Smithsonian Food History Weekend
Save the Date!
Join us November 3-4, 2023, for the ninth annual Smithsonian Food History Weekend as we explore the intersections of food, climate change, and community. As extreme weather events, such as droughts, floods, wildfires, and rising sea levels increase in frequency and severity, the impacts on food production are expanding as well. Growers, gatherers, and producers are looking to the past and the future for innovative ways to address the impacts of climate change and to create more sustainable and humane practices for food production and distribution.
How have environmental changes impacted food production? How can traditional systems of knowledge and practices provide communities with alternative ways of understanding food and sustainability in an era of environmental change? How is climate change driving innovation in food production? And how can audience members make a difference to help build a more sustainable future food system?
Climate change impacts everyone, and everyone can be part of the solutions. This weekend, we will explore the impacts of climate change on food and how women from communities across the nation are helping to shape and sustain food for the future.
A full schedule of events, including live cooking demonstrations, moderated conversations, book signings, and the annual “Last Call” brewing history program will be available in September 2023.
The 2023 Smithsonian Food History Weekend received federal support from the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative Pool, administered by the Smithsonian American Women’s History Museum.
2023 Julia Child Award Recipient: Sean Sherman
The Julia Child Foundation for Gastronomy and the Culinary Arts has announced Chef Sean Sherman, award-winning cookbook author, activist, and founder of North American Traditional Indigenous Food Systems (NATIFS) as the winner of the ninth annual Julia Child Award. The award is accompanied by a $50,000 grant from The Julia Child Foundation for Gastronomy and the Culinary Arts that will go to Sherman’s non-profit organization, NATIFS, and support the Indigenous Food Lab, a professional kitchen and training center, expanding access to Indigenous foods. Sherman will be formally presented with the award on October 24th at a gala to be held in Minneapolis. Proceeds from the event will support the ongoing care and preservation of Julia Child’s kitchen and the Smithsonian Food History Project at the National Museum of American History.
“Sean Sherman continues to dedicate his career to preserving Native American cuisine and creating a holistic, open-sourced system where others can expand on his work,” said Eric W. Spivey, Chairman of The Julia Child Foundation for Gastronomy and the Culinary Arts. “His unwavering commitment to Indigenous food systems has already reshaped the culinary landscape and played a pivotal role in fostering Native food sovereignty. Sean and Julia share a dedication to education and a commitment to inspire change. We are thrilled to honor Sean as this year’s Julia Child Award recipient.”
“I saw the impact that food can have on the world through Julia and I’m excited to continue her legacy through my work,” said Sean Sherman. “With the generous grant from the Foundation, I look forward to continuing my efforts to develop educational materials and programs for Native communities and fostering the rich heritage that is an essential part of American culinary history and life.”
As the first Native American chef to receive the Julia Child Award, Sean Sherman, an Oglala Lakota tribe member, has been selected by the Julia Child Award’s independent jury for his outstanding achievements as a chef, educator, author and activist in preserving and celebrating Indigenous food systems. Sherman has devoted his career to reclaiming and honoring the rich culinary heritage of Indigenous communities around the world, as well as sharing his knowledge with home cooks across the U.S. Throughout his career, Sherman has received three James Beard Awards, including Best American Cookbook, Best New Restaurant in America for Minnesota’s first full-service Indigenous restaurant, Owamni by The Sioux Chef, and the Leadership Award, on top of numerous other national accolades. Sherman was recently named one of the Time 100 Most Influential People of 2023.
Raised in South Dakota on the Pine Ridge Reservation, Sherman discovered his passion for cooking at the age of 13. With limited TV options, through PBS he found inspiration watching Julia Child's The French Chef. This helped ignite his desire to explore his Indigenous culinary heritage and pursue a career in food. Throughout his journey, Sherman has dedicated himself to developing approachable Native recipes for home cooks, akin to Julia's efforts to popularize French cuisine in America.
In Minneapolis' thriving food scene, where global flavors and diverse cooking styles are celebrated, Sherman, a seasoned chef, noticed a significant absence. He discovered that neither the local cuisine nor the broader North American food landscape adequately represented the Indigenous heritage of the land or its native people. Extensive research revealed a stark reality: Native American restaurants were virtually non-existent, and traditional foodways had been largely erased from the culinary map.
Driven by a desire to reconnect with his ancestral roots, Sherman embarked on a transformative quest, delving into the culinary practices of his direct ancestors. Inspired by the enduring traditions he observed among Indigenous communities in Mexico—utilizing clay grills, practicing corn cultivation, and sourcing ingredients from the surrounding environment—Sherman was compelled to reclaim not only the cooking methods of his own forebears but also the vanishing wisdom of marginalized Indigenous populations across North America and around the world.
Through his extensive engagement with tribal communities, academic institutions, culinary leaders, and thought pioneers, Sherman has cultivated extensive connections, both locally and globally. He has encountered varying levels of Indigenous food knowledge, highlighting the need for widespread change throughout the United States. Utilizing speaking engagements, community dinners, culinary classes, social media, his non-profit organization NATIFS, and the Indigenous Food Lab, Sherman works to directly influence and empower these communities.
What is the American Food History Project?
The American Food History Project at the National Museum of American History welcomes everyone to join in exploring history through the lens of food. The museum’s food history team conducts research, collects objects and documents, creates exhibitions, and develops dynamic public programs that illuminate the fundamental role of food in shaping many aspects of American history and cultural life.
Our food programs are based on the museum’s research and collecting initiatives and include online offerings as well as on-site programs and demonstrations. These events bring visitors together for relevant discussions that start with history and expand to the present and future of food in the United States. Special activities include free daytime programs, including live cooking demonstrations, and the annual Smithsonian Food History Weekend. The National Museum of American History is committed to examining the historical roots of contemporary issues concerning food and drink in the United States. To stay in the loop, sign up to receive updates from the food history team here.
The American Food History Project is made possible by Warren and Barbara Winiarski │Winiarski Family Foundation and supporters of the Winemakers’ Dinner and Smithsonian Food History Gala.
What is Smithsonian Food History Weekend?
Every year, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History brings together food innovators, activists, educators, entrepreneurs, chefs, and scholars for conversations, cooking demonstrations, and hands-on activities with museum visitors to inspire a broader understanding of the history of food in the United States and the role we all play in shaping the future of food.
Made By Us and Food Justice
Made By Us is a new national movement spearheaded by leading U.S. history organizations who have come together to offer transformational, civic-focused programming leading up to the nation’s 250th anniversary in 2026. The National Museum of American History is one of the leading organizations behind the Made By Us initiative. This video discusses the past, present, and future of food justice and food access in the United States. Speakers include NMAH historian Dr. Ashley Rose Young, Celia Cody-Carrese from Food Forward, and Caroline Klibanoff from Made By Us.