tasteful Tom Tells All". Inside Northside. M&L Publishing LLC. Retrieved February 12, 2015.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
- Fitzmorris, Tom (January 4, 2011). "Le Ruth's". The New Orleans Menu. Tom Fitzmorris. Retrieved February 12, 2015.
- Tutwiler, Mary (January 26, 2010). "Underground Gourmet Richard Collin remembered". The Independent. Lafayette, Louisiana: IND Media. Retrieved November 6, 2015.
- Newcomb College Institute of Tulane University (2016). "Culinary Collection". Newcomb College Institute of Tulane University. Retrieved January 25, 2016.
- Wilk, Richard R.; Barbosa, Livia (2012). Rice and beans: a unique dish in a hundred places. London: Berg. p. 255. Retrieved January 25, 2015.
- Smith, Aidan (February 15, 2012). "Underground Gourmet's books added to collection". New Wave. New Orleans, La.: Tulane University. Archived from the original on November 17, 2015. Retrieved November 12, 2015.
- Foodanthro [David Beriss] (August 8, 2010). "Restaurant Criticism". Restaurant Row Recovery Project. New Orleans, Louisiana: Restaurant Row Recovery Project. Retrieved February 5, 2016.
- Fitzmorris, Tom (2010). Tom Fitzmorris's hungry town : a culinary history of New Orleans, the city where food is almost everything. New York, NY: Stewart, Tabori & Chang. p. 26. Retrieved February 11, 2016.
- Ephron, Nora (2012). "Richard Collin and the Spaghetti Recipe". Crazy Salad and Scribble Scribble: Some Things About Women and Notes on Media. New York: Vintage Books. Retrieved March 12, 2015.
- Hémard, Ned (2011). "Platonic Memories" (PDF). New Orleans Nostalgia. New Orleans, Louisiana: New Orleans Bar Association. Retrieved March 12, 2015.
- Fitzmorris, Tom (May 21, 2013). "Food Almanac, May 21". The New Orleans Menu. Tom Fitzmorris. Retrieved March 12, 2015.
- Zotter, Jr., Frank (August 13, 2012). "Judicial Follies – Everybody's a critic". Ukiah Daily Journal. Ukiah, CA: Kevin McConnell. Retrieved March 4, 2015.
- Pontchartrain Pete (pseudonym) (June 27, 2012). "On Creole Cuisine, or, What It Means To Be New Orleans, with Richard Collin". Pontchartrain Pete. Retrieved November 12, 2015.
- Roahen, Sara (2009). Gumbo tales - finding my place at the New Orleans table. New York: W.W. Norten. p. 103. Retrieved October 11, 2017.
- Williams, Elizabeth M. (2013). New Orleans: A Food Biography. Lanham, MD: Altamira Press. p. 149. Retrieved October 11, 2017.
- Roahen, Sara (2009). Gumbo tales - finding my place at the New Orleans table. New York: W.W. Norten. p. 61. Retrieved October 11, 2017.
- Steinberg, Dave (January 23, 1971). "Underground Gourmet Talk of Town". The Southeast Missourian. Cape Girardeau, MO: Nauter Brothers Publishing Company, Inc. p. 6. Retrieved February 11, 2016.
- Stagg, Camille (July 23, 1975). "Cookery of New Orleans: Remarkable Book Gets to the Heart of Food that Makes that Historic City a Gastronomic Legend, and Gives Authentic Recipes". Lakeland Ledger. Lakeland, FL: Lakeland Ledger Publishing Co. p. 5C. Retrieved February 11, 2016.
- Mashburn v. Collin, 355 So.2d 879 (La. 1977).
- Levenson, Barry M. (2001). Habeas Codfish: Reflections on Food and the Law. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press. p. 147. Retrieved February 1, 2018.
- Walker, Judy (January 27, 2010). "New Orleans culinary masterwork was edited by cookbook legend Judith Jones". The Times-Picayune. New Orleans, Louisiana: The Times Picayune. Retrieved November 12, 2015.
- Brownstone, Cecily (December 17, 1975). "New Cookbook Said Best Ever Published". Associated Press in Waycross Journal-Herald. Retrieved June 20, 2016.
- Anderson, Brett (November 11, 2010). "Oak Street Po-Boy Festival honors New Orleans favorite sandwich". The Times-Picayune. New Orleans, Louisiana: The Times Picayune. Retrieved November 12, 2015.
- Fitzmorris, Tom (July 25, 2014). "Diary 7/25/2014: A Reunion And Tasting Menu, Tomas Bistro". The New Orleans Menu. Tom Fitzmorris. Retrieved September 5, 2017.
- "#49 Hungry Town". Dining with Strangers. Dining with Strangers. August 29, 2013. Retrieved September 5, 2017.
- Fitzmorris, Tom (March 27, 2010). "Dining Diary". The New Orleans Menu. Tom Fitzmorris. Retrieved September 5, 2017.
- WYES-TV (2015). "Lost Restaurants of New Orleans". New Orleans, La.: WYES=TV. Retrieved January 25, 2016.
- Walker, Dave (November 17, 2010). "New documentary revisits 'New Orleans Restaurants With a Past'". The Times-Picayune. New Orleans, Louisiana: The Times Picayune. Retrieved November 12, 2015.
- Johnson, Eric (December 2011). "Library Receives Collin Book Bequest" (PDF). Mane Lines. Sims Library, Southeastern Louisiana University. Retrieved August 10, 2017.
- Smith, Aidan (January 19, 2012). "Newcomb College Institute's Vorhoff Library Welcomes the books of Richard Collin, New Orleans' "Underground Gourmet" to its Culinary History Collection" (PDF). New Orleans, Louisiana: Newcomb College Institute of Tulane University. Retrieved January 25, 2016.