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The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History will host its eighth annual Food History Weekend Oct. 13–14, a multifaceted in-person event that features two days of dynamic presentations, including a live cooking demonstration, a brewing history panel discussion and out-of-storage objects on display.
The weekend kicks off Thursday, Oct. 13, with the Smithsonian Food History Gala, one of Washington, D.C.’s premier culinary events, which will be held in person at the museum after two years of virtual presentations. As a highlight of the evening, culinary historian and cookbook author Grace Young will receive the Julia Child Award presented by Julia Knight, museum director of Poster House, on behalf of The Julia Child Foundation for Gastronomy and the Culinary Arts. The Julia Child Award recognizes an individual (or team) who has made a profound and significant difference in the way America cooks, eats and drinks. Young, the eighth recipient of the award, is a tireless advocate for the preservation of American Chinatowns and all their cultural, economic and gastronomic riches and critical needs in the face of increasing violence against members of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community.
“As the nation’s flagship history museum and as the home to Julia Child’s kitchen, we are honored to explore and share the intersections of democracy, history and food, with special attention to cultural equity and justice,” said Anthea M. Hartig, the Elizabeth MacMillan Director. “Understanding the complexities of the nation’s past helps us make sense of contemporary experiences and enables us to move forward and create real change, with the guiding and lasting inspiration of both Julia Child and Grace Young.”
Since 2015, each annual Smithsonian Food History Weekend has brought together culinary professionals, practitioners, educators and scholars to engage with the public through dynamic food experiences and demonstrations. This year’s theme, “Conserving Food Cultures,” honors the efforts of community advocates who are working to conserve, share and celebrate their ancestral food traditions in various communities across the United States.
Smithsonian Food History Gala
The Oct. 13 gala is a fundraising dinner benefitting the museum’s food-history research, programming and exhibition. The evening will feature the celebration of the eighth annual Julia Child Award by the Julia Child Foundation for Gastronomy and the Culinary Arts. The unique menu for the evening will be created by chef Peter Chang, master of Chinese cuisine and one of the Washington, D.C., area’s most admired chefs. The first course will be a special plating of eight flavors; eight is a significant number in Chinese culture. Other menu highlights include Chang’s Sichuan cumin lamb served with forbidden rice and greens, vegetarian dishes, a passionfruit and lime tart, and more. Several Washington chefs, including chef Tim Ma of Lucky Danger, Laoban Dumplings, and Chefs Stopping AAPI Hate; Danny Lee and Scott Drewno, chefs and co-founders of The Fried Rice Collective; and chef Henji Cheung of Queen’s English will prepare special appetizers to honor Young.
Chantal Tseng, bartender, sommelier, cocktail creator and educator, will design specialty cocktails featuring Ming River Sichuan baijiu, a grain spirit. Wine and beer pairings will feature wines from California, New York and Virginia and beers from California, Colorado and Maine.
Additional special guests include “The Splendid Table” host Francis Lam who will serve as MC for the evening, along with featured guest speakers Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Ph.D., museum curator and professor emerita at New York University, and Sara Moulton, chef, cookbook author and television personality. Previous Julia Child Award recipient Toni Tipton-Martin will round out the list of special guests.
More information about the event as well as individual ticket sales and table sponsorships for the gala is available on the museum’s website.
The evening is made possible by lead support from The Julia Child Foundation for Gastronomy and the Culinary Arts, Winiarski Family Foundation, Cabot Creamery Co-operative, The Cafaro Foundation, Johanna Mendelson Forman, Macchu Pisco, Napa Valley Vintners, Joan Nathan and the Gerson family, Wegmans Food Markets, AARP, Chefs Stopping AAPI Hate, Clark Construction, Potomac Construction, Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association and Shan Nain Benevolent Association, Al Diaz and Angela Phillips Diaz, and Danny Meyer.
Public programming begins Friday, Oct. 14, with a free daytime “Cooking Up History” live demonstration with Young. Sharing the ancestral knowledge she documents for her cookbooks, Young will demonstrate how to prepare fried rice with Chinese barbecued pork and discuss her efforts to preserve Chinese American culinary culture at home and in endangered Chinatowns across the nation during the hour-long cooking demonstration and conversation. The popular “Cooking Up History” series is made possible by Stephanie Bennett-Smith, Ph.D., with additional support from Wegmans Food Markets.
The museum will also host an “Objects Out of Storage” display, inviting visitors to take a closer look at objects and documents Young recently donated to the museum. The display will include the Young family’s nearly 70-year-old wok and a set of Canton Rose porcelain along with a copy of The French Chef Cookbook signed by Child for a teenaged Young. Other objects from the museum’s extensive collections include donations from Cecilia Chiang (1920–2020), the Chinese American restaurateur, chef and founder of Mandarin Restaurant in San Francisco; Paul and Linda Ma, Chinese American restaurateurs and educators on Chinese culture in New York; and Virginia Lee Mead (1869–1942), whose father founded the Chinese Merchants Association in 1918 in New York City.
Participants will also have the chance to view “Rallying Against Racism,” a new installation at the museum of a large red banner that members of the Chinese American community carried during an anti-Asian hate march in San Francisco’s Chinatown Feb. 29, 2020.
Friday evening, Oct. 14, Smithsonian Food History Weekend will conclude with “Last Call,” the annual ticketed brewing history program, which is hosted this year in collaboration with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Latino. The event, “¡Salud! to American Latinos in Beer,” will explore the past, present and future of American Latinos in the brewing industry, representing a diverse, vibrant thread among the nation’s brewers and beer lovers. Many of these brewers reach for a variety of ingredients with Latin roots—prickly pear, piloncillo sugar, tamarind, guava and more—as they create new beer styles. Building taprooms and communities that look, sound and taste innovative, inclusive and delicious, they are writing the next chapter in American beer history. “Last Call” is made possible by the Brewers Association.
Speakers include Carmen Favela of Mujeres Brew House, San Diego; Javier Lopez, Casa Humilde Cerveceria, Chicago; Gabriel Montoya, DeadBeach Brewery, El Paso, Texas; Juan Camilo, Dyckman Beer Co., New York City; and Liz Garibay, founder of the Chicago Brewseum.
Attendees will also be able to view a number of objects representing the brewing history, including materials from Highland Brewing Co. of Asheville, North Carolina, documenting the brewery’s operational changes during the COVID-19 pandemic; a recent donation by Modist Brewing Co. of Minneapolis, documenting the brewery’s support of #BlackLivesMatter protestors following the May 2020 murder of George Floyd; beer-can labels donated by Narrows Brewing Co. of Tacoma, Washington, whose creative designs referenced Americans’ diverse experiences of living through the COVID-19 pandemic; a hand-sanitizer bottle donated by Urban South Brewing Co. in New Orleans, documenting the brewery’s 2020 pivot from beer to hand-sanitizer production—a transition reminiscent of Prohibition history; and artifacts from the museum’s collections documenting the long history of beer brewing in Mexico from Mexicali, Tecate and Dos Equis breweries.
The complete schedule of Food History Weekend events and participants can be found on the museum’s website.
The museum’s foundational exhibition, “FOOD: Transforming the American Table,” is a long-term display that explores the various technological, social and cultural forces behind the major changes in food production, distribution and consumption since 1950. The public can also explore the rich and complex histories of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders through the museum’s collections, exhibitions, archives and scholarly research online.
Through incomparable collections, rigorous research and dynamic public outreach, the National Museum of American History seeks to empower people to create a more just and compassionate future by examining, preserving and sharing the complexity of our past. The museum, located on Constitution Avenue N.W., between 12th and 14th streets, is open daily except Dec. 25 between 10 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Admission is free, and passes are not required. The doors of the museum are always open online and the virtual museum continues to expand its offerings, including online exhibitions, K–12 educational materials and programs. The public can follow the museum on social media on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. For more information, visit the museum’s website. For Smithsonian information, the public may call (202) 633-1000.
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