What's Cooking, Uncle Sam? — Food Exhibit at the National Archives

Uploaded by usnationalarchives on 23.05.2011

Milk group! Meat group! Fruit and vegetables group! Bread and cereals group! Doo wah! When
people think of the holdings in the National Archives they may not think about food. But
there really isn’t a topic that touches our lives that isn’t here. My name is José
Andrés and I’m a chef. And happens I’m also the Chief Culinary Advisor to the National
Archives. So my favorite part of the exhibition will be the one on exploration. Frank N. Meyer
is one of my favorite discoveries. He was a plant explorer. He traveled to Asia around
early 1900s. These trips were wonderfully documented. There’s the Russian wheat field.
There’s a photograph of a woman in Korea who was preparing soybeans. He brought back
thousands and thousands of plants. Perhaps the most famous is the Meyer lemon. The reason
I think is so important that you are in this exhibition at the National Archives is that
it’s gonna be opening a door for you to understand that the policies that our government
implement have a fundamental effect in the way we all live. I was looking at some files
from the Bureau of Chemistry from the late 1800s. And I opened a box and inside I found
these small notebooks, you know, very old, crumbling, and I opened one and on the very
first page the investigator was writing about a candy and he said, “This sample of candy
requires a very careful examination. After eating of it one child died, and two others
were taken sick.” And it made me realize how these investigators really became crusaders
for the pure food and drug laws. This is the way to assure food for our fighting men. The
government has had both a direct and an indirect effect on the foods that we eat. Margarine
was invented in the 1800s, in France. And when it reached our shores the dairy farmers
were quite upset. They flooded Congress with these postcards, and Congress created a tax
on oleomargarine, making it much more expensive to produce. Of course this created a market
for bootleg margarine. And so we have these wonderful mug shots of men who were caught
dealing with black market margarine and served time in federal penitentiaries. When you leave
this exhibit you will take with you a part of the history that America is all about.
And that history has been told through the power of food.