America by Food. Local museums. the Smithsonian’s traveling exhibit. Zeitgeist.

I have a list of culinary exhibits on the web that have been put together by various cultural institutions. For example, the Smithsonian has an exhibit called Key Ingredients: America by Food. It’s both an online and physical exhibit, and as one of the Museums on Main Street projects, it involves partnership between State Humanities Councils, the Smithsonian and Rural Museums. Rad, yes?
this is ludicrous
Anyway, I thought of it today because of the ripples through the blogosphere created by a NY Times piece called Exploring Tokyo Through Its Ramen Shops. (doesn’t take much to make me nostalgic for Tokyo, but this piece really made me pine for Japan and all the ramen I have yet to eat there.) Anyway, I liked the article because it reminded me of an idea I feel strongly about, which is that eating can really help you get to know a place and its people.

The writer did some smart research by talking to the right people for the place he wanted to know, the experts, i.e. ramen nerds. I think Mr. Gross, who writes the Frugal Traveler blog for the Times, searched the web for English speaking ramen bloggers, and gathered what he needed for his article while hanging out with these folks at their favorite ramen spots. It’s a wonderful piece. Solid multimedia, a great link dump at the end, nice passionate writing, etc. I’ve also really enjoyed reading the blogs of the folks who lent Mr. Gross their knowledge for this article.

Exhibits that talk about the social and historical meaning of food in a time and place, like Key Ingredients by Food, are like this times article in that they use food to help people better know a place. There are more of these exhibits than even I would have thought. Stuff at historical societies, community centers, small museums. And I continue to be amazed at just how many such exhibits are called Food for Thought.

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