FOOD: Transforming the American Table

The “Good Food” Movement

Inspired by regional traditions of France and Italy, cooks, farmers, entrepreneurs, and adventurous eaters led the charge to revitalize and reinvent an artisanal world of food that had been largely abandoned in the United States. They turned to the fresh, local, and regional, and developed a new American cuisine.

Within the context of mass-produced, mass-marketed, “fast,” and convenience food, the “good food” movement opened a broad conversation about food in the United States. Critics called it elitist, but its effects appear throughout the food system, from production to consumption, benefiting schoolchildren, urban neighborhoods, small farmers, and everyday grocery shoppers across the country.

Julia and Paul Child (center) examining lobsters at a Boston market in 1975 with characteristic care

Julia and Paul Child (center) examining lobsters at a Boston market in 1975 with characteristic care

Paying attention to ingredients was an important part of the good food movement and of Julia Child’s approach to food.

Photo by and courtesy of Lee Lockwood

Food in Print

While Betty Crocker cookbooks and The Joy of Cooking remained popular, new publications, especially Time-Life’s twenty-seven-volume series Foods of the World, taught many home cooks how to prepare foods from around the globe, including U.S. regional cuisine. Gourmet magazine, published from 1941 to 2009, was appreciated by a small, affluent readership that sought its inspirations in food from foreign travel. Beginning in the 1950s, James Beard called attention to the best of French and American regional cooking and reached a wider audience.

Time-Life Foods of the World, 1968–72

Time-Life Foods of the World, 1968–72

Gift of Rayna Green

Gourmet, 1987

Gourmet, 1987

In 1961, Julia Child’s first volume of Mastering the Art of French Cooking appeared and, together with her hit series on public television, set off an explosion of cookbooks, magazines, food writing, and food television. This information revolution in food nurtured a new food literacy that escalated throughout the 1990s.

Mastering the Art of French Cooking, 1971 edition  

Mastering the Art of French Cooking, 1971 edition

 

 

Copper bowl and whisk, about 1950

Gift of Julia Child

From the moment Julia Child whisked eggs in this French copper bowl on the first test episode of The French Chef in 1963, she created a run on copper bowls, omelet pans, and whisks that had not been commonly available in stores.

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Jacques Pépin brought his knowledge of French cuisine and culinary skills to American audiences through his many books and television shows. He has also taught at the Boston University culinary program for more than 30 years. This very French menu, painted by Pépin, was for a special dinner he created for Julia Child at her home.

Menu, 2001

Menu, 2001

Gift of Jacques Pépin

The Dean of American Cooking

James Beard (1903–1985) laid the groundwork for the Good Food Movement. Passionate about food, cooking, and American regional dishes, Beard influenced generations of culinary professionals and home cooks through more than twenty cookbooks and countless public appearances. The New York Times called Beard the “dean of American Cooking” in 1954.

James Beard, 1983

James Beard, 1983

Gift of Caroline Stuart

James Beard’s chef’s jacket, around 1980

Gift of Caroline Stuart

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James Beard preferred denim aprons and mandarin-collared jackets, typically paired with a white shirt and bow tie.