Smithsonian’s “Food: Transforming the American Table, 1950-2000” Exhibit

Earlier this week, my eight year-old son and I headed to Washington, DC so he could participate in an educational event at the National Archives (their Learning Lab’s “Constitution in Action” class, which I would highly recommend to parents looking for a free activity to keep your children engaged in learning over the summer).  My son was so excited to ride the subway into the city, and he loved looking at all the important and historical buildings there.  He loved the class, where he got to wear a protective jacket and gloves and handle actual historical documents.

After class, we walked to Chinatown and had lunch at Wok and Roll, an awesome but small Chinese and Japanese restaurant near the Verizon Center.  I had spicy salmon, spicy tuna and spicy crunchy shrimp rolls and my kid ate a whole order of gyoza and an entire California Roll (all that walking must have worked up his appetite!).

In the afternoon, we visited the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, where an exhibition on food in America is currently on view.  The “Food: Transforming the American Table, 1950-2000” exhibit covers the many ways in which our food system has changed over the past half-century.  My son liked the school lunch table in the center of the exhibit, where lazy susan-like rounds offered information on how kids ate in school from the 1950’s to today.  Along the outside walls of the exhibit space, different food movements were showcased, from fast food and multicultural cuisine to the growth of farmers markets and the local food movement.  A special section on American wine production highlighted Virginia wines, as well as the agricultural aspect of growing wine grapes.

At the front of the exhibit space, Julia Child’s kitchen has been re-created, and clips of her cooking shows are on view.  Through her career spanning the 1940’s to her death in 2004, Julia Child introduced millions of Americans to the joys of home cooking, and to methods and foodways that inspired her.  A replica of her kitchen, along with items she donated to the Smithsonian, depict her life in food.

The exhibit has a companion educational website that allows visitors to prepare for their visit and offers additional information for further study.


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Charleston Fried Chicken for Sunday Supper

A good deal on a whole chicken at my local Food Lion + reading famed Charleston, SC gardener Emily Whaley’s “Mrs. Whaley Entertains” = delicious fried chicken for Sunday supper.

Seriously, the hardest part about making fresh fried chicken from scratch was figuring out how to cut up the fryer (and I found a YouTube video to help).

Once the chicken is cut up, you rub it with salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder, then mix up two eggs and a cup of milk.  Dredge the chicken in the milk/egg mixture, then add to a paper bag containing one cup of flour and whatever spices you want (I used my homemade Cajun spice blend).  Shake up the chicken and you’re ready to fry!

The most important part of frying chicken is to make sure your oil is at the right temperature.  If your oil is at the point where it’s snapping and popping, you’re good to go.  Drop the chicken pieces into a cast-iron skillet or deep pot filled with a quart of cooking oil.  Cook about 8 minutes per side, turning once halfway through.  Remove with tongs and let the cooked pieces drain on paper towels while you cook the other chicken pieces.

There’s nothing like a juicy piece of fresh fried chicken on a hot Southern summer day!

ETA:  Totally didn’t even realize it was officially “Fried Chicken Day!”