Food History Weekend 2017

Graphic of cooking instruments paired with text, The 3rd Annual Smithsonian Food History Weekend, Many Flavors, One Nation

2017: Many Flavors, One Nation

The Gala The Roundtables The Festival The After Hours

On October 26-28, 2017 our third annual Smithsonian Food History Weekend explored how food has been both a bridge and a barrier to cultural connection in America. From farmers to home cooks to top chefs, how does food migrate with people? Where does our food really come from? And how have people negotiated their differences and celebrated their commonalties over food throughout American history?

Danny Meyer on stage

The Gala
Thursday, October 26, 2017

The 3rd Annual Smithsonian Food History Gala was a black tie evening to support the ongoing research, collecting, and programs of our American Food History Project. The evening featured:

  • The presentation of the 2017 Julia Child Award to Danny Meyer
  • Calvin Trillin as Master of Ceremonies
  • Author Ruth Reichl as a featured speaker
  • Co-owners of Make It Nice Daniel Humm and Will Guidara as featured speakers
  • Restaurant critic Nick Lander as the award presenter
  • A three-course menu created by Chef Carmen Quagliata

Simon Majumdar, Joan Nathan, and Jessica Harris on stage

The Roundtables
Friday, October 27, 2017

The Smithsonian Food History Roundtables are a series of free, moderated conversations for all inquiring minds. Leading researchers, practitioners, and thinkers come together to address big issues around food in America via four roundtable sessions over the course of the day. As part of the 2017 Food History Weekend, the Roundtables explored how migrations of people throughout American history have shaped our foodways and influenced profound cultural exchanges around food.

Participants and videos of the discussions are below:

Session 1: Migration Nation

An opening discussion for the day featuring:

  • Hasia Diner, Paul and Sylvia Steinberg Professor of American Jewish History, New York University
  • Matt Garcia, Professor of Latin American, Latino & Caribbean Studies and History, Dartmouth College
  • Maricel Presilla, Culinary historian, author, and chef
  • Krishnendu Ray, Chair, Department of Nutrition and Food Studies, NYU
  • Moderator: Francis Lam, Host, public radio's The Splendid Table

Watch Session 1 here >>

Session 2: Help Wanted

Whether in the fields, factories, or restaurant kitchens, how has working in food provided an economic toehold for migrants throughout American history? Featuring:

  • Heather Lee, Assistant Professor, NYU Shanghai
  • Tracie McMillan, Senior Fellow at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism
  • Jose Oliva, Co-Director, Food Chain Workers Alliance
  • Dominic Pacyga, Former Professor of History, Columbia College/Chicago
  • Moderator: Theresa McCulla, Historian, American Brewing History Initiative, National Museum of American History

Watch Session 2 here >>

Session 3: Serving Up Traditions

How do we express our identity and culture through food? Which traditions are kept and which evolve into something new?

  • Daniel Bender, Canada Research Chair of Global Culture and professor of History and Food Studies, University of Toronto
  • Lois Ellen Frank, Chef, author, Native foods
  • David S. Shields, Carolina Distinguished Professor, University of South Carolina
  • Toni Tipton-Martin, Author
  • Moderator: Lavanya Ramanathan, Features writer/editor, The Washington Post

Watch Session 3 here >>

Session 4: Tales of Three Dishes

How does an individual dish or recipe tell a story?

  • Jessica B. Harris, Culinary historian and author
  • Joan Nathan, Cookbook author
  • Simon Majumdar, Food writer, author, and broadcaster

Watch Session 4 here >>


Cooking demonstration

The Festival
Saturday, October 28, 2017

The Smithsonian Food History Weekend Festival is a free day of hands-on learning, live demonstrations, talks, and stories exploring the past, present and future of food and community in America. Talented chefs, local organizations, experts, museum curators, students, and more joined us to spark conversation, lead activities, and dig into food history with museum visitors of all ages.

See below for the full lineup:

Live Cooking Demonstrations

  • Maricel Presilla: Peppers of the Americas
  • Simon Majumdar: Life Saving Dahl
  • Sarah Lohman: Sriracha – One of the Eight Flavors of American Cuisine
  • Tim Ma: Beyond the Chinese Family Restaurant
  • Sheldon Simeon: Many Flavors of Hawai’i

Hands-On Activities

  • The Kids Table
  • Spark!Lab Invention Activities
  • Common Threads! Station
  • Agriculture on the Move!
  • The Business of Chocolate: From Bean to Drink
  • Harvest for the Table: Wheat to Flour
  • Puppet Shows with Rosalia Torres-Weiner
  • Smithsonian Gardens activities and tours

Deep Dish Dialogues

  • The Culinary Diplomacy Project featuring Chef Rock Harper, Chef Frank Ruta, Chef Art Smith, and Lauren Bernstein.
  • Sidedoor: Live! featuring host Tony Cohn, Chef Jerome Grant, and Maricel Presilla
  • Food Culture Writing and Reporting featuring Francis Lam, Lavanya Ramanathan, and Joe Yonan
  • Diaspora Chefs featuring Sileshi Alifom, Chef Benjamin Velasquez, Noobstaa Philip Vang, and Johanna Mendelson-Forman


Staff serving beer

The After Hours
Saturday, October 28, 2017

We toasted to the end of another great Smithsonian Food History Weekend while exploring histories of migration and movement in American beer.

America has always been a nation of people on the move. In every era and under many circumstances, Americans have crossed borders and oceans or simply picked up and moved across town. We may not realize it, but the history of our very mobile United States has been recorded in the beer we drink. Brewing techniques, the ingredients we use, the flavors we prefer, and our habits related to consuming beer draw from the traditions of many groups. As a result, Americans enjoy the richest, most varied brewing culture on the planet.

To wrap up the weekend, we had a conversation with four brewers who bring unique stories of movement and migration – through personal experience or inspiration – to their beer. Driving questions included: How have these histories influenced the beers they brew? How do the brewers define the role of beer in American society, past, present, and future? How can their journeys expand our understanding of American history?

Participating brewers and their breweries:

  • Celeste Beatty, founder of Harlem Brewing Company, New York, NY
  • Uli Bennewitz, Weeping Radish Farm Brewery, Manteo, NC
  • An Bui, founder of The Answer Brewpub, Richmond, VA
  • Oscar Wong, founder of Highland Brewing Company, Asheville, NC