I can think of no better time than a few days before Labor Day to introduce you to a wonderful book from the National Archives. It is easy to think of this mammoth building as a holder of major historical documents. To us in the food community that includes recipes that parallel the important events of history.
The major undertaking of a food exhibit, “What’s Cooking Uncle Sam,” a pop-up restaurant, American Eats Tavern, and a cookbook, Eating with Uncle Sam, has added a whole new chapter to the collections from the Archives and the Presidential libraries. Yes, food has played an important role in our history and much of what we do and comment on today within the universe of food has its earliest roots tied into a major document that has been preserved. Think of the current trendy chef movement toward the healthy concept of Meatless Mondays. It was during World War II that Americans were asked to have a meatless day (Tuesday) and such a tradition remained a strong staple of households many years after the War ended.
Touring the exhibit at the Archives gives one a bountiful repast of our history and how food evolved within the culture. Dining nearby at the Jose Andres restaurant (America Eats Tavern), lets one celebrate our history with a taste of the original recipes. After all how many types of Catsup have evolved over the years! A good way to test your palate. Now it all comes together with this new book.
One of the most discussed posters in the exhibit is entitled “Eat the Carp” which serves as an introduction to the fish chapter which includes a recipe for Paprikosh (1917-20) which today we might call a fish hash. Or try Lady Bird Johnson’s famous Shrimp Squash Casserole.
If sweets are more to your liking, there are plenty of recipes to try including Aunt Sammy’s Radio Recipe of Fruit Cake. After all, we wonder how some recipes ever evolved! How about a recipe for Fondant with the accompanying 1917-19 poster “Sugar: Save It.”
These little tastes should help you set a table of historical recipes. If you can’t make it to the Archives before the exhibit closes in early January, then take a You Tube tour.
In the meantime, enjoy the history and the recipes as you recognize the importance of keeping records.