What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam?

by Steven Doyle

An interesting exhibition is now on display that chronicles food and nutrition for the past 100 years. The National Archives announced recently What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam? would make its run through January 2, 2012 in Washington.

The exhibition is curated by Alice Kamps who was the former Director of Interpretation at Hillwood Museum and Gardens and Director of Arts Learning at Chicago Children’s Museum has gathered an interesting display from within the belly of the government that doesn’t always portray Uncle Sam in the best light.  

One of the many finds you will discover on display is a 1945 government poster that lists ‘butter and fortified margarine’ as one of seven basic food groups. The guide also called for eating ‘any other foods you want’. This in light of the recent dismantling of the classic food pyramid in favor for a ‘food plate’ that lists what is proper for a modern and healthy American diet.

Eat What You Want As Long As It Includes Margarine

Curator Alice Kamps said, “The concern was malnutrition and getting enough calories,” adding that food guides show the evolution of our understanding of nutrition.

“Food is ammunition, don’t waste it” – United States Propaganda Poster

“The very earliest guides didn’t emphasize fruits and vegetables because vitamins hadn’t been identified or their importance in a nutritious diet wasn’t known,” added Kamps.

The Doughnut Corporation sought endorsment from the Nutrition Division of the War Food Administration for its Vitamin Doughnuts campaign

Kamps said the time was right for such an exhibit, with high interest in food and cooking on television and restaurants driven by big names.

The exhibition explores the evolution of food processing and labeling after the industrial revolution, a variety of propaganda in relation to wars that our country has been involved with, and how the Government has affected our eating habits and its unintentional effects on the American appetite.

Nixon's Last White House Meal

There is also an entertaining peek at the White House dining habits for the past century, detailing the president’s favorite meals including JFK’s clam chowder, LBJ’s chili, and Carter’s peanut butter pie.  The exhibit also explores the push for safeguards in the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 and a letter from Upton Sinclair to President Theodore Roosevelt about the meatpacking industry.

National Archives Experience
The Lawrence F. O’Brien Gallery
Constitution Avenue, NW [between 7th & 9th Streets]
Washington, DC


Filed under Arts, Bacon, Burgers, Farm, Steven Doyle, Stick of Butter, tamales, Washington DC, What were we thinking?

2 responses to “What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam?

  1. Michelle Mason

    Fun article!

  2. Bella

    This is so cool. The government has screwed the public so bad that we may not recover.

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