The Smithsonian is celebrating the American palate by putting our dining habits under the microscope. And the latest results are now ready for public consumption, via “FOOD: Transforming the American Table 1950-2000.”
The installation, which debuted within the National Museum of American History on Nov. 20, tracks the evolution of our collective eating experience by exploring the gustatory trends —everything from the evolution of grocery shopping to the meteoric rise of fast food — that have helped define our current epicurean identity.
The history lesson is spread across four parts: “New & Improved” explores changes in consumption (TV trays, anyone?), “Resetting the Table” delves into our melting pot of a diet (ethnic cuisine to slow-food movement), “Wine for the Table” mulls the post-Prohibition state of our Union, while the central “Open Table” invites guests to pull up a chair and discuss all the information they digested.
We enjoyed the exultation of the Virginia wine industry (vintners Dennis Horton and Jenny McCloud figure prominently), as well as the illustrative account of the “good food” movement.
To wit, there’s an almost 30-year-old picture of Chez Panisse chef Alice Waters living her then-wacky “eat local” message by shopping at a local farmers market. Fast-forward to today, when Waters can see the fruits of her labor realized via the White House Kitchen Garden (she’s visited at least twice since 2010) and has the ear of the president. (She’s co-hosted numerous fundraisers for President Barack Obama, including a $20,000-per-plate shindig this past October.)