What’s Cooking?

Written on: June 10, 2011 | 6 Comments

As someone who likes to cook and collects cookbooks for inspiration, I am high on the latest exhibit to open here at the National Archives.

The Archivist at the exhibit preview

AOTUS welcomes the press at the “What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam?” exhibit preview at the National Archives.

“What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam?” takes a look at the Government’s role in food, a story told from the records in our custody.  It is a story at times funny, at times scary, and always informative.  There are photos and recipes from the White House kitchens—President Johnson’s Pedernales River Chili, President Kennedy’s New England Fish Chowder, and even Queen Elizabeth II’s scone recipe, a favorite of President Eisenhower’s.  It tells the story of Frank Meyer (the Meyer lemon Meyer!) who trekked throughout Asia in the early 1900s looking for plant specimens and seeds to bring to America.  Did you know that the first Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Harvey Wiley, used a human “poison squad” to prove the harmful effects of chemical preservatives in food?    And it includes the food pyramid over time—did you know that butter was once a food group?!  What great timing—just last week the Department of Agriculture released the new food plate.

The exhibit opens today and for the next six months we will be doing an amazingly creative series of programs and events relating to food.  Come and visit!

Uncle Sam Says Garden

With canned goods in short supply during World Wars I and II, people ate more fresh fruit and vegetables—many from their own back yards.

National Archives, Records of the Office of War Information, ARC ID 5711623

6 Responses to “What’s Cooking?”

  1. Charley Barth said:

    Had the privelage of attending the opening last night. Incredible display and a topic near and dear to my heart as a 8th generation farmers son! Great items in the gift shop as well!

    (June 10, 2011 at 11:31 am)

  2. Rick Barry said:

    A great outreach idea! I hope there will be more such events both in Washington and elsewhere in NARA’s reaches, and that it prompts state and local government archivists to try their own such homegrown events. This one brings back a flood of memories and images: my daily duties tending a large Victory Garden in our back yard with our family, as a youngster living in South Hadley, MA, during WWII; mixing awful substitutes for butter, drinking MOXIE (Yuk! I recall), because the Cokes were all going to the troops, of which my oldest brother was one; eating fish on Friday whatever one’s religion was, and other food and cooking related things like pressure cooking — and the whole rationing stamps program for all kinds of items we had come to take for granted before the war.

    In our field, especially with all the possible budgetary cuts looming these days, it couldn’t be a better way or time to directly engage the public about records and the recordkeeping organizations and people who mind them.

    Rick Barry

    (June 10, 2011 at 12:36 pm)

  3. Tara McLoughlin said:

    I loved the sheer variety of records featured in this exhibit, from the hilarious to the deadly serious. I found myself playing the bizarre and highly entertaining beef liver inspection video (http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/whats-cooking/preview/factory-video.html) over and over.

    (June 10, 2011 at 1:20 pm)

  4. Joan MCann said:

    Now I really have to get to D.C!

    (June 11, 2011 at 11:56 am)

  5. Alexis Hill said:

    I worked really hard on getting all the records together in preparation for the exhibition. I really enjoyed working on this exhibit!

    (June 22, 2011 at 4:05 pm)

  6. Dave said:

    I guess I am going to have to go and see the exhibit. It will be fun to try out the Kennedy recipe!

    (June 29, 2011 at 3:55 pm)