What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam?

This is a repost from my blog post with ECO City Farms on August 9, 2011:

Last month I visited the What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam? exhibit at National Archives Building in Washington, DC. This exhibit shows the history of U.S. government policy on our agriculture practices and how it has impacted our food system. It was put together by the Foundation for National Archives.

This exhibit is paired with a pop-up restaurant called America Eats Tavern, operated by ThinkFood Group, at the old Café Atlantico location in Penn Quarters. The restaurant will offer a new take on American classics, native ingredients, and forgotten dishes. For example their lunch and dinner menu has a section on “Catsup” and it provides a wide variety that includes oyster, anchovy, gooseberry, and our favorite tomato catsup. The tavern use its menu to  share the story of where American dishes came from and why it is eaten. To learn more about the restaurant visit their website and also check out my blog post on Chef José André with the Provisions Library.

During my visit I was intrigued by the way the U.S. government broke down our daily food requirement and intake needs. The food groups and the suggested daily intake amount has changed many times over the years. These changes have influence our diets over time. For example in 1941 there were seven food groups.

I also developed a deeper understanding of how American diet changed post-war time. It is well known that during World War II the U.S. Government campaigned its citizens to grow their own food. The gardens were called Victory Gardens. However, I did not realize the extend of how food eaten during war time impacted the citizens post war. For examples, soldiers returning home from war were used to the canned food they ate during combat. Upon returning home, these soldiers craved the same canned fruits, vegetables, and meats. Our government’s food policy during war time has shaped our choices at the grocery.

I think it is definitely worth checking out What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam? and than go eat at America Eats Tavern. You can’t go wrong with food cooked at a Jose Andres restaurant.


About John Costa

I am a farmer in training with a background in finance, organizational sustainability, and project management. My expertise is making the business case for local food enterprises.
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