Monday, February 25, 2013
“Now, this is a sweet potato! Let’s see who can get the biggest,” she said, as fifth graders from the Bancroft and Kimball schools in Washington, D.C. prepared to help. One girl squealed, and Mrs. Obama laughed. Then she and the students went to work, pulling out radishes, lettuce, bell peppers, eggplant, and more than a dozen crops.
A White House Garden Cookbook, published in 2010 by Red Rock Press. The book chronicles the first year of the White House Kitchen Garden, and includes recipes from the White House as well as gardening groups around the country that work with children.
Tuesday, February 19, 2013
“It is a part of the new philanthropy to recognize that the social question is largely a question of the stomach.” – Jane Addams
Jane Addams Hull-House Museum. We considered ourselves to be urban foodies in our own rights, but we were just catching wind of a broad movement that would soon sweep the nation and transform our museum. We wanted a place at the table, but we did not yet know where we belonged.
We read Carlo Petrini, Alice Waters, Raj Patel, Michael Pollan. We spoke with farmers, activists, chefs, economists, doctors and historians. We learned that while the Slow Food Movement has radical roots, in the United States it has been characterized by activists as elitist. Opponents argue that a movement dedicated to food shouldn’t be concerned with the pleasures of fine foods and preserving the "slow" traditions of the past, but rather should be committed to advocating for food justice and a better future for all.
soup kitchen, an urban farm, an artisan jam operation, an heirloom seed library, and an exhibit called 21st Century Home Economics. As a result of this work, we offer two responses to the divisions within the Slow Food Movement. The first has little to do with public history but everything to do with movement building, and that is that pleasure is not at odds with social justice. Alice Waters refers to the slow food movement as a delicious revolution, arguing that when pleasure and community-building are prioritized, ecologically and socially responsible systems will follow. This framework has transformed our understanding of what activism looks like. A hot bowl of soup, organic and made with care, serves as a reminder that we are fighting for all people to be nourished in body, mind and spirit. There is pleasure in justice, and in the ongoing struggle we do well to remember that medicine goes down easier with a spoon of honey.
Our second response has everything to do with public history, which is, the past is not at odds with the future. At Hull-House, our foray into the food movement is lens for investigating issues of social justice, past and present. Many of our food related programs reflect the fierce urgency of now, but they are grounded by a site-specific historical context that inspires and shapes our participation in the larger movement. (For an in-depth examination of how Hull-House’s food programs relate to our site’s history, see article by former director Lisa Yun Lee: “Hungry for Peace: Jane Addams and the Hull-House Museum’s Contemporary Struggle for Food Justice.”)
We now understand the museum’s role as such: to bring together doctors, farmers, chefs, students, economists, and artists in share meals and discuss the food movement today, and to share a broad historical narrative that offers critical insight and inspiration. Five years after we began our love affair with food and justice, we have found our place within the movement. It is in the dining room, on the farm, inside the archive and out in the streets.
- Lisa Junkin, Interim Director, Jane Addams Hull-House Museum
Photographs: Re-thinking Soup in the Residents’ Dining Hall, 2008; The Urban Heirloom Farm at the Hull-House Museum, 2011; Canning Labels, 2011; Seed Starting Workshop, 2012.
Friday, February 8, 2013
I’ve been lucky enough to travel and work in all kinds of different places, but one place that has captured more of me in the last four years has been Ukraine. I first went in 2009 as a Fulbright Scholar and have continued to return on an irregular basis, co-founding the Pickle Project with fellow Fulbrighter Sarah Crow to encourage conversation in both Ukraine and the United States about food, culture and sustainability.
Those 20th century events created powerful national and personal memories. Those memories mean that the political is personal. For many, the safest path in the food chain is to rely on your own family’s hard work--or the babushka at the market selling homemade pickles--no matter that every day you pass a McDonald’s outside the metro station.
The transition from a peasant economy to the Soviet collectivization of agriculture is something virtually unaddressed in Ukrainian museums, much the same way American local history and outdoor museums often take a pass at the transition to corporate agriculture. It’s complicated—so it’s often ignored. If museums everywhere cannot address the big changes of the 20th century, it’s equally hard to imagine how they will address the big changes of the 21st.
Saturday, February 2, 2013
|The author picking spinach in February.|
What role should a state museum, like the Connecticut Historical Society (CHS), play in preserving and interpreting the history of agriculture and food? How can such an organization tell the history in a way that fits its specific mission, institutional strengths and priorities? I ask these questions from a several perspectives. I am a Professor of History and Public History Program Coordinator at Central Connecticut State University where I teach courses in museum studies and material culture that regularly use the museum’s collection. I am also a member of CHS’s Collections Steering Committee and Deaccession Task Force, two groups charged with enhancing the collection’s strength, relevance, and overall quality. Finally, I’m interested on a very personal level as someone deeply involved in the local food movement as a 4- season gardener on my own city lot and a regular volunteer at Urban Oaks Organic Farm, a 12-year old farm in an urban food desert. These perspectives make me see both the potential for agriculture and food history, but also make me cautious about committing limited resources to its pursuit.