the farm to the dinner table
explores Americas food culture
sale of new cookbook planned with exhibit
Helen E. McKinney
America by food
special guide cover.
LA GRANGE, Ky. (August 2006) Most of
us take for granted the things that are set before us on the dinner
table. But did you ever stop to wonder who invented frozen foods, ketchup
or potato chips? Or have you ever pondered the fact that there was a
real person named Duncan Hines behind the cake mixes?
The rich mixture of cultures and cuisines that make up our American
food traditions have evolved over time, and food technology has helped
create ultra-modern kitchens. Fried chicken on Sunday and
as American as apple pie are phrases that define Americas
identity with traditional foods.
The Oldham County History Center has been selected to play host to Key
Ingredients: America By Food, a Smithsonian Traveling Exhibit
that is making only six such stops in Kentucky. The exhibit will be
on display from Sept. 2 to Oct. 14 in the 1880 Presbyterian Church,
now owned by the Oldham County Historical Society. The building is located
directly behind the societys History Center, 106 N. Second Ave.,
La Grange, Ky.
Within the last year, volunteers were asked to locate local menus, pictures,
cooking and farming items pertaining to the food culture of Oldham County
to play a part in this exhibit. A regional cookbook has been produced,
in addition to many year-long food-themed activities and events that
have been carefully planned to educate and entertain the general public.
The Smithsonian is the primo museum in the world,
said Oldham County History Center executive director Nancy Theiss. Their
standards are wonderful.
The Smithsonian will give you the meat and potatoes of the exhibit,
said Theiss. We make it special for our own area.
Theiss has crafted the exhibit theme to include a local flavor through
the educational use of the 1840 root cellar, located behind the History
Center Archives building. Use of the cellar localizes the exhibit, she
said. Oldham County was once a farming community where housewives would
use the cellar to store dairy products and vegetables.
Students use the root cellar to learn how food was prepared and preserved
in the past. Usually built over a spring, everyone had a root
cellar, said Theiss. A visit to the root cellar provides insight
for students on the evolution of cooking methods.
On display Sept. 2 through Oct. 14 at the 1880s Presbyterian Church,
located behind the Oldham County History Center,
106 N. Second Ave.,
La Grange, KY.
Hours: 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
Sponsors: Kentucky Humanities Council; Oldham County History
Center, Smithsonian Institute
Information: Call the Oldham County History Center at
This primitive food storage system was once used for refrigeration.
The tools that cooks had to work with more than 100 years ago are on
display in the cellar when Theiss leads children on tour there.
The Key Ingredients: America by Food traveling exhibit will
rotate through Kentucky, making six stops within 2006-2007: Elizabethtown,
Georgetown, Harrodsburg, Hazard,
La Grange and Paducah.
On display will be walk-through kiosks featuring items relating to such
topics as Hunting and Gathering, Corn, Grist Mills, Local Flavors (Culture),
Home Cooking and Marketplaces. The evolution of the American kitchen
will be showcased through a large selection of artifacts, photos and
Many aspects of food will be covered, from seed plantings and antique
farm implements, to the way food is now preserved and our dining habits
It is up to each host location to give the exhibit a local flavor.
22-23: Westport Lewis and Clark Riverdaze Celebration. Kentucky
Humanities Council speaker Mark Sohn will discuss Food
Along the Lewis and Clark Trail at 6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 22,
at the Westport, Ky.,
Ingredients" Special Events
food from recipes used by explorers and Indians who assisted the
Lewis and Clark expedition. The weekend also features a fun
run and walk, and a special Native American program and museum featuring
the Yaqui River Native Arts with Anthony Redfeather Nava. His visit
is sponsored by the Oldham County History Center, Friends of Westport
and the Kentucky Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Commission.
Sept. 29: Oldham County Historical Society Annual Fall Gala.
This annual event is from 6:30 p.m. to midnight and features
dinner, silent auction and live music on the History Center grounds.The
annual fund raiser will include special activities around the Key
Ingredients: America by Food exhibit, with a jazz band and
dinner catered by Silver Spoon Catering. Tickets: $125 per person,
with sponsorship tables available. To reserve, call (502) 222-0826.
30: Key Ingredients: America by Food Fair. Hours are from 10 a.m.
to 3 p.m. for this day-long celebration of food, recipes and culinary
arts. Authors of cookbooks will be on hand and provide samples.
Also featuring a starving artists pottery sale with locally
crafted items. Tim French, president of Louisville Stoneware,
will speak at noon on From Earth to table: the craft of pottery
and Louisville Stoneware over the last 200 years. Louisville
Stoneware will have a seconds sale and children can
paint pottery kitchen magnets. Nutrition displays will be provided
by the Oldham County Health Department.
People want to see grandmas butter molds and
churns, said Connie Minch, the Scott County (Ky.) Cooperative
Extension Agent. The extension office was a co-sponsor along with the
Georgetown and Scott County History Museum for this exhibit.
The exhibit was on display there from June 4 to July 8, and a number
of programs were held for each week. The kickoff event for this exhibit
was a picnic, and other events included Chautauqua performances, a biscuit
breakfast at the local library and an African American food program
given by a resident of the Cayman Islands.
A lot of cookbooks, stoneware and a variety of programming made the
exhibit a success in Georgetown, said Georgetown and Scott County History
Museum program coordinator Andrew Green. Different crowds were drawn
in, composed of people who might not normally visit the museum. In addition
to the various events, tours were also given of the exhibit.
Museum attendance was up overall by 25 percent, said Green. He encouraged
any organization that has the ability to do so to participate in a Smithsonian
The focus of a Smithsonian Traveling Exhibit is to bring small
museum exhibits to small local towns, said Oldham Countys
Theiss. Once an organization becomes a participant, the more credibility
that organization receives, she said.
Smithsonian Traveling Exhibits have rotated through more than 350 towns
and 36 states. Key Ingredients: America by Food has already
traveled through Kentucky once, said Theiss. The exhibit will travel
to 150 rural communities through 2008.
Kathleen Pool, Assistant Director for Programming and Development Administration
for the Kentucky Humanities Council, an exhibit sponsor, said certain
criteria are considered closely when choosing the host locations.
courtesy of the Smithsonian Institute
board displays in the Smithsonian
Traveling Exhibit tell the stories of
Americas food culture, including a history
of small-town diners and getting home
grown produce from the farm to
the dining room table. The exhibit
runs through Oct. 14.
She must decide how the exhibit will look in the location
that has asked for it. She considers the creativity to provide related
events and if a team of scholars and community groups can unite to complete
and maintain the exhibit.
Were glad to come to Oldham County and work with an organization
we have not worked with before, Pool said.
The Kentucky Humanities Council has worked with the History Center in
conjunction with a Speakers Bureau program, but no large-scale exhibit
such as this one.
So many people in communities go to their local museums and think
theyve seen all there is to see and never go back, said
These exhibits are one way to revitalize local museums by adding
excitement and providing a reason for locals to return and see something
This experience will provide a long-term effect on the planning of future
exhibits, said Pool. There are a lot of components to a Smithsonian
Exhibit, she said.
Many Kentucky towns have historical societies, but not all have a history
This is one more way the History Center is striving to protect the stories
of the people of Oldham County.
Back to September 2006