Wednesday, July 13, 2011

You are what( the government says) you eat: one seventh butter

The other blogger had some family in town over the weekend and we once again found ourselves playing DC tour guide. We hit up the usual National Mall highlights like the monuments, Lincoln’s hat, Juila Child's kitchen, the Hope diamond, the Declaration of Independence, the oppressive DC summer heat and deceivingly long walks (fyi: its 2 miles from the Capital to the Lincoln Memorial).

Everything was pretty much the same as the last tour we guided until we got to the National Archives (although the pop culture section in the American History Museum keeps getting smaller and smaller).

The Archives is having a special food exhibit called "What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam?"  which explores America’s “love affair with, fear of, and obsession with food” and the government’s impact on our diet.
We had heard about the exhibit when it opened but, as with most Smithsonian goings ons, the news was immediately forgotten, so it was a nice surprise to see the sign as we went through our sixth security check of the day.

The exhibit is very interesting as it chronicles the governments successes, failures and sometimes comical interventions into how Americans produce and consume food. My favorite part was looking at the government's advice from past generations and seeing how it applied (or didn't apply) to the 2011 food consumer.

Don't want to spoil too much but some parts I found interesting were
  • The 1943 food chart (pictured above) where butter was one of the 7 food groups. I love the advice at the bottom "In addition to the basic 7... eat any other foods you want" No wonder why our waistlines are so big
  • Food charts from the depression making sure people ate enough calories rather than the charts of today which make sure we limit caloric intake
  • A poster urging people to save land resources by eating from the infinite supply of seafood
  • A young boy scout’s letter to his congressman asking him to take action against rising sugar prices because a nickel isn’t buying the same amount of candy as it used to

As interesting as this exhibit was, I would not recommend it as the sole reason for a trip into DC as it is only a small temporary exhibit and lacks the refinements and cool technology that the permanent Smithsonian exhibits have. It would be the perfect compliment to an already planned visit or a cool pre-dinner date activity if you have reservations in Penn Quarter or Chinatown (it will make you look smart and it's free).

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