Smithsonian Food History Weekend 2016: Bigger and Better, And With (a Little) Food – Part 1, Friday: Food History Roundtables

I’m happy to report that there is now some food at the Food Weekend.  Those dedicated enough to attend the Friday Roundtables got a nice bonus: a reception with beer, wine and munchies at the end of the day.  Some of the panelists from the day’s program were there.  That was nice.

The Sign By The Signup Table

The Sign By The Signup Table

This year’s event was even better than last year’s, because of the new series of talks on Saturday, even though I missed every last one of the chef demos (and these were heretofore my favorite part!), because they were scheduled concurrently.  I also felt compelled to at least skim the other parts of the Festival.

But let’s take the weekend in order – well, not quite, as I still haven’t cracked the Gala on Thursday night.  Never mind.  On Friday, the Roundtables, a series of panel discussions, focused on Politics on Your Plate, just in case we all weren’t already heartily sick of the whole topic even before the election.

The Politics of Food: Charles, Miller, Nestle, Belasco

The Politics of Food: Johnson (at Podium), Charles, Miller, Nestle, Belasco

The first panel included one of my sheros, Marion Nestle.  After brief opening remarks by Paula Johnson, food history curator at NMAH, the panel settled down to a discussion of The Politics of Food through American History, from “the Indians and Colonists thought each other’s food was disgusting” to food as a tool of dissent during the Viet Nam war protests and the Civil Rights movement.

Afterwards, there were book signings.

Marion Nestle Signing

Marion Nestle Signing

The Politics of Farm Labor: Loza, Medina, Castaneda, Fitzgerald

The Politics of Farm Labor: Loza, Medina, Castaneda, Fitzgerald

The participants of Panel 2, The Politics of Farm Labor, assured us that, although mechanization has changed farm labor, it has not made the remaining labor easier.  Nor are the jobs of sorters, packers, and others any better.  And then there is the question of the treatment of workers who generate the huge flow of produce over the border from Mexico.

When everyone was suitably radicalized, we adjourned for lunch in the Stars and Stripes Cafe.  Last year, there was a special menu coordinated with the Food Weekend; not so this time.  I had some overpriced, indifferent barbecue, accompanied by mac and “cheese” that had no discernible cheese taste.  The coleslaw was passable.

The Politics of Labeling: Strasser, Mayne, Halloran, Moss

The Politics of Labeling: Strasser, Mayne, Halloran, Moss

The program recommenced with The Politics of Labeling.   Experts in nutrition and public policy discussed what we see and don’t see on food labels, and why the front content can be so different from the nutrition label on the back (hint: the front label can be read as the food industry’s tracking of consumer concerns).

The Politics of Health: Veit, Harper, Wansink, Hoover

The Politics of Health: Veit, Harper, Wansink, Hoover

And lastly, The Politics of Health panel discussed food gardens in poor areas; access to healthy food as opposed to fast food (with all its hidden costs); and incorporating elements of precontact, traditional diets into modern indigenous people’s diets.  A spirited defense of the Standing Rock pipeline’s protest elicited spontaneous applause, as did a plea to bring back teaching Home Economics in schools.

Would it be Philistine of me to suggest that the best part of the day was the reception?  The finger food was interesting: tiny lady apples (some of the strawberries on the fruit plate were bigger), literally green cheese, grilled veggies, cured meats, and free-flowing wine and beer.

28food-at-reception2jpg7

Finger Food

And the schmoozing was good.  It was a very nice coda to the day.

Next entry: Saturday: Food History Festival

 

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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