Cooking Up History*

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*Formerly known as Food Fridays. 

Chef William Bednar at Food Fridays



Friday, June 17: Political Barbecues
with Restaurant Associates Chef Albert Lukas
2:00pm; Demonstration Kitchen

What role does barbecue play a role in America’s political campaign history? Join Restaurant Associates chef Albert Lukas as we explore the significance of outdoor cookouts in shaping America’s political season. We’ll cook up a platter of Georgia-style pork barbecue and discuss everything from the science of smoking to the different types of spices, meats, and wood used. While we cook, we’ll explore both the regional traditions of barbecue and how they evolved, the details of who hosted, attended, and stoked the fires of political gatherings from the 18th century to the present, and how a politician’s awareness (or lack thereof) of culinary customs could make or break their candidacy.


Friday, July 8: Basque Food in America
2:00pm; Demonstration Kitchen

Friday, August 12: Julia Child
2:00pm; Demonstration Kitchen

Saturday, September 17: Hispanic-American Culinary Heritage
2:00pm; Demonstration Kitchen

Saturday, October 15: Harvest Season 
2:00pm; Demonstration Kitchen


Past Recipes


July 3: Summertime Cooking in America
With Guest Chef Curtis Aikens

Chef Aikens cooked up some sauces, rubs, summer salads, and sweet treats that take him back to his native Georgia and to the rich traditions of the Southern barbecue and picnic. 


July 10: Summertime Cooking in America
With Wegmans Chef Llewellyn Correia and Nutritionist Krystal Register

Llewellyn and Krystal took us through the basics of marinating, seasoning, and grilling with chicken and vegetables, and we examined how firing up the backyard grill became a major ritual for summertime celebrations. 


July 17: Summertime Cooking in America
With Sur La Table Chef Angie Lee

On the 17th, we took a journey up the Eastern seaboard with Chef Angie as we prepared seafood dishes from the Chesapeake Bay and New England, and considered the long voyage of signature summer seafood such as the Maine lobster roll as each ingredient moves from coast to boat to market to table. 


July 24: Summertime Cooking in America
With L’Academie de Cuisine Chef Brian Patterson 

On the 24th, Chef Brian showed us how the backyard grill has become a tool of innovation and inspiration for the summer cookout. We explored the science and techniques behind the perfect grilled steak, and the history behind distinctive dishes such as whole grilled fish, Jamaican jerk chicken, and Middle Eastern-style shish kebabs.


July 31: Summertime Cooking in America
With Restaurant Associates Chef William Bednar

While we endured historically high temperatures, the Museum's Chef Bednar helped us explore traditions of chilling out in the kitchen with cold foods. We considered naturally cooling food and drink, and looked for methods to put summertime produce to work in cold dishes.


August 7: Food Movements that Changed America
With L'Academie de Cuisine Chef Brian Patterson

What does it really mean when we talk about grass-fed meat, wild-caught fish, and farm-free eggs? On August 7 we explored the complex questions behind what sustainability really means in the kitchen, and cooked up some dishes that represent the challenges and opportunities that come with eating this way.


August 14: Food Movements that Changed America
With Wegmans Chef Llewellyn Correia and Nutritionist Krystal Register

As Llewellyn and Krystal prepared a menu of satisfying vegetarian dishes and showed us their stir-frying techniques, we looked back at the groundbreaking 1971 book Diet for a Small Planet, and considered the ways our diets have shifted toward alternative protein sources and away from meat.


August 21: Food Movements that Changed America
With Sur La Table Chef Lynne Just

This program was all about Julia Child, and her major impact on American food culture in the early 1960s. Chef Lynne prepared some of Julia’s most instructive and delicious dishes, as we discussed how Julia’s emphasis on precise techniques, quality ingredients, and the joy of cooking made the American home kitchen a new place of innovation.


August 28: Food Movements that Changed America
With Restaurant Associates Chef William Bednar

We cooked up peace, love, and memories of the Woodstock Music Festival of 1969 with the museum's own Chef Bednar, as he prepared some signature dishes from the festival’s free kitchen and explored how what the festival-goers ate reflected the period’s changing notions about food access and quality.


September 4: Hispanic-Heritage Month
With Restaurant Associates Chef Alex Strong

To kick off our celebration of Hispanic Heritage month, Chef Alex Strong shared some of her favorite Puerto Rican recipes with us, both from her childhood and her time growing up in the Bronx. We explored the tremendous impact of Puerto Rican culture on American life, and the unique blend of Spanish, African, Taino, and American influences that have shaped this “cocina criolla.”


September 11: Hispanic-Heritage Month
With Wegmans Chef Ernesto Cadima

What foods and styles of cooking have shaped America’s love of Mexican cuisine? Wegmans Chef Ernesto Cadima prepared three fresh and healthful recipes reflecting different parts of the Mexican-American landscape, using distinctive tools, culinary techniques and signature ingredients that show the country’s extraordinary range of flavors.


September 18: Hispanic-Heritage Month
With Sur La Table Chef Anna Norman

What are the culinary connections between South America and Spain? Sur La Table Chef Anna Norman showed us how sweet and spicy flavors from the European Spanish culinary tradition have become part of the Latin and South American culinary landscape.


September 25: Hispanic-Heritage Month
With L'Academie de Cuisine Chef Brian Patterson and Sous Chef Angie Rosado

How is maize (known today as corn) central to the rituals and traditions of Hispanic and American life? Chef Brian and Sous Chef Angie explored the impact of this New World crop through a batch of homemade sorullos (corn fritters), and discussed the role corn has played as the edible foundation of North and South American cuisine, and the role corn has played in food culture.


October 2: Harvest Season in America

With L'Academie de Cuisine Chef Brian Patterson

How do fresh ingredients from a farm’s harvest season affect the chef’s table? We’ll have a farmer and chef in conversation, as chef Brian and farmer Greg Glenn of Rocklands Farm in Poolesville, MD discuss what’s coming off the farm in October, how Greg’s approach to “holistic agriculture” applies to raising both meat and produce, and how cooking with farm-fresh ingredients at the peak of seasonality reflects historical changes in our food system.


October 9: Harvest Season in America
With Wegmans Chef Ernesto Cadima and Nutritionist Krystal Register

How do two of our autumnal favorites—apples and squash—transform our seasonal eating habits? Ernesto and Krystal will show us the benefits of roasting up these delicious ingredients and show us some different seasonal varieties of apples and squash, as we discuss their regional, culinary, and historical significance in the American landscape.


October 16: Harvest Season in America
With Sur La Table Chef Lynne Just

How did pumpkin become a signature food of the fall? Chef Lynne will take us beyond the jack-o-lantern to help us better understand the historical, agricultural, and culinary story of this autumnal fruit, as we explore how the pumpkin came to have such an important symbolic role in American culture.


October 30: Harvest Season in America
With Restaurant Associates Chef Albert Lukas

How are oysters a seasonal food, and how has our relationship with this curious bivalve changed over time? We’ll shuck our way through the story of both wild and farmed oysters, and harvesting traditions and technologies, as Chef Albert Lukas prepares a dish that recalls the oyster’s valuable place in American cuisine.


November 6: Thanksgiving Celebrations and Native American Heritage
With Wegmans Chef Ernesto Cadima and Nutritionist Krystal Register

What would have been on the table at George Washington’s Mount Vernon? Ernesto and Krystal will take us back to 1789 and George Washington’s Thanksgiving proclamation with a dish pulled right from his own kitchen, as we reflect on the colonial era’s farming and cooking styles, and explore some of Washington’s innovative practices in growing and preparing food.


November 13: Thanksgiving Celebrations and Native American Heritage
With Sur La Table Chef Jordan Carfagno

What was served at the first Thanksgiving—and why does today’s Thanksgiving table look so different? Chef Jordan will prepare some foods that reflect the original 1621 Thanksgiving menu, as we reflect on the Pilgrim and American Indian traditions of both growing and cooking, the regional foods of the early American landscape, and how a three-day harvest celebration developed into the nation’s most food-centric holiday tradition.


November 20: Thanksgiving Celebrations and Native American Heritage
With L’Academie de Cuisine Chef Brian Patterson and Chef Jerome Grant of the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian

How did the first Thanksgiving depend on Native American foodways? Chef Brian and Chef Jerome Grant of the National Museum of the American Indian will join us to explore the rich fishing and agricultural traditions of the Wampanoag tribe, and examine ways in which their distinctive cooking techniques, ingredients and flavors sustained the Pilgrims in the face of near starvation, and shaped what we think of as the Thanksgiving table.


December 4: Food Celebrations
With L’Academie de Cuisine Chef Sandy Patterson

How do we use food to help usher in a new year? Chef Sandy will show us how to prepare a traditional New Year’s Day dish of the American South—hoppin’ John. We’ll explore the history of this Southern culinary treasure and touch on how different foods have become important symbols and elements of New Years’ celebrations around the country.


December 11: Food Celebrations
With Sur La Table Chef Joel Gamoran

How do our celebrations of Hanukkah today reflect the history of Jewish-Americans? While Chef Joel takes us through some signature dishes of the Jewish winter holiday, we’ll explore the shifting meaning of the Hanukkah story and holiday in the United States, and discover how, post-Civil War, a relatively minor holiday became a major moment of celebration on the Jewish-American calendar.


December 18: Food Celebrations
With Restaurant Associates Chef William Bednar

Where do food traditions of the Christmas season come from? For our final Food Fridays of 2015, Chef Bednar will help us prepare a fanciful Christmas dessert from Julia Child’s repertoire—the Bûche de Noël, or Yule log. As our Chef walks us through the process for making this rolled, frosted, and elaborately decorated sponge cake, we’ll consider various sources of Christmas traditions in America, and the special role that sugar and sweet treats have historically played in our holiday celebrations.



Saturday, January 16: Foods of the Civil Rights Movement
With Sur La Table Chef Lindsay Leopold

What were the foods that nourished the Civil Rights Movement? To kick off our 2016 series of cooking conversations, Chef Lindsay takes us through some of the signature soul food creations that fed the organizers of the sit-ins, boycotts, and marches of the African-American Civil Rights Movement from 1958 to 1968. As Chef shows us the ways in which Southern flavor is developed—often with made-by-hand, slow-and-low cooking—we explore the history behind these culinary traditions, the importance of these foods to the students, churches, and civil rights organizations of the period, and the objects in our collection that help to tell this story.


Saturday, February 20: Lincoln in the Kitchen
With Sur La Table Chef Angie Lee

What can his favorite foods tell us about President Abraham Lincoln? Chef Angie will bring us to Lincoln’s table with a few dishes from across his childhood on a farm in frontier-era Illinois and his political life from Springfield to the White House. As Chef Angie cooks up some classic mid-19th century fare, we’ll consider the complex relationship Lincoln had to food (which he often cooked himself), and how the foods he ate during his presidency reflected his thoughts on our national cuisine in the Civil War era.


Saturday, March 12: African-American Culinary Heritage and Museum Day Live!
With guest chefs Alice Randall & Caroline Randall Williams

How do family culinary traditions reflect broader changes in African-American history? As part of our Museum Day Live! Programming, we welcome Alice Randall and her daughter Caroline Randall Williams, who in their new book Soul Food Love celebrate the soul food traditions passed down over four generations of women in their familyAs Alice and Caroline cook, they’ll discuss how the ingredients and styles of cooking used can teach us about food’s fundamental role in history, from slavery to the Harlem Renaissance, from the Civil Rights Movement to the present day.


Friday, April 8: The Mexican-American Table
With special guest Amelia Morán Ceja

Join us as we welcome Amelia Morán Ceja, the president of Ceja Vineyards from Napa, California. Amelia will share with us the signature flavors and styles of cooking that she first learned from her grandmother in Jalisco, Mexico, including the art of making tortillas and salsa from scratch. As we cook, we’ll learn more about Amelia’s experiences as the daughter of vineyard workers in Napa, how she adjusted to American life, and how she has continued to honor her heritage with her family-run winery in the heart of the Carneros wine district.


Friday, May 6th: The American Story of Sushi
with Wegmans chef Kevin Lee

How did sushi go from a Japanese delicacy to an American favorite? As part of our Asian Pacific American Heritage Month celebration, we’ll welcome Wegmans Chef Kevin Lee, who will help us explore the history of sushi in America through a hands-on sushi demonstration. We’ll examine the significance of the sushi technique and prized ingredients—and the long traditions behind preparation the right fish, rice, and vegetables for each roll—and consider how the story of sushi in America is as much about Asian cultural heritage as it is about culinary trends, traditions, and adaptations for the American palate.


Special Cooking Up History Pop-Up!
Friday, May 20th: Lincoln in the Kitchen

What can the favorite foods of President Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd Lincoln tell us about their differences in upbringing and their time in the White House? We’ll all go to Lincoln’s childhood table on a farm in frontier-era Indiana, and to Mary Todd’s table on her family’s plantation in Lexington, Kentucky, to explore the different ingredients, tools, and cooking techniques that shaped their appetites in early life, and how those food traditions shifted when they lived in the White House during the Civil War.


What is Cooking Up History?

Food history sizzles on stage at the National Museum of American History

Once a month, we'll be turning up the heat on food history at the museum’s demonstration kitchen on the Coulter Performance Plaza. Cooking Up History showcases a guest chef and a Smithsonian host preparing a recipe and talking about the history and traditions behind its ingredients, culinary techniques, and enjoyment.  (The demonstration will take place at 2pm; you can also try a dish inspired by the demonstration in the museum’s Stars & Stripes Café.)

Every month we’ll cook something different, but the food we make will always tie back to our exhibitions, research, and collections (some of those objects might even be brought out of storage!). As we cook, we’ll answer some of the big questions about food, identity, tradition, and innovation throughout American history:

  • What does our love of the backyard grill tell us about American leisure in the 1950s?
  • How did our supermarkets come to have fresh tomatoes all year long?
  • Where does dinner come from for you—the oven, the microwave, the drive-through?
  • How has the advertising and marketing of food products influenced the way we eat?
  • How did food traditions brought to our shores—tortillas, sushi, kimchi, pizza—become part of the American diet?


The Cooking Up History program is hosted in the demonstration kitchen, part of the Wallace H. Coulter Performance Plaza in the newly reopened first floor, west wing. In addition to the occasional guest stars, we are proud to feature chefs from Restaurant Associates, Sur La Table, Wegmans, and L’Academie de Cuisine as onstage talent.

The ingredients used in each demonstration are a gift courtesy of Wegmans.

The equipment and tools used for this program were made possible through generous support from Sur la Table, Le Creuset, John Boos, Joseph Joseph, KitchenAid, Kitchen IQ, Silpat, SC Johnson, Tovolo, and the following Sur La Table vendors: All-Clad, Chicago Metallic, Cuisinart, Cuisipro, Fat Daddio's, Fortessa, Global, J.K. Adams, Kuhn Rikon, Lodge, Matfer, Messermeister, Microplane, OXO, Pyrex, Rosle, Scanpan, Schott Zwiesel, Shun, Wusthof, and Zwilling J.A. Henckels.



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