Cooking Up History
Turn up the heat on food history at this monthly free cooking demonstration and history program
Cooking Up History is made possible by Wegmans and Sur La Table, with additional support from many generous sponsors.
Food history sizzles on stage at the National Museum of American History
Once a month, we turn up the heat on food history at the museum’s demonstration kitchen on the Wallace H. Coulter Performance Plaza. Cooking Up History showcases a guest chef and our resident food historian, Dr. Ashley Rose Young, preparing a recipe and talking about the history and traditions behind its ingredients, culinary techniques, and enjoyment. While we are not permitted to serve food from the stage, you can try a dish inspired by the demonstration in the museum’s café, Eat at America’s Table.
2020 marks the Smithsonian’s pan-institutional celebration of women, which coincides with the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in the United States. In alignment with the institution’s annual theme, Cooking Up History programs will highlight objects and stories about women. During demonstrations, we will explore questions about women’s culinary expertise, work life, political activism, entrepreneurship, and more:
- How have women shaped foodways in the United States over the past 250 years?
- How did women’s suffrage advocates spread the word and raise money for their cause through the publication of cookbooks?
- What tools and technologies made the home cook’s life easier over time?
- What role have girls played in the making of the United States’ culinary culture?
- How have women and girls overcome structural inequalities at home and in the workforce?
Upcoming Demo Schedule
Friday, February 21: Jubilee: Recipes from Two Centuries of African American Cooking
Guest chef: Toni Tipton-Martin
Demonstration at 1:00 p.m. in the Wallace H. Coulter Performance Plaza, 1 West
Join culinary journalist, author, and community activist Toni Tipton-Martin as she shares research and recipes from her cookbook, Jubilee: Recipes from Two Centuries of African American Cooking. She’ll reveal the inspiring history of women chefs and home cooks while teaching us how to prepare their historic recipes in a modern kitchen. After the demonstration, Tipton-Martin will sign copies of her cookbook which will be available for purchase on site.
Friday, March 27: Cookbooks and the Women’s Suffrage Movement
Guest chef: TBD
Demonstration at 1:00 p.m. in the Wallace H. Coulter Performance Plaza, 1 West
Did suffragists care about cooking? As the Smithsonian celebrates the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote in the United States, the food history team will delve into the role of cookbooks in supporting the Women’s Suffrage Movement. The cooking demonstration will also illuminate the museum’s exhibition, Creating Icons: How We Remember Woman Suffrage, sharing powerful stories of women activists who helped secure the right to vote for women in 1920.
Please join us on the Coulter Plaza before the program for a special Objects Out of Storage event with rarely seen materials from the Women’s Suffrage Movement.
Friday, April 3: Melissa Clark's Instant Pot Secrets
Guest Chef: Melissa Clark
Demonstration at 1:00 p.m. in the Wallace H. Coulter Performance Plaza, 1 West
New York Times food writer Melissa Clark has helped countless cooks overcome their fear of the Instant Pot through her video series and popular book Dinner in an Instant. Join her as we examine key kitchen technologies that have made the home cook’s life easier, and hopefully, stress free. Clark will also share recipes and techniques she perfected with her Instant Pot. After the demonstration, she will sign copies of her cookbooks, including her newest one, Dinner in French. Copies of books will be available for purchase on site. Members of the food history team will direct guests to the FOOD exhibition to see Clark’s Instant Pot, which she used for testing recipes before donating it to the museum in 2018.
Friday, May 1: The Vilna Vegetarian Cookbook
Guest Chef: Joan Nathan
Demonstration at 1:00 p.m. in the Wallace H. Coulter Performance Plaza, 1 West
Our guest chef Joan Nathan is a renowned cookbook author and expert on Jewish foodways. During this demonstration, she will shed light on a largely unknown culinary educator and author, Fania Lewando, who lived in Vilna, Lithuania in the early 20th century. Lewando authored one of the first Jewish cookbooks dedicated to vegetarianism, The Vilna Vegetarian Cookbook (1938). Join us as we prepare dishes from Lewando's cookbook and explore the history of Vilna, the devastating impacts of the holocaust on the city's Jewish population, and one woman's efforts to sustain her community through food.
Joan Nathan will sign copies of The Vilna Vegetarian Cookbook, for which she wrote the foreword, as well as several of her cookbooks after the demonstration. Books will be available for purchase on site. Please note that there are a limited number of Vilna cookbooks available.
This cooking demo is held in partnership with the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, which will launch its latest online course, A Seat at the Table: A Journey into Jewish Food on May 1st; attendees at the demo will be offered free registrations to the course, which covers the history of Ashkenazi Jewish cuisine through filmed lectures and cooking demonstrations by leading scholars and chefs.
Past Demos and Recipes
- December 7: Conquering Croquembouche with Julia Child
- November 15: Lavash: An Expression of Armenian Heritage
- November 8-9: Food History Weekend
- October 12: Salsa con Salsa
- October 11: Mollie Katzen’s Moosewood Cookbook
- September 20: The Mexican Food Revolution
- August 9: In the Kitchen with Julia and Paul Child
- July 13: Priya Krishna’s "Indian-ish" Recipes
- June 28: The Harvey Girls & Meals for Rail Passengers
- Friday, May 10: Regional Chinese Cooking Along the Transcontinental Railroad
- Friday, April 12: Ethiopian Culinary Cultures in Washington, D.C.
- Friday, March 15: Carla Hall’s Soul Food
- February 15: Artisan Chocolate and the "Good Food Movement"
- December 1: Smithsonian Holiday Festival
- November 3: Smithsonian Food History Weekend
- October 6: Exploring Mexican Regional Cooking
- August 17: Julia Child's Legacy
- July 13: Exploring the Northeast
- June 8: Exploring the South
- May 4: Asian Pacific American Foodways
- April 6: Exploring the Chesapeake Region
- March 17: Alon Shaya: An Odyssey of Food, My Journey Back to Israel
- February 11: Carnival and Haitian Food Traditions
- January 5: Forgotten Foods: Finding and Testing Recipes from our Archives
- December 2: Holiday Traditions with the Smithsonian Folklife Festival
- November 18: Cod and New England Coastal Cuisine
- September 16: The New Southern-Latino Table
- August 11: Julia Child's Classroom Kitchen
- July 21: Cajun and Creole Food Traditions
- June 30: The Chinese Kitchen Garden in America
- April 28: The Food of Jazz
- March 18: The Women Behind America’s First Cookbooks
- February 25: Food and the Great Migration
- January 14: Changing Ideas of Healthy Eating in 19th-century America
- October 15: The Great American Pumpkin
- September 17: Cuban-American Food Traditions
- August 12: Julia Child in the 1970s
- July 8: Basque Food in America
- June 17: Political Barbecues
- May 20: Lincoln in the Kitchen
- May 6: The American Story of Sushi
- April 8: The Mexican-American Table
- March 12: African-American Culinary Heritage and Museum Day Live!
- February 20: Lincoln in the Kitchen
- January 16: Foods of the Civil Rights Movement
- December 18: Food Celebrations – Christmas and Julia Child
- December 11: Food Celebrations – Hanukkah after the Civil War
- December 4: Food Celebrations – New Year’s and the American South
- November 20: Thanksgiving Celebrations & Native American Heritage – Foodways
- November 13: Thanksgiving Celebrations & Native American Heritage – The First Thanksgiving
- November 6: Thanksgiving Celebrations & Native American Heritage – George Washington’s Table
- October 30: Harvest Season in America – Oysters
- October 16: Harvest Season in America – Pumpkin
- October 9: Harvest Season in America – Apples and Squash
- October 2: Harvest Season in America – Farm Fresh Ingredients
- September 25: Hispanic-Heritage Month – Maize in the New World
- September 18: Hispanic-Heritage Month – South America and Spain
- September 11: Hispanic-Heritage Month – Mexican Cuisine
- September 4: Hispanic Heritage Month – Puerto Rico and the Bronx
- August 28: Food Movements that Changed America – Woodstock Musical Festival of 1969
- August 21: Food Movements that Changed America – Julia Child
- August 14: Food Movements that Changed America – Vegetarian and Alternative Protein Sources
- August 7: Food Movements that Changed America – Sustainability in the Kitchen
- July 31: Summertime Cooking in America – Cold Foods
- July 24: Summertime Cooking in America – Backyard Grilling Innovations
- July 17: Summertime Cooking in America – East Coast Seafood Traditions
- July 10: Summertime Cooking in America – Backyard Grilling Traditions
- July 3: Summertime Cooking in America – Southern Barbecue
Chef Lynne Just of Sur La Table helped us celebrate the winter holidays by making Julia Child’s croquembouche. This traditional French dessert is made by building a conical tower of profiteroles and coating it in delicate layers of caramelized sugar. Although a somewhat intimidating dessert by virtue of its height alone, Julia’s recipe breaks down its preparation into manageable steps. We were delighted to share her technique for this whimsical dish with museum visitors. Allons-y!
We teamed up with the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage to host the authors of Lavash: The bread that launched 1,000 meals, plus salads, stews, and other recipes from Armenia, a cookbook that brings to life the rich food heritage of Armenia. "Team Lavash," as they call themselves, say they ate their weight in lavash while making this book--all in the sake of research. The authors were joined by guest host Halle Butvin as they demonstrated how to make this staple bread and shared stories from their fieldwork illuminating Armenian culture. After the demonstration, the authors signed copies of their book.
In November, we hosted several cooking demonstrations during the fifth annual Smithsonian Food History Weekend. The weekend’s annual theme, "Power Through Food," explored the ways in which chefs, restaurateurs, food entrepreneurs, and activists use food to strengthen and empower their communities.
Museum visitors joined us and guest chef Daniela Hurtado of La Cocina VA to explore Peruvian food and music culture from the Andes to the Pacific Coast. Hurtado made several dishes that illuminate the diverse food cultures in Peru including lomo saltado, papas a la huancaina, and mazamorra morada. A lover of salsa music, Hurtado spoke about the genre’s rise in popularity especially along Peru’s coast while making salsa huancaina with potatoes. In other words, she discussed "salsa con salsa." This demo tied into a museum-wide festival, "Latino Art, Beats & Culture Fest: A¡Descubra! Hispanic Heritage Event," which explored Latino musical connections from Mambo to hip-hop, pop music to reggaeton music and history and culture through hands-on activities, encounters with Smithsonian collections and curators, and musical performances.
Our guest speaker, Mollie Katzen, is the author of The Moosewood Cookbook (1974), one of the best-selling cookbooks of all time and an integral piece of work on vegetarianism, seasonal cooking, and conscious eating. A first edition of Katzen’s cookbook is on display in a section of the FOOD exhibition that explores how alternative communities produced new food distribution systems in the 1960s and 1970s. Museum visitors joined Katzen and Smithsonian food history curator Paula Johnson as they discussed this rich culinary history, recipes from Moosewood, and readers’ reactions to the much-beloved work. As our two featured speakers chatted, our kitchen manager, Kathy Phung, prepared some of Katzen’s dishes on the cooking demonstration stage. There was a book signing with Katzen after the event and several of her works were available for purchase including The Moosewood Cookbook, The New Enchanted Broccoli Forest, Pretend Soup, and a new compendium, The Best of Mollie Katzen.
Visitors joined us before the cooking demonstration for a special "objects out of storage" event featuring rarely-seen archival materials from the Mollie Katzen Papers housed at our Archives Center. Materials included original, hand-written, hand-illustrated designs for The Moosewood Cookbook and "fan mail" from readers.
- Walnut-Crusted, Broccoli-Speckled Potato Cakes
- Avocado-Grapefruit-Mango Saladita
- Pear Tart with Olive Oil-Cornmeal-Pine Nut Crust
This demo relates to a case in the FOOD exhibition entitled, "The Mexican Food Revolution," which explores the influence of Mexican and Mexican American food entrepreneurs on the culinary culture of the U.S. from 1950 to the present. Guest Chef Carlos Salgado shared his culinary journey and the way he expresses the "traditions transplanted into Southern California's multicultural soils" in his celebrated restaurant, Taco María. He prepared masa on stage, demonstrating the nixtamalization process, and made tacos de aire, a dish that illuminates the history and present-day culture of Mexican regional foodways in the U.S.
Each year the museum marks Julia Child’s August 15 birthday with a themed cooking demonstration. We welcomed guest chef Lynne Just of Sur La Table to explore a much-beloved section of the FOOD exhibition that houses Julia’s Cambridge, Massachusetts kitchen. We highlighted Julia and Paul’s shared love of food and Paul’s role in encouraging and supporting Julia as she pursued her culinary career. We explored the lively and supportive relationship between Julia and Paul, providing an intimate portrayal of their home life in America and abroad, including Paul’s role in the making of The French Chef, Julia’s first television show. His behind-the-scenes duties ranged from carrying equipment on onset to washing dishes after filming each episode. Museum visitors joined us as we learned how to make Julia’s recipes for French onion soup and crêpes Suzette, two classic dishes featured on the first season of the show.
Guest chef Priya Kirshna shared stories and recipes from her Indian American childhood, focusing on how her mother’s improvisational cooking represents the ingenuity of migrant home cooks in the United States. Chef Krishna’s mother came to the U.S. from New Delhi and maintained strong sensory memories of the foods from her homeland. Once in America, she attempted to recreate those dishes, but did not have easy access to their key ingredients. Like many new migrants, she improvised. Chef Krishna chronicles her mother’s inventive cooking in her cookbook: Indian-ish: Recipes and Antics from a Modern American Family.
Taking another look at how railroads transformed travel and food production in the American West, our guest chef Sarah Lohman explored the history of the Harvey Girls Working as hostesses at restaurants along the rail lines in the Southwest. Chef Lohman discussed how they represented and contributed to important shifts in the region’s economic and cultural landscape. Their complex story was emblazoned in the American imagination when Judy Garland starred in The Harvey Girls (1946), bringing to life the bustling tourism industry in New Mexico. Museum visitors joined us as we dug into the food history behind this film, while also discussing broader changes in American transportation and tourism history.
In May and June, we turned our attention to the museum’s American Enterprise exhibition and its adjacent feature on the 150th anniversary of the transcontinental railroad. Guest chef Martin Yan explored the food cultures and lasting culinary influences of Chinese migrants living and working in the U.S. in the mid 19th century, many of whom were employed to construct the transcontinental railroad. During the demonstration, Chef Yan spoke about regional food traditions of Chinese workers from the Guangdong Province and how their food culture (popularly known as "Cantonese") forever changed dining in the United States.
This cooking demonstration explored the social and cultural dimensions of Ethiopian cuisine in the District of Columbia. Sileshi Alifom, owner of DAS Ethiopian Restaurant, and his staff, discussed their efforts to create a restaurant environment that welcomes a diverse group of eaters and how they seek to introduce them to Ethiopian culture through food. The demo was accompanied by an Ethiopian coffee ceremony, a social ritual with historic roots. This program connected to a section of the refreshed FOOD exhibition that highlights the entrepreneurial efforts and influences of migrant entrepreneurs on America’s ever-changing food scene.
Museum visitors Joined guest chef Carla Hall as she explored the historic connections between African American foodways and the flavors and cooking techniques of West Africa, the Caribbean, and Latin America. During the demonstration, Hall prepared several dishes from her cookbook, Carla Hall’s Soul Food: Everyday and Celebration, that illuminated these culinary connections including: cassava with coconut milk and lime, Ghanaian peanut beef and tomato stew, and hot water cornbread.
February’s program featured the roots of the Good Food Movement in 1960s and 1970s California and explored the rise of artisan chocolate making as part of that movement, as well as its current robust expression around the country. Our demonstration kitchen manager, Kathy Phung, and Smithsonian food historian Ashley Rose Young discussed this chapter in American culinary history while preparing chocolate desserts that reflected the ethos of the Good Food Movement.
Wrapping up the year and our culinary journey, the team will take a look at regions in the middle of the country, exploring foods and flavors from the Midwest with two demonstrations at the Smithsonian Holiday Festival.
Exploring the Midwest
Guest chef: Anne Byrn
Anne Byrn, author of American Cake, has a second cookbook that is timely for your holiday sweet tooth, American Cookie. Continuing our annual theme of regional foodways in America, Anne prepared several sweet regional favorites from the Midwest.
Cooking Up History for Kids
Guest chef: Tanya Steel
Dive taste buds first into this child-friendly cooking demonstration program with celebrity cook and author, Tanya Steel. During the program, Tanya told us about historically significant recipes from her book, Food Fight! A Mouthwatering History of Who Ate What and Why Through the Ages.
The fourth annual Smithsonian Food History Weekend Festival featured a full day of free activities for all visitors, including hands-on learning, garden tours, stories, discussions and cooking demonstrations that celebrated American regions remembered, revived and reimagined.
Zarela Martínez helped introduce Mexican regional cooking to American audiences, popularizing new flavors and cooking techniques from regions like Sonora and Oaxaca. In 1987, Chef Martínez opened Zarela, a fine dining Mexican restaurant in New York City, that inspired her five cookbooks including Food from my Heart: Cuisines of Mexico Remembered and Reimagined. During this program, Martínez made salpicon de huachinango (red snapper hash). This is a multigenerational dish prepared in unique ways by Martínez, her mother Aida Gabilondo who wrote Mexican Family Cooking, and her son Chef Aarón Sanchez of the Food Network. Martínez discussed how the ideas of memory, family, and community are expressed and shared through regional Mexican foodways. This cooking demonstration, in partnership with the Smithsonian Latino Center and the Mexican Cultural Institute, was part of "Making History, Sharing Culture" 2018 Hispanic Heritage Month Family Festival.
In an annual favorite, the museum celebrated Julia Child’s birthday and legacy with Sur La Table guest chef Lynne Just cooking up dishes from a region that was profoundly important to Julia: Provence. Chef Just and our resident food historian Ashley Rose Young explored the regional flavors and culinary traditions of southeastern France through two iconic dishes: bouillabaisse and lavender crème brûlée. As Julia would say, "Bon Appétit!"
Every July, baseball fans flock to stadiums to enjoy "America’s favorite pastime." This major league baseball experience is marked by jubilant organ music, t-shirt cannons, fireworks and, of course, food. These days, baseball parks are serving up more than just peanuts, popcorn, and hotdogs. Food vendors are featuring regional favorites: lobster rolls and baked beans at Fenway Park in Boston, kielbasa and pierogis at PNC stadium in Pittsburgh, sushi rolls and sashimi at AT&T Park in San Francisco. Museum visitors joined guest chef Brian Patterson and our resident Smithsonian food historian Ashley Rose Young as they talked about regional foodways of baseball, and those of the Northeast in particular. "Let’s play ball!"
As summer heated up, we focused our attention on a hot topic: the history, evolution, and politics of Southern cuisine. Special guest, Chef Edward Lee, prepared two mouth-watering dishes that reflected his experiences as a Korean American chef working in the U.S. South: "dirty" fried chicken and hotteok (Korean doughnuts). Through these recipes, Chef Lee talked about the power of place in creating regional foodways and regional identities with our resident Smithsonian food historian Ashley Rose Young. The demonstration drew inspiration from Chef Lee’s book, Buttermilk Graffiti: A Chef's Journey to Discover America's New Melting-Pot Cuisine.
To mark Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, chef and cookbook author Patricia Tanumihardja joined us at the museum. Born in Indonesia, raised in Singapore, and now living in Virginia, Chef Tanumihardja's cooking marries regional southeast Asian cuisine with local ingredients and a farm-to-table ethos. During the demo, Chef Tanumihardja prepared dishes inspired by her family and research on southeast Asian regional foodways including orak arik, nasi ulam, and pickles. After the demo, Chef Tanumihadja will signed copies of her book, Farm to Table Asian Secrets: Vegan & Vegetarian Full-Flavored Recipes for Every Season.
In 2018, we focused on the power of place and the histories of regional food traditions. For April’s "Cooking Up History," we explored the foodways of the Chesapeake, a region shaped by global waterborne trade, rich farmland and seafood resources, a temperate climate, and migrations of people over centuries. Chef Lynne Just of Sur La Table demonstrated two regional specialties, starting with Southern Maryland stuffed ham—a recipe for ham and spicy greens that has long been a part of holiday cooking in rural St. Mary’s County. We also headed up the bay to Baltimore for the cake that might have been served on holiday tables among the city’s affluent residents: the fanciful Lord Baltimore cake, which features coconut, dried fruit, and nuts. Audiences joined Chef Just and Smithsonian food historian Ashley Rose Young as we learned about Chesapeake cuisine and the micro-regions that contribute to this region’s vibrant food culture.
2018 marked the tricentennial of the founding of New Orleans and this program featured one of the city’s most celebrated chefs, Alon Shaya. With his innovative interpretation of modern Israeli cuisine, Chef Alon has brought dishes ranging from labneh to schnitzel not only to the forefront of New Orleans’ Creole food scene, but also to the nation’s. During this program, Chef Alon prepared several dishes from his cookbook, SHAYA: An Odyssey of Food, My Journey Back to Israel, while speaking to food historian Ashley Rose Young about his professional and personal experiences with food.
If it’s February, it must be time for Carnival! We explored the cuisine of Carnival and how communities in the Caribbean and U.S. celebrate this holiday through food. The museum partnered with the Embassy of the Republic of Haiti in Washington, D.C. and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture to bring this history to life. Food historian Ashley Rose Young and curator Joanne Hyppolite spoke with celebrity Haitian Chef Jouvens Jean about Haitian Carnival traditions while he prepares several dishes that highlight his personal history and wide-ranging culinary career—from winning Food Network’s Cutthroat Kitchen Season 6 to writing his own cookbook, Tap Tap Diaries.
Have you ever stepped back from a meal and thought about the history and tradition behind it? How did cooking techniques and even the taste and texture of ingredients like flour and butter change since the colonial and antebellum periods? In January, audiences joined Smithsonian food historian Ashley Rose Young as she prepared a dish from the Archives Center at the National Museum of American History. We discussed the challenges of preparing historic recipes in modern kitchens, while also providing inspiration to try out historic recipes on your own to learn about the past.
We celebrated the holidays and the 50th Anniversary of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival with a trip to the Caribbean. Jennifer Selman, chef/owner of Crown Bakery in Washington, DC, shattered any negative notions you have about fruitcake with her Trinidadian version. She also brewed up the healthful and tangy holiday drink, sorrel. Jennifer was joined by long-time Folklife Festival researcher and presenter Camila Bryce-LaPorte, who is also the last person in her family to continue her own Caribbean and Panamanian fruitcake traditions. We learned how the Caribbean community of Washington, DC builds community through food and fellowship, especially during the holidays.
In November, Massachusetts is remembered for Thanksgiving feasts, but what were New Englanders fishing for and eating the rest of the year? Codfishing drove the regional economy, while salt cod exports influenced cuisine both around the world and at New England tables. Ris Lacoste, DC chef and a native of New Bedford, MA, cooked with this iconic fish during this "Cooking Up History" program. During the demo, we shared new research about one man’s history on the working waterfront in 18th century Massachusetts from the museum’s exhibit Within These Walls.
What is the "Nuevo South"? Why does it matter? And what does it taste like? On September 16th, we welcomed chef and author Sandra Gutiérrez. Sandra was born in Philadelphia, to Guatemalan parents, and raised in Guatemala. She moved to North Carolina from Canada in 1985. By 1996, she discovered that as more Latinos moved to the South, a new food pathway emerged. At this cooking demonstration, we discussed migration, activism, and the culinary movements in the Nuevo South. This program was co-sponsored by the National Museum of African American History and Culture, with funding provided by the Latino Initiatives Pool, a federal pool administered by the Smithsonian Latino Center.
Julia Child was a great cooking teacher and she was also an eager culinary student long after earning her diploma from Le Cordon Bleu. To honor the week of Julia’s 105th birthday, we welcomed Sur La Table chef Lynne Just to prepare a few dishes from Julia’s collaborations with master chefs in the 1990s. As we cooked, we explored how Julia demonstrated her lifelong love of learning as she welcomed chefs into her home kitchen to collaborate on three television series. These recipes, and our conversation, celebrated Julia’s bountiful curiosity about ingredients, techniques, and recipes outside of French cuisine, and her enthusiastic promotion of other talented chefs as she encouraged her viewers and cookbook audiences to never stop learning.
What is the history behind Cajun and Creole cuisines, and how are they different? On July 21, we welcomed Louisiana native chef David Guas of Arlington’s Bayou Bakery, and we cooked our way through the origins of the Louisiana Territories to explore how these two distinctive culinary traditions emerged from a commingling of French, French-Acadian, and Spanish settlers, native peoples, migrants from the Caribbean, and enslaved Africans, and how the region’s signature dishes represent its rich history.
How do three generations of a family’s Chinese gardening traditions take root in America? On June 30, we welcomed guest Wendy Kiang-Spray, author of The Chinese Kitchen Garden, whose parents and grandparents grew food in their own traditional Chinese kitchen garden in Shandong and Hong Kong, using techniques that Wendy incorporated into her own Maryland garden. As we prepared a few dishes from Kiang-Spray’s book, we explored the many ways Chinese vegetables, herbs, and spices have held significance and symbolic meaning, and how the process of planting food for one’s family is key to preserving a sense of home and tradition wherever you live.
- Crab, Pork, and Napa Cabbage Dumplings
- Spicy Sichuan Peppercorn-Marinated Cucumbers
- Stir-Fried Bitter Melon and Tofu with Garlic and Fermented Black Beans
What is the relationship between food, jazz, and American history? In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, jazz spread into American life, blending many influences and finding distinct forms in each community it was played, from New Orleans to Harlem to Kansas City. We were joined by guest chef Rock Harper, who prepared a few dishes from America’s leading jazz communities. During the demo, we explored how each city produced unique culinary creations to feed both musicians and their audiences, and also discussed how the foods that fed jazz were as improvisational, innovative, and rooted in tradition as the music itself.
What was the first cookbook written by an American for Americans, and how did the recipes differ from other volumes at the time? Prior to 1796, American home cooks used English cookery books, if they used books at all, to prepare meals. But with Amelia Simmons’ 1796 American Cookery, we had the first formal document exploring "American cuisine," incorporating ingredients native to the American landscape such as cornmeal, pumpkins, maple syrup, and various vegetables, nuts, and fruits. We were joined by chef Angie Lee of Sur La Table, who prepared a few recipes from American cookbook authors such as Simmons, Mary Randolph, Eliza Leslie, and Lydia Child, as we considered the ingredients, tools, and cooking techniques in this early era, and discussed how these authors had such a profound influence on American culinary history.
What impact did the Great Migration have on American foodways? From 1915 to 1960, more than five million African Americans migrated from the deep South to the northern and western United States in search of new opportunities for work and community. We were joined by guest chef Jerome Grant from the National Museum of African American History and Culture who prepared a few dishes that reflect the culinary changes that emerged from that migration and help us consider how African Americans preserved some Southern roots as "soul food" tradition while adapting and creating new dishes to their neighborhoods.
Did you resolve to eat healthier in 2017? You were not alone, but how did you define "healthy" when it came to food that year? On January 14, we looked to history for how our ideas about diet and nutrition have changed over time. While Chef Brian prepared recipes from 19th century American cookbooks, we explored the era of Sylvester Graham, Ellen White, and other dietary reformers, whose ideas about whole grains and vegetarianism influenced the foods many Americans put on the table, at least for a time!
How did pumpkin become a signature food of the fall, and of early American cuisine? Chef Brian took us beyond the jack-o-lantern to help us better understand the historical, agricultural, and culinary story of this autumnal fruit, as we explored how the pumpkin came to have such an important symbolic role in American life.
What are the signature ingredients, flavors, and stories of Cuban American cooking? For this program, we welcomed guest chef Ana Sofia Peláez, author of The Cuban Table, who first set out to explore Cuban cuisine as a way of tracing the stories and recipes of her grandparents’ generation. As we prepared a few dishes from Ana’s book, we explored the complex social, political, and cultural history that has led to Cuba’s distinctive cuisine, and how the dishes prepared by Cubans and Cuban Americans honor the country’s rich traditions.
What recipes, ingredients, and culinary traditions was Julia Child exploring after she finished the second volume of Mastering the Art of French Cooking in 1970? We celebrated what would have been Julia Child’s 104th birthday with Sur La Table chef Lynne Just and prepared a few dishes from Julia’s collection of recipes in the 1970s. While we considered the aftermath of Mastering’s success and of Julia’s growing television career, we also considered how Julia’s perspective on food was changing in sync with other major shifts in American history and culinary culture.
- Bifteck haché, sauté nature (Sautéed Hamburgers with Wine, Cream, and Tomato Sauce)
- Fresh Green Beans with Watercress and Tomatoes, Oil and Lemon Dressing
- Mayonnaise in the electric super-blender-food-processor
- Pommes Rosemarie
What happens when traditional dishes from the Basque lands of Europe are brought to the American West through migration? To join in the celebration of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, we welcomed L’Academie de Cuisine chef Brian Patterson to help us explore Basque history and culture through food. As we cooked a few dishes from Basque cuisine in America that reflect the baserria (farmstead) tradition of Basque homelands in the mountainous regions of France and Spain, we discussed how Basque immigrants to the United States influenced the ranching, agricultural, and culinary traditions of the West.
Friday, June 17: Political Barbecues
Guest chef: Albert Lukas, Restaurant Associates
What role does barbecue play a role in America’s political campaign history? Restaurant Associates chef Albert Lukas explored the significance of outdoor cookouts in shaping America’s political season with us on June 17. We cooked up a platter of Georgia-style pork barbecue and discussed everything from the science of smoking to the different types of spices, meats, and wood used. While we cooked, we explored 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.
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 journeyed 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.
How did sushi go from a Japanese delicacy to an American favorite? As part of our Asian Pacific American Heritage Month celebration, we welcomed Wegmans Chef Kevin Lee, who helped us explore the history of sushi in America through a hands-on sushi demonstration. We examined 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 considered 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.
For this program, we welcomed Amelia Morán Ceja, the president of Ceja Vineyards from Napa, California. Amelia shared 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 cooked, we learned 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.
How do family culinary traditions reflect broader changes in African American history? As part of our Museum Day Live! Programming, we welcomed Alice Randall and her daughter Caroline Randall Williams, who in their book Soul Food Love celebrate the soul food traditions passed down over four generations of women in their family. As Alice and Caroline cooked, they discussed 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.
What can his favorite foods tell us about President Abraham Lincoln? Chef Angie brought 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 cooked up some classic mid-19th century fare, we considered 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.
What were the foods that nourished the Civil Rights Movement? To kick off our 2016 series of cooking conversations, Chef Lindsay took 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 showed us the ways in which Southern flavor is developed—often with made-by-hand, slow-and-low cooking—we explored 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.
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 helped us prepare a fanciful Christmas dessert from Julia Child’s repertoire—the Bûche de Noël, or Yule log. As our Chef walked us through the process for making this rolled, frosted, and elaborately decorated sponge cake, we considered various sources of Christmas traditions in America, and the special role that sugar and sweet treats have historically played in our holiday celebrations.
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 took us through some signature dishes of the Jewish winter holiday, we explored the shifting meaning of the Hanukkah story and holiday in the United States, and discovered how, post-Civil War, a relatively minor holiday became a major moment of celebration on the Jewish-American calendar.
How do we use food to help usher in a new year? Chef Sandy showed us how to prepare a traditional New Year’s Day dish of the American South—hoppin’ John. We explored the history of this Southern culinary treasure and touched on how different foods have become important symbols and elements of New Years’ celebrations around the country.
How did the first Thanksgiving depend on Native American foodways? Chef Brian and Chef Jerome Grant of the National Museum of the American Indian joined 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.
What was served at the first Thanksgiving—and why does today’s Thanksgiving table look so different? Chef Jordan prepared some foods that reflect the original 1621 Thanksgiving menu, as we reflected 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.
What would have been on the table at George Washington’s Mount Vernon? Ernesto and Krystal took us back to 1789 and George Washington’s Thanksgiving proclamation with a dish pulled right from his own kitchen, as we reflected on the colonial era’s farming and cooking styles, and explored some of Washington’s innovative practices in growing and preparing food.
How are oysters a seasonal food, and how has our relationship with this curious bivalve changed over time? We shucked our way through the story of both wild and farmed oysters, and harvesting traditions and technologies, as Chef Albert Lukas prepared a dish that recalls the oyster’s valuable place in American cuisine.
- Chesapeake Oyster Pan Roast with Country Ham & Toasted Baguette
- Chesapeake Oysters on the Half Shell with Green Apple & Cider Mignonette
How did pumpkin become a signature food of the fall? Chef Lynne took us beyond the jack-o-lantern to help us better understand the historical, agricultural, and culinary story of this autumnal fruit, as we explored how the pumpkin came to have such an important symbolic role in American culture.
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 showed us the benefits of roasting up these delicious ingredients and showed us some different seasonal varieties of apples and squash, as we discussed their regional, culinary, and historical significance in the American landscape.
How do fresh ingredients from a farm’s harvest season affect the chef’s table? Chef Brian and farmer Greg Glenn of Rocklands Farm in Poolesville, MD discussed 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.
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.
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.
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.
- Roasted Cauliflower with Lime Dressing and Toasted Pepitas
- Shrimp Tacos with Pico de Gallo and Lime Crema
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.”
- Medallion de Pollo con Arbol de Pan (Chicken Medallions with Mashed Breadfruit)
- Mavi or Mabi (Fermented Cold Tea from the bark of the Mauby Tree)
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.
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 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 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.
- Sunny Side Up Eggs with Toast
- Pan Seared Steak with Chimichurri Sauce
- Chimichurri Sauce
- Grilled Salmon with Mango Salsa
- Brian's Mango Salsa
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.
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.
- Basic Grilled Steak
- BP's American Catsup
- Whole Grilled Fish with Garlic Sauce
- Yogurt & Mint Marinated Lamb Kebabs
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.
- Maryland Crabcakes with Old Bay Tartar Sauce
- Old Fashioned Maine Lobster Roll
- New England Clam Chowder
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.
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.
- BBQ Sauce
- Dry Rubbed Baby-Back Ribs
- All American Roasted Potato Salad
- Avocado Chicken Slaw
- Fresh Pickled Melons
Cooking Up History is made possible with generous support from:
Food and Ingredients Sponsor
Wegmans Food Markets, Inc.
Kitchen Equipment Sponsors
Sur La Table
With additional support from
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.