Smithsonian Magazine: Making History with First Annual Food Issue

Smithsonian Magazine, in its more than 40 years of existence, has rarely been of interest to us foodies. Sure it's always full of nifty inventions, complicated science and fascinating history, but food was never on its front burner.

That all changed this June.

The first-ever Smithsonian Magazine Food Issue was published (insert squeal of delight here), with 11 fascinating, informative historical and scientific stories just for us foodies. The magazine was first published in 1970 with the goal of "[stirring] curiosity in already receptive minds."

In keeping with the Smithsonian's goal of dealing with history that is relevant to the present, what has more historical value in the food world than salt and chicken? So it's no wonder there are two great stories on these subjects, with an egg sidebar.

When deciding to do a food issue, the editor thought, "though we aren't a food magazine, we've found that the subject is one of the best ways to talk about food culture and identity. When you come back from a trip, one of the first questions friends ask you is, 'How was the food?' Meaning not just 'Did you eat well?' but how did it reflect the place it was made, the history and the terroir? As the world becomes more homogenized, food is one of the last and most important artifacts of authenticity. We are, in so many senses, what we eat."

And it only took the magazine for smarties 40 years to figure out what every farmer, home cook, chef, food writer, food scientist and food manufacturer has known for centuries. Home is where the food is, and food tells us where home is.

There is also a great article on Julia Child by Ruth Reichl. Child's kitchen is in the Smithsonian, and it will be the centerpiece of a new exhibition called "Food: Transforming the American Table," which will open Fall 2012. The article looks at Child from a different perspective -- as a woman of her times, a novice cook whose grandest achievement was her long-lasting marriage.

Equally important are the stories about salt, chicken, gumbo, oysters and whether technology can save breakfast. This issue was planned and put together with the help of Jonathan Gold, the Pulitzer Prize-winning food critic from LA.

If you love food, eat food, grow food, cook food, write about food or like to read about food, you must get this issue of the magazine. It is the first annual, and I look forward to many more years of the Smithsonian giving us foodies our due.

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Patrise Shuttlesworth