Cooking (and Eating) With Uncle Sam

June 20, 2011

 The National Archives  just opened a new exhibit that has piqued my interest. “What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam?” is intended to “explore the records of the National Archives that trace the Government’s effect on what Americans eat.” Although I haven’t had a chance to visit the exhibit yet, it’s been getting great press in the New York Times (subscription required, I’m afraid) and the Washington Post.

Awhile back I discussed one of the Government’s efforts to inform the public about food preparation: Aunt Sammy’s Radio Recipes. In those days, thrifty, filling meals were the order of the day – comfort food that could nourish people struggling through the Great Depression with very little spare cash.The Government is still a player in the food game today, but now the problem seems to be obesity rather than malnutrition. The Department of Agriculture (USDA) has replaced its venerable Food Pyramid with MyPlate, but the aim remains the same: educating the public on portion control and which foods to increase or decrease in the American diet.

This brings me to another 2011 Library Journal notable Government document: the USDA Food and Nutrition Service’s Grow It, Try It, Like It: Preschool Fun with Fruits and Vegetables, a kit aimed at parents and teachers who want to provide young children with food and nutrition information in a fun way while teaching them all kinds of other things, like growing and cooking vegetables. Kids can improve their small motor skills while getting their hands dirty in a constructive way and then serve up the results – and maybe even acquire a taste for fruits and veggies, that perennial hope of parents everywhere. The kit includes seven booklets, with names like “Spinach Lane,” “Sweet Potato Hill,” and “Peach Tree Orchard,” each one explaining a particular fruit or vegetable’s nutritional value, how to grow it, recipes, and lots more. There are plenty of puzzles and other fun activities, too. Since we’re way past Aunt Sammy these days, technologically speaking, the kit also includes a CD-ROM with more information and a DVD of “Cool Puppy Pup’s Picnic and Lunch Parties.”

So what’s cooking at the Federal level? Quite a bit! You can view Grow It, Try It, Like It here or browse through its components in a library. I suspect that even a lot of us who are way past the Cool Puppy Pup stage might learn something from these booklets – I didn’t inherit my grandmother’s green thumb, so maybe they could actually help me grow some of this stuff!


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