Speaker 1 00:00:05 Hello and welcome to another episode of Purdue University's Make Your Story podcast celebrating students stories of making and creating new and exciting projects and innovations all over campus. My name is Dr. Annette Bohan. I work as an assistant professor and business information specialist at Purdue. And I'm your host for today's podcast episode. As a librarian, I frequently see Purdue's Library and information resources aiding in the research process that prefaces so many of these projects of making and creating. But today, our story of making blends the nostalgic with the new. And I think that many people might be familiar with or have at least heard of TikTok at this point, especially after 2020s quarantine period. Now, quite a few people jumped on the TikTok app bandwagon as app users or have even gone on to become content creators themselves. But do you also happen to remember American Girl Dolls now as a product of the nineties?
Speaker 1 00:01:13 I absolutely remember them. I loved pouring over the catalogs, dreaming of all of the beautiful and cool dolls, the different time periods that they represented. And I definitely devoured the six book series that was behind each doll when I was finally lucky enough to be able to get my very own American Girl Doll at the American Girl Doll Store in Chicago's Water Tower Place. As a little girl, I was over at the moon, and for the record I went with Samantha, who represented the Victorian era Purdue student, and now alum. Seth Workman also entered into the arena of content creation through TikTok talk, harboring a passion for cooking, as well as collecting some of the historic American girl dolls. He had the innovative idea to cook his way through the American Girl Doll cookbooks for TikTok users and for his own enjoyment to take them through that process and have them also enjoy being part of the journey. Yes, the Dolls also had cookbooks that were published centering upon their different historical periods and the historic periods themselves served as inspirations for what sorts of recipes you'd see in the book through making not only food dishes, but also creating highly focused and well-edited content for TikTok. Seth soon struck up a steady following of TikTok fans, including myself now here to share his journey with us is Seth Workman.
Speaker 2 00:02:46 So I'm Seth Workman. I am from Westfield, Indiana, which is like a little suburb north of Indianapolis. Um, I started at Purdue in 2018 and then I graduated in May of this year. Um, my degree was in hospitality and tourism management, so I was pretty involved with that all four years. Um, also was really involved on campus with the Purdue Student Union Board for all four years. Um, when I graduated I ended up moving out east. I'm currently in Williamsburg, Virginia. Um, I work in hospitality out here. Um, yeah, I kind of fell down the TikTok rabbit hole with everyone else early 2019, I think. Um, didn't really make start, didn't really start putting it in content until like 2020. I had like a, like a few hits here and there, but nothing really took off until 20 until this year in um, April when I started cooking my way through the American Girl Belt cookbooks.
Speaker 2 00:03:49 Um, I'd always been really interested in history as a kid. Um, and I always think like if I didn't go into hospitality, I probably would be a history teacher, probably Uhhuh <affirmative>. Um, but so I really felt kind of like down the American girl rabbit hole too, like in 2020. Um, I didn't have one growing up. A lot of my like neighbors did. Um, when I as a kid, like Kit was really big so everyone had her. I didn't know much about them until I stumbled on them in 2020 and I kind of, I didn't know that they were all historically based. But when I found that out I kind of like started looking into little more, um, kind of going into like the lore of the franchise. Um, and then when I finally had cookbooks, I thought it'd be really fun to just kind of dive into. Um, cuz it was definitely seemed to be really historically based and it's definitely been like a big wave of nostalgia lately for the brand in general.
Speaker 3 00:04:41 So what in general then made you interested in cooking then? If we'll start from there.
Speaker 2 00:04:47 Yeah, so, um, my mom has always been in the kitchen a lot when I was a kid, um, until now, but she's always been more like of a baker. Um, never really like a lot of cooking. Um, but I was always with her, um, in the kitchen for a lot of my childhood. Um, so that was definitely like the early start, early love for the culinary arts in general. Um, and then I took some culinary arts classes in high school and then obviously the app Purdue with the hospitality curriculum. We do take, um, culinary classes, um, and we run like a little restaurant operation. Um, so I was always interested in like experimenting, um, and just getting more like hands on, um, experience in the kitchen. So I think that's kind of where that started to line up with. Um, and brought a little bit north of Indianapolis and Fishers. There's kind of very, which is a living history museum. I loved going there as a kid. Um, and my favorite poor is always like going into the houses and like, if they're like cooking or baking, I always like wanna stay and watch that.
Speaker 3 00:05:53 Uh, and then how did you specifically then become interested in the American Girl Doll books then since uh, it was actually through your TikTok that I learned that they even made the cookbooks since I, I grew up with like the Dolls themselves and like, like as a product of the nineties, I had like Samantha and her like little starter pack of books and I read through so many of the other doll books, but I didn't, I didn't know about the cookbooks.
Speaker 2 00:06:14 Yeah, I don't really know how I found the cookbook. Um, I got probably, I probably was looking online, um, but they've been out of prep since like 1994. Wow. Um, so I think anyone born after that probably didn't have them. Um, and when I like was hunting them down online, they're were a little hard to find. Um, like COFINA was the last cookbook to be published and hers is like almost nonexistent. Um, the Evergreen Indiana Library system only has two copies in the whole state. Um, so yeah, I'm not exactly sure how I found them, but I don't know how long they were in print, but I don't think it was very long.
Speaker 3 00:06:55 Oh wow. Yeah. That, that, that is interesting. I guess that that kind of covers on my next question too. I was wondering if you were looking for more of like the the classic like initial release of the Dolls, like that first set of I think like the six original ones that Pleasant Company came out with versus if even some of the contemporary ones are doing the cookbooks since yet. That was all news to me. So none of the contemporaries have cookbooks at this point? We don't think.
Speaker 2 00:07:19 No, not there's two, there's two that do, but I wouldn't say there was like contemporary. So the Pleasant Company was a lot more rooted in history than Mattel has been with the, um, franchise. So they took a all steps like guarantee historic authenticity, so Pleasant Company had their first like stalls. Um, Kirsten, Felicity, Addie, Josefina, Molly and Samantha. Those are the OG six. And then when Mattel bought them in 1999, they were like in the pipeline of releasing both Kaya and Kit. Okay. Um, Kaya doesn't have a cookbook but Kit does. She's kinda like one of like the weird transition dolls. Okay. Um, so her cookbooks a different format and I don't own that one. Um, cause when I was start the print I was just gonna do the original six, but Julie also has a cookbook, which is a little strange.
Speaker 3 00:08:14 Oh, which one is Julie? Is she the fifties? Like doll?
Speaker 2 00:08:17 1970s.
Speaker 3 00:08:18 Oh, the seventies, okay. Gotcha. Yeah. Excellent.
Speaker 2 00:08:21 The 50 came out a few years after kids, but Okay. That, that transition period between my company Motel.
Speaker 3 00:08:28 Gotcha. Gotcha. Excellent. Uh, so I, yeah, I guess, uh, you, you kind of got into this a little bit, but how did you find yourself getting the books? How are you able to access them with them being out of print?
Speaker 2 00:08:39 So I find almost all of them online. Um, there was a website, I think it's called AB Books, it's like secondhand books. Um, and every copy that I bought came from Half Price Books. Um, I know they're based off Texas. Um, but so I, my oldest came from like a random pack price bookstore, like a Dallas suburb. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, I think I bought like two at a time cause I didn't know like how far I was gonna go with this and when I first started, but I pay like $2 and 50 cents for like each of the books. Um, and then I, no one, no one had her subpoenas cookbook on that like, it's like a handbook site. No one had her like on eBay or anything else. So I just got her from the library and just up like taking pictures of the pages that I needed.
Speaker 3 00:09:29 That's amazing. Yeah. I did want to like plug to, uh, yeah, if, if you havet already just inter-library loan in general, like my background's public libraries, so like if you can't find something you can basically like request it as like a nationwide like search effort to get something mailed to you at your library. So maybe you might have some success there. But that helps me with like, my research, I'm like really into like classic films and most of that content is like out of print. So that's where like the library systems really come in into play if I can't buy something cheap, secondhand. Um, so That's awesome. Uh, so can, can you tell me a little bit then about your process with like coming up with the different like TikTok videos and what, what it's like to work through these?
Speaker 2 00:10:11 So I first started with, uh, no Felicity's breakfast. I'm going in historical order. Oh the characters. So mostly we would be first cuz she was before we even were a country. She was 1774. Um, so I started with her and then, so I've been, each cookbook has three sections. There is breakfast, dinner and then favorite foods. So I go through the cookbook, like start to finish. Um, let's starting with breakfast for each of the characters. Um, breakfast post. Okay. Felicity's breakfast was not very hard. Um, it was super easy. Like it was, it was a good thing, like just a good start with that. Um, definitely got thrown for some loops with her dinner. Um, but I think the hardest cookbook that I've done so far, it's probably, it's a tie between Josefina and Kirsten. Um, they both have some Na Sophia that are just pretty difficult to work through. Um, like Josefina has tamales. I have never done that, that it was a long effort. Um, and Kirsten had a lot of bread in hers and I just happen to be someone who can never get bread at work for me. <laugh> that always killed at, I think.
Speaker 3 00:11:27 Gotcha. So yeah, it is fun. Like with the this angle, I think you're able to sort of learn about the time period and what was sort of in, in vogue then, or typical of some of these meals and getting a sense of what ingredients they use, but also like the cultural connections. I think that's a, that's also really fascinating to like work through and by default kind of learn, uh, learn from it all. Absolutely. Uh, so with that then, do you have any like memorable recipe successes or alternatively failures that stand out to you?
Speaker 2 00:11:56 Um, so my most recent failure was with Addie's a Breakfast. Um, Addie is 1864, I believe she's in Philadelphia. Addie is a, um, a former enslaved person and she flees the south for Philadelphia. And so her breakfast, um, has like biscuits in it. And the biscuits, I tried them twice. I could not get them to rise and the cookbooks sometimes offer and like suggestions or tips and tricks on how to get certain recipes to work. But this one had like, it's like three ingredients. It's flour, butter, and milk essentially. Um, I, it could not work for me. I did that one two times and I never remake the recipes. Usually I just like, if it fails the first time, I'm just honest, like, this was a fail, the cookbook's wrong, but I really wanted to get this right, but I couldn't do it. Um, that was like the most recent, um, failure I've had. Um, and then another one, I know I had a few with Host, but I can't think of them off the top of my head.
Speaker 3 00:12:58 <laugh>. So it sounds like someone forgot like baking powder on the recipe or something. Some sort of a riser, but <laugh>. Um, and uh, any successes though? Any, anything you'd maybe like make again or anything you were particularly proud of or?
Speaker 2 00:13:12 Yeah. Um, Kirsten had this, um, they were like rusks essentially, um, uh, in her, I think it was in her breakfast section possibly. I mean, a Rusk is essentially just Brad, that it's, you've sliced and then you toasted the oven and it gets so dry that it can just stay shelf stable for a really long time. Um, and I'll see if you want shelf stable foods when you're on the Minnesota furries. So I'd make the rusks again. They had like a cardamon in them, which is a flavor I'm really into. Um, I'll probably make that again. Kirsten's cookbook was really fascinating because it had a lot of different spices in it, which I hadn't really seen with a lot of other characters. Um, we often forget, I think that Swedish cooking has a lot of spices that have been, I don't, there's a lot of why they ended up in Sweden. Um, but most people think Vik is sort of Silk Road got them up there and it's just kind of stayed in their cuisine. It was really interesting to like do all this food, um, that Kirsten would've been eating on Minnesota prairies. That was pretty typically Swedish. I had a lot of people commenting on my TikTok like, oh, my grandma used to cook like this. And I was like, that's really interesting.
Speaker 3 00:14:28 So cool. Yeah, I think like a lot of like the Scandinavian dishes have like cardimum in them in some capacity, so yeah, it's really interesting to see what, what sort of flavors they highlight. Um, yeah. And then so over time then you really started to build up a following, I'm sure you found me along the way too. <laugh>. I was among them. And, uh, what was that like for you to see a following solely build and when did you really start to notice it? Was there like a turning point at, at some moment where you realized like, wow, <laugh>, there are a lot of people who are into this.
Speaker 2 00:14:59 I first started pushing, I had like 3000 followers and then after the first full video, like things just like hit from there. Um, within days I had 30,000. Wow. I'm just that one video. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, and the things I've just been building since then. It's really interesting to see like, so on TikTok, you know, on your video page it'll say like, this person follows you. And like, I'm like, sometimes it's, it's like a verified person. I'm like, I'm like, why does Holly and Madison follow me? Like, that's just so funny to me. Um, but yeah, the following has definitely been interesting to watch slowly build. Um, definitely like also someone who like has like a professional career, um, someone's like, I'll show up to work and someone and be like, I didn't know you were available on TikTok. And I'm like, oh gosh, I was on your for page. Like please don't tell anyone <laugh>. But yeah, it's been really interesting to watch that like build up for the last few months. Um, but I wasn't really come, I think the moment where I was like, oh wait, I have a following. Was when I was, when Holly Madison was commenting on my TikTok.
Speaker 3 00:16:05 Oh my goodness. Yeah. <laugh>. Oh it was so fun. Yeah, it's the, the Felicity video is the one that brought me to you. I think it was Felicity's breakfast if I remember correctly. And yeah, <laugh>, I followed from there on out.
Speaker 2 00:16:17 <laugh>, she has a breakfast also blew up as well. Um, an American girl commented on that one.
Speaker 3 00:16:23 Oh wow.
Speaker 2 00:16:24 I been noticed by like the motherland. Yeah.
Speaker 3 00:16:27 Yeah. That, that was one of my questions too is have you been able to connect, uh, with American Girl in any capacity or I, and maybe even like historically Pleasant company or Mattel at this point? Have there been any connections or potential for collaboration? If you're allowed to say even,
Speaker 2 00:16:43 Um, I would love to collaborate with American girl. Um, but so they've commented on my TikTok on that one. Uh, screen's Breakfast. I haven't heard anything else from them. Um, they're historically a very difficult company to contact. Um, there's actually a podcast called, um, they read us rebranded to Dolls of Our Lives. They used to be called American Girls where this went through each American girl book where they had an episode where they interviewed someone who used to work for American Girl Magazine. And she explained that it was really, there's no like digital way to contact American girl because there's, I mean their audience is children, so there's a lot of like weird, um, privacy laws that come in with that. So like when the magazine was still in, you couldn't really contact them through mail. Um, I went to the American Girl All Store a few months ago and I was trying to contact them some way online, but it's just, it's almost impossible too.
Speaker 3 00:17:39 Gotcha. Uh, which uh, American Girl store did you go to? Cause there's like so many like locations now.
Speaker 2 00:17:45 I went to the one Chicago.
Speaker 3 00:17:46 Oh yeah, that's my, my home base one <laugh> <laugh>. Excellent. Uh, yeah, so, so wonderful then. So yeah, hopefully maybe there'll be some sort of a collab down the road. I don't know, <laugh> or maybe some new cookbooks. I think that'd be a lot of fun. I think they should jump on that bandwagon. <laugh> again,
Speaker 2 00:18:05 The newest doll is, and her baker I believe is the plotline for her. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I think like easily potential there for a cookbook.
Speaker 3 00:18:15 Definitely. Yeah. Yeah, I would hope so. And I haven't peaked with, uh, some of the contemporary doll books since. Um, yeah, it's, it's been <laugh> a long time since I read American Girl Books, but, uh, I wonder if some of them include like recipes in the back or something just like informally in their appendices or
Speaker 2 00:18:31 Something. Some, the older present company bot had recipes in them sometimes cuz someone was asking about a recipe and they're like, oh, it's like, tell don't me what it was. I think it was some, it was a cookie for Kirsten, I think. But I was like, that's not in her cookbook. Like, I don't know why you would've found that interesting. I think it was in one of her, one of her books I think.
Speaker 3 00:18:51 Okay. Yeah. Yeah. That wouldn't surprise me cause I, yeah, I think I've seen something like that somewhere back there. So. Interesting. Yeah. Um, so do you then have any like strategies that you'd recommend for someone who's looking to build a following, like say on TikTok or elsewhere?
Speaker 2 00:19:07 Um, my one, like with guys definitely find a niche. Um, whenever I post things that are not American girl content, they don't always do as well or perform a strongly, even if it's not cooking American girl books, it's, if I still en ball that franchise in some way, TikTok will still progress and move on, um, and get like a little follow. So definitely like find a niche to stick with it. Um, I just kind of stumbled into this niche, like I didn't think too hard about it. I was like, oh, this just sounds like a fun thing to do. Um, so it's a little bit trial and error and definitely with TikTok, the algorithm as such a difficult thing to understand and no one really seems to understand how it works either. Um, but definitely find your niche, make content that asks people to comment too, to kind of boost up in the algorithm. Um, sometimes I will say like, oh, drop a comment below if you know whatever X, Y, Z and that definitely helps move it out and get it spreading around too.
Speaker 3 00:20:18 Absolutely. Yeah. And I noticed like hashtags, like that kind of thing help and just, uh, yeah, like you said, I think kind of knowing your audience and since you, you've built up a following, you kind of know that that piqued their interest and to kind of keep giving them what they want, but in a way that's still enjoyable and fun for you to, to do. Yeah. Uh, and certainly to like routinely keep producing <laugh> in those videos too. I'm sure they always want more. Um, yeah. I guess I I have one last question for you. Just, uh, are there any future plans or other cooking endeavors that you maybe aim to pursue or showcase if you're, if you're able to preview anything?
Speaker 2 00:20:55 <laugh>. I mean, I still have more cookbooks to work through with American Girl. Um, definitely a sense like leaving college and getting a full-time job. Um, working for the cookbooks has definitely been a lot slower of our process than I would like it to be. Um, but I still have two more sections of Addie and then we have Samantha and Molly after that. Um, there might be a possibility for Kit or Julie in the future, um, since they both have cooking studios is how Mattel branded them. Ah,
Speaker 3 00:21:30 Okay.
Speaker 2 00:21:31 Um, but once I finished the American Girl franchise, I don't know where I'm gonna go next. I have been looking at other cookbooks, um, there's a Dolly part and cookbook, which I think would be really fun. Yeah, there's a little women cookbook, which I would love to go and do that one
Speaker 3 00:21:46 Great fun.
Speaker 2 00:21:48 Yeah. I'm not really sure where I'll go after this.
Speaker 3 00:21:53 Excellent. Yeah, so fun. I, yeah, th those cookbooks in general too are so fun. There's so many that are tied to all like different kinds of areas of interest, whether historical or like pop culture, like TV movie oriented. So yeah, I'm sure worlds here, you're oyster <laugh> and people are, are curious to see the final products with some of these too. Especially those that like aren't illustrated. I think that's a lot of fun with your, your videos too is just seeing what we get in the end. So very fun.
Speaker 2 00:22:18 <laugh> the American Girl Cook folks are illustrated. Um, but I don't, and they definitely took some artistic liberties there, <laugh>, um, like a lot of my products don't always look like theirs.
Speaker 1 00:22:28 Seth, thank you so much for joining us today and sharing your maker's story to continue following Seth and his exciting journey. You can find Seth on TikTok as Aaron Kle, a r e n c l e l l e. Thank you so much for listening to this episode of the Make Your Story podcast. We certainly hope that you'll continue to tune into future episodes and continue exploring more information about the Make Your Story podcast. In order to access our website, please visit lib.purdue.edu/maker podcast. See you next time.