About a month ago, Melissa heard about a new exhibit at the Smithsonian Museum of American History, and can you guess the theme? FOOD! To be more specific, its about the evolution of food production and consumption in the United States between 1950 and 2000. It is titled, “FOOD: Transforming the American Table”.
Naturally, we went within a week of it opening. When we first got there, it seemed pretty small. There were a few glass showcases set up and some interactive areas. SOMEHOW, we managed to spend over 2 hours in this exhibit. I am a reader when I go to museums. If I’m there, I want to soak up as much as my brain can hold. Thankfully, so is Melissa, so we were well paced with each other. Here are some highlights:
Here we have the first microwaves and accessories. The top 2 pictures feature the original microwave (about the size of a small modern oven) and retailed for over $1,000. One thing that I though was super handy was the recipe box the was built right into the bottom. Gotta keep track of all your new microwavable recipes!
In the second row we see the original TV trays and another early microwave that reminds me more of a DeLorean than a cooking device
The next area was a table set up with the eating guides from different countries as well as from different years in the US. It was neat to see how the recommendations have changed over the years and how cultures value foods differently. In clockwise order we have The African Heritage Diet Pyramid 2011, the Japanese Food Guide Spinning Top 2005, US Food Pyramid 1992, USDA Canine Food Pyramid 2004 (I couldn’t help myself) and Chef Ann’s Healthy Kid’s Meal Wheel 2004. These are all pretty distinct from each other. My favorite part about Chef Ann’s is that the recommendations are not only for daily meals but also for the week. The African Heritage pyramid shows how you should build your meal with a basis of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, and then everything else is only included in some meals. We have definitely come a long way from 1992. The current US recommendation is the MyPlate.
Convenience foods and snacks were also featured. Up top we have some retro Pringles and Gatorade. In the center are the mascots for 7/11, the early bird and the night owl (I think that was so clever. Just me? okay). They were the first store of their kind and extended their hours to better serve the extremes. They were then the first convenience store to be open 24/7. In the bottom left are dozens of disposable coffee lids. Why you might ask? Each of those designs is patented! The amount of energy that went into the perfect sip of coffee would blow your mind and make you think twice before throwing it away.
A big theme in this section was that with convenience, comes an increase in snacking. Before the 80’s, snacks were around, but they took off in this time period. It is interesting because with the emergence of snacks, we see the waistlines of Americans starting to creep upwards. Coincidence? Unlikely. Here is a graph showing the amount of new products that hit the market.
The green, pink and yellow bars are condiments, candy, gums and snacks, and bakery foods respectively. The amount of new products are completely staggering. At the bottom of the graph, we see that entrees as well as fruits and vegetables have a pitiful performance in comparison.
And to break the seriousness, we have Julia Child’s kitchen! This was one of the main features of the exhibit. Julia donated everything from her kitchen to the Smithsonian. Everything in that room was original except for the floors(which were a replica of the real thing). Bravo Smithsonian! The space wasn’t huge, which gives me inspiration to do great things in my tiny kitchen.
I loved that she had all of her pans exposed and hanging on pegs. If you have such beautiful copper, I feel like you have to show it off. To keep everything organized, there were outlines of each pot for where it was supposed to go. My mom has photos of our pots and pans and Tupperware put away properly tapped to the inside of our cabinets so that things get put away correctly. Great minds.
She had a wonderful mix of traditional cookware, like the copper pots and the modern, like the kitchen aid (every dietitian’s dream appliance). In the exhibit, they had some episodes of “The French Chef” playing. One of the funnier things she said is that your diet should be balanced, which means that there is always a place for red meat and gin.
Well that about sums up our trip! Here are a few more photos of some fun features. Now that you’ve had a taste, I highly recommend that you visit. Its a new permanent installment and its free.