By: Liz Williams Date: 8/31/11
Note: This is the first in a new series called "From the Pantry" which will take a historical look at the food we eat and the culture around food.
I grew up with my feet planted firmly in two food cultures, that of my Sicilian mother and that of my native city, New Orleans. Every happy occasion and every sad one was graced with food and drink. On the most basic level food meant hospitality and love. Food was so much more than fuel.
As I grew older I became fascinated by what could be learned from food. Food could be used to trace early trade routes, it motivated the exploration of the globe, and it could become a strategy in war and in peace. In prehistoric times our ancestors spent their lives finding enough food to sustain themselves. We all eat.
As I travelled and learned about other cultures, I always found the easiest way in was through food. I wasn’t enlightened enough to make food my field of study. I studied law. But even in law school, my husband and I wrote a restaurant review column in a local paper. My interest in food was a constant through career changes and career explorations.
In 2004 I took the leap and began working to open the Southern Food and Beverage Museum in New Orleans. There aren’t many models of food museums, so this effort was born on my kitchen table and has been largely made up as we went along. But today, having become established in a great food city, we are collecting and protecting the history of food and the culture of food and drink. We care about the material culture of food – artifacts. They tell a story. We also celebrate the current culture of food. That means food as fuel, food as social tender, and food as a bridge from history to the future.
In this blog I will be talking to you about all of these things. I hope that we can make discoveries about eating and health and culture together.
Liz Williams is a founder and President of the Southern Food and Beverage Museum in New Orleans. She is also a member of the adjunct faculty in the Food Studies Program at New York University