Smithsonian Food History Weekend 2016: Bigger and Better, With Foodie Celebs – Part 2, Saturday: Food History Festival

“Deep-Dish Dialogs” was a fitting title to the Saturday program, with five intriguing personalities (and possibly a sixth, but I skipped the “Food on Film” talk to catch the rest of the festival).

Jane and Michael Stern, authors of the bestselling Roadfood and many other books, presented an illustrated history of their lives and travels.  I have been listening to them on The Splendid Table since forever, so it was a real treat to meet them and hear about how they began their odyssey “to review every restaurant in America – and we’re still working on it!”

Paula Johnson with Michael and Jane Stern

Paula Johnson with Michael and Jane Stern

After graduating with two “useless degrees,” they had to invent jobs for themselves.  They seem to have done it well.  Aside from their restaurant mission, they have amassed a collection of outsider art and ephemera.  They love to visit prison gift shops (who knew there even were such things?)

Their unique career was not without hazards. They have been thrown out of restaurants for taking notes and pictures of the food. Near the Menninger Clinic in Kansas, Jane excused Michael’s behavior by claiming that he was certifiably insane.  They believed her.

In some places, they assumed Jane was Amish because she was wearing New York black.  They won a live sheep once, in Navajo Country.  They kept us in stitches!  Even Paula almost lost her professional composure once or twice.

And one pic in their ephemera collection made me sit up in my seat.  They flashed a copy of the program book for the 20th World Science Fiction Convention (Chicago, 1962) on the screen.  Although I am too young to have attended that one, I know folks who did.

Worldcon Program Book, on Right

Worldcon Program Book, on Right

After their talk, they signed.  I took the opportunity to buy their joint autobiography, Two for the Road.  And I met Kelly Camille Paterson and Paul Spencer of the Velveteen Lounge Kitch-en, in wonderful matching outfits.

Sterns and Fans

Sterns and Fans

The Velveteens

The Velveteens

The next Dialog took place between two folks who had been talking to each other for a long time.  The Kitchen Sisters, Davia Nelson and Nikki Silva, produce Hidden Kitchens for NPR.  They played audio clips from their new series.  The variety of stories relating to food and culture ranged from “Weenie Royale,” a dish invented in the Japanese internment camps of World War II, to the George Foreman Grill.

The Kitchen Sisters: Davia and Nicki

The Kitchen Sisters: Davia and Nikki

And here’s their standout pic (for me and my fellow caffeine freaks): a rifle from the Civil War with a coffee grinder built into the stock.  It’s from the aptly named “War and Peace and Coffee” episode. Because:  “Nobody can soldier without coffee.”  Or function at all, sez I.

Coffee Grinder Rifle Stock

Coffee Grinder Rifle Stock

So I bugged out on “Food on Film” (which I later heard was very good) to see some of the other festival sights, and get some lunch.  In light of my underwhelming lunch the day before, I decided to explore other options, specifically, the line of food trucks on Constitution Avenue in front of the African-American History Museum.

Food Truck City

Food Truck City

And it was a party out there!  A lively crowd was having a good time, eating and hanging out on the sidewalk.  I surveyed the variety of trucks, and decided to have a sweet potato pie for lunch.  It was delicious, and very reasonably priced.

I went back to the NMAH to visit the Victory Garden, which was hosting activities similar to those at last year’s festival: flower pounding, seed saving, and wandering through the garden taking pictures.

Victory Garden from Above

Victory Garden from Above

Hop King Sans Hops

Hop King Sans Hops

Bean Teepee

Bean Teepee

The Hop King from last year was there, but the hops had already been dealt with.

Inside, I visited Julia’s kitchen just to say hello.  On the way, I noticed the Greensboro Lunch Counter attracting attention.

Hello, Julia's Kitchen!

Hello, Julia’s Kitchen!

Greensboro Lunch Counter

Greensboro Lunch Counter

But upstairs, near the activities in the Flag Hall, the gift shop was having a Star Trek moment.

Hello, Captain Kirk!

Hello, Captain Kirk!

Back downstairs I went, for the last Dialog of the day.  Jessica Carbone interviewed Julia Child’s great-nephew, Alex Prud’homme, about his new book, The French Chef in America.

Jessica and Alex

Jessica and Alex

 

It’s about what happened after Julia returned from France: testing recipes for Volume II of Mastering the Art, filming the first television series, being parodied by Dan Ackroyd on Saturday Night Live…  And the show that didn’t happen: Thirteen Recipes for Thirteen Colonies, for the bicentennial year of 1976, with James Beard.  I’d have loved to see that!

Next year’s Weekend is planned for October 26-28.  Can’t wait!

About Judy

I have been cooking and eating all my life. I help run the Olney Farmers and Artists Market in Olney, Maryland, arrange their weekly chef demos and blog from that website (olneyfarmersmarket.org) on Market matters. This personal blog is for all things foodie: cookbooks, products, restaurants, eating.
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