What's Cooking Uncle Sam?

June 08, 2011

The way we look at our foods has evolved, and how we communicate food’s benefits is a science.

The way we look at our foods has evolved, from word of mouth, to newspaper and magazine ads, to television and now the internet - how we communicate food’s benefits is a science. Well, if you love food and history it’s time to head to Washington and visit the National Archives between June 10th and January 3rd 2012 to see the exhibit, “What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam? The Government’s Effect on the American Diet” and learn about the history behind the Government’s involvement with food.

Spanning the Revolutionary War-era through the late 1900s, with documents, films, and photographs, the exhibition is arranged into four themes: farm, which explores the relationship between government and growers; factory, which looks at the history of food regulation and processing; kitchen, which includes displays of nutritional studies and government education campaigns concerning food; and table, which documents the way government has fed people from schools to military bases.

Some of the exhibitions may surprise you — there is a poster promoting cottage cheese as a protein substitute that was part of the original “Meatless Mondays” during World War I, promoted by the Food Administration under Herbert Hoover.

You can discover what was on the menu at Lyndon B. Johnson’s State Dinners; and how the “Poison Squad” was a group of government volunteers who tasted tainted food and helped scientists better understand the effects of boric acid and other additives.
You probably already know that Birds Eye got the patent for the first frozen-food processing machine; but did you know that ketchup was among the first commercial convenience foods to take off. Discover why canned meat and candy were so dangerous at the time of the Industrial Revolution and what was done about it. You can even view Upton Sinclair’s original letter to President Theodor Roosevelt about the meat packing industry.

The exhibit boasts an amazing selection of records selected from thousands of pages of material, that chronicle the story of the government’s efforts to feed Americans an ample, safe, and nutritious diet. Any hey, does the image of the poster of Uncle Sam used for this article remind you of the White House garden today?