Top 10 tastiest food history posts of 2016

Our blog covered a cornucopia of food history topics in 2016, but a few dishes rose to the top. Here are ten of our most-read blog posts of 2016 related to cuisine and cooking in America. Look out for some Julia Child, recipes from eras gone by, adventures in DIY food, and news about how we’re growing our food history team.

White shirt with a print of watermelon, pickles, skewers of meat, and grilling tools

1. Postwar potluck: Grilling out, convenience cooking, and other 1950s food trends

The tradition of backyard grilling, now synonymous with American food and leisure, began in the 1950s. Explore history and recipes that defined postwar America, including a pretty sweet shirt a Weber-grilling dad would love to wear (ours would!).

Photo of star-shaped biscuits and butter-saver spread

2. A taste of wartime rationing in 1940s product cookbooks investigates the history of World War II-era rationing through recipes from period cookbooks. Can you imagine living with a fraction of essential ingredients to your diet, such as sugar, fresh meat, butter, cheese, and canned goods? Cookbooks from the era were there to help out with shortcuts and workarounds so one would not have to sacrifice on taste. Pass the Baked Fish Molds?

Beer tray, about 1905, National Museum of American History

3. Brewing Historians . . . Way More than Beer

Our job listing for a brewing historian was met with a hearty buzz. Here, the director of our food history program describes the responsibilities of this historian position in greater detail and explains why beer and brewing deserves to be on the menu of American food history.

A green picture on some sort of board. It depicts a gray fish on a background that looks like abstract seaweed. The fish has a very surprised expression, as if he had not expected to be there.

4. A tale of two fish prints in Julia Child’s kitchen

The fish on Julia Child’s kitchen walls were more than mere decoration. Food curator Paula Johnson speaks with Child’s old friend and learns how her fish reflected not just a penchant for cheerful kitchen decor but the interests and hobbies of the famed chef herself.

Photograph of Brownie Wise leading a Tupperware party

5. Parties for plastic: How women used Tupperware to participate in business

Turns out the unassuming plastic container you stick your leftovers in helped nudge women into entrepreneurship. The Tupperware parties of our mothers and grandmothers were opportunities for women to learn sales and marketing skills and sell a product out of their home.

A beer comb which looks like a tongue depressor with an elaborate handle that is a black vine-like design

6. Behold the beer comb, a fancy bartending tool from drinking days of old

These days, a bartender may tip over a glass slightly after pulling a pint to pour out a frothy head. Behold the beer comb: a more elegant way to smooth the top of a glass of beer, but now a rarity in bars.

Scoops of strawberry ice cream in a teal glass bowl on a white tablecloth.

7. Making ice cream like it’s 1927

Who knew you could get a workout making common foods from old recipes? One of our interns makes ice cream the old-fashioned way—labor-intensively! How did her attempts at chocolate and strawberry ice cream come out, especially to a modern palate? Is trying old methods for making food worth the effort? Read on!

1700s copper chocolate pot

8. Cooking your way through this snow day with history

If you live in the mid-Atlantic states, especially in the District of Columbia region like most of the museum staff, we’re sure you can still recall Snowmageddon of January 2016! This blog post gives you pointers on how to eat, drink, and cook your way through the snow day. With drifts as large as they were for nearly five days, being snowed in meant one had to battle cabin fever and work with what was in the house.

Color photo. Three people at a dining table with white tablecloth embrace and smile for the camera. On the table, glasses of wine.

9. Remembering Chef Michel Richard, a longtime friend to the museum

A tribute to the late Chef Michel Richard, a favorite of D.C. foodies and a friend of the museum.

Brown, yellow, and blue wrapped “Hershey’s Tropical Chocolate” bar. Small print on the top reads, “REG. U.S. PAT. OFF”. Small print on the side of bar reads, “MANUFACTURED BY HERSHEY CHOCOLATE CORPORATION, HERSHEY, PA.” The top left corner of the wrapper is torn, revealing the inner foil wrapping.

10. ‘Chocolate is a Fighting Food!’ – Chocolate bars in the Second World War

Think the soldiers in World War II who received chocolate in their ration packs were savoring the smooth taste of a Hershey’s Kiss or colorful “melt in your mouth, not in your hand” M&M’s? Wrong! Wartime chocolate was a far cry from the sweet confections of today’s candy aisles, and served uses beyond gustatory satisfaction for the soldiers who received them.

Thanks for reading our blog in 2016. The blog posts above received over 52,000 pageviews and we’re grateful for each one of them. What food history topics do you want us to take on in 2017? Share your thoughts with us on Twitter (we’re partial to the hashtag #SmithsonianFood) or Facebook. Make sure you don’t miss future food history happenings by signing up for our food history newsletter.

Rebecca Seel works for the Offices of Communications and Marketing and New Media. She fully supports a return of the beer comb.