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Archive for 'What’s Cooking'

World War I food conservation: “Pan de la libertad”

Recipes for "Pan de la libertad para conservar el trigo." (Records of the U.S. Food Administration, RG 4, National Archives at San Francisco)

Recipes for "Pan de la libertad para conservar el trigo." (Records of the U.S. Food Administration, RG 4, National Archives at San Francisco)

“What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam?,” our current special exhibition in Washington, DC, examines the Government’s effect on what Americans eat. Government influence was especially visible during wartime, when many food products were reserved for feeding the troops and our Allies.

During World War I, the U.S. Food Administration, headed by Herbert Hoover, urged the American people to voluntarily conserve food, especially wheat, meat, fats, and sugar. Recognizing that a successful program had to reach out to all Americans, the agency distributed printed materials in several languages, including Italian pamphlets in New York City, Chinese food conservation notices in Hawaii, and Spanish recipes in California.

The featured recipes for “pan de la libertad” (liberty bread), using corn, oat, and barley flour instead of wheat, were found in the files of the California State Food Administration, housed at the National Archives at San Francisco. According to a note at the bottom, recipes were translated into Spanish for counties with significant Spanish-speaking populations.

An all-out publicity campaign was waged to educate the citizenry about the need for food conservation and how … [ Read all ]

What’s Cooking Wednesdays: Crimes against butter

Charles Wille was sent to the Federal Penitentiary at Leavenworth in 1915 for crimes against butter. (ARC 596115)

The Federal Penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kansas, has housed some famous and infamous inmates, such as “Birdman of Alcatraz” Robert Stroud and Machine Gun Kelly. In the early 20th century, the prison took in some less likely felons—violators of the Oleomargarine Act of 1886.

How did trafficking in this popular butter substitute become a Federal offense? Well, almost immediately after New York’s U.S. Dairy Company began production of “artificial butter” in 1871, regulation began. Dairy interests pushed Congress to pass the 1886 act, which imposed a two-cent tax (per pound) on margarine and also required manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers of margarine to obtain margarine licenses.

By 1902, 32 states had bans on coloring margarine yellow to make it look more like butter. That same year, Congress increased the tax to 10 cents a pound for colored margarine but imposed a lesser tax of a quarter of one cent per pound on the uncolored stuff.

The exhibit “What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam?” includes the story of felons convicted of violating sections of the Oleomargarine Act and sent to the Federal prison at Leavenworth. Some tried to pass the margarine off as butter; others tried to evade the tax by reusing tax stamps again and again.

Joseph Wirth (along with his

[ Read all ]

Thursday Photo Caption Contest

"Now everybody sing 'YMCA.'"

Last week’s photo of men swinging from the trees inspired many noteworthy captions, from the Pirates of Penzance to pigeon interception. Overwhelmed by choice, we turned to our guest judge James Kratsas of the Gerald R. Ford Museum in Michigan.

James was also overwhelmed—by grim memories of dancing at weddings, and he chose Marene B’s caption. Congratulations, and check your e-mail for a code to get 15% off your purchase in our eStore!

Like President Ford, the men in last week’s picture are graduates of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. The caption reads “Vocational training for S.A.T.C. in University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Class in Pole-Climbing in the course for telephone electricians, with some of their instructors. University of Michigan, ca. 1918″ (ARC  533483; 165-WW-119A[1]).”

In this week’s caption, everyone’s feet are firmly on the ground—for now. (This image is also from our new exhibit, “What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam?” which opens tomorrow with our Chief Culinary Adviser Chef Jose Andres!)

Put your tastiest caption in the comments below!

Your caption here!

[ Read all ]

What’s Cooking Wednesday–Exploding Ketchup!

Contaminated Ketchup, 1909 (ARC 5710028)

These records are featured in our new “What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam?” exhibit which opens this Friday! To celebrate the opening, the Foundation for the National Archives is giving away a free copy of the exhibit catalog. Leave a comment below telling us what food you like to put ketchup on, and the Foundation will randomly choose a winner next Wednesday!

Long before the 1981 congressional debate over whether ketchup was a vegetable or before my grandfather was using it to help make his WWII military rations palatable, ketchup was dangerous.

Ketchup could explode.

Early ketchup was made from fermented skins and cores. These fermenting tomato leftovers could explode and burst their containers, so benzoate of soda was added a preservative.

However, the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, signed by President Theodore Roosevelt, meant that ketchup—and its rotting, explosive tomato ingredients—was now regulated. In the image above 1909, the company making “Squire Tomato Catsup” was prosecuted and fined $50 for making ketchup from “Decomposed Material.”

In another case (image below), “Elk Pride Tomato Catsup” was found to have yeasts, bacteria, and mold filaments in samples of its products when tested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The shipment was condemned for destruction when it was found to be “adulturated in violation of the Food and Drugs Act . … [ Read all ]

The Archivist and the Chef

Archivist of the United States David Ferriero and Chef Jose Andres model their new aprons!

Our new exhibit “What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam?” opens on June 10 and has over 100 original records about food.

But what if you could do more than just look at the records? What if you could taste them—and taste history?

Chef Jose Andres—the 2011 Outstanding Chef at the James Beard Foundation Awards, host and executive producer of PBS series Made in Spain, and owner of several restaurants—had some good ideas of how he might cook up history.

This morning at a press event at the National Archives, the Archivist and Chef Andres announced a special partnership between the Foundation for the National Archives and ThinkFoodGroup inspired by “What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam?”

On July 4, Chef Andres will open a pop-up restaurant called America Eats Tavern, which will be a culinary destination and an extension of the National Archives exhibit. The name comes from the Works Progress Administration (WPA) writers project of the 1930s.

What will American history taste like? Count on native ingredients and long-forgotten dishes and inspiration from generations of immigrants. Burgoo and Oysters Rockefeller are on the menu!

Chef Andres is also the Chief Culinary Advisor to the exhibit and wrote the introduction to the new recipe book Eating with Uncle Sam: Recipes and Historical Bites from the [ Read all ]