Conserving Food Cultures

Food History Weekend 2022 Spotlights Advocates, Innovators

Grace Young
Cookbook author Grace Young is a vocal advocate for the nation’s Chinatowns and preserving Chinese American cuisine. PHOTO Christian Rodriguez

For Grace Young, champion of Chinese American cuisine, cookbook author and food historian, the COVID-19 pandemic sparked new urgency to save one of the nation’s most vibrant food cultures. In New York City, where she lives, she has watched restaurants, markets and small businesses in Chinatown struggle to survive.

“As I witnessed Chinatown become a ghost town, it was natural for me to shift from preserving recipes and cooking techniques to trying to protect one of the great centers of Chinese cuisine and culture,” she said. “I felt compelled to do everything I could to raise awareness that Chinatowns across the country need our constant support.” Her newfound activism has included producing a documentary series telling the stories of Chinatown business owners as they navigated the pandemic’s first year. Young will be a featured speaker at Food History Weekend 2022, to be held Oct. 13-14 at the National Museum of American History. The annual weekend—now in its eighth year—highlights unique aspects of American food and drink culture and history. This year’s in-person program will focus on community advocates who conserve and celebrate ancestral food traditions.

Black wok on teal background
Young donated her family wok (c. 1949) to the National Museum of American History. PHOTO National Museum of American History

Young will be honored at the Smithsonian Food History Gala, where she will receive the 2022 Julia Child Award from The Julia Child Foundation for Gastronomy and the Culinary Arts. The award, traditionally presented at the museum, the home of Julia Child’s kitchen, recognizes Young’s significant contributions to preserving and sharing Chinese culinary traditions, particularly home cooking and wok traditions. Young will also present an hour-long live cooking demonstration at the museum on Oct. 14, during which she will prepare fried rice and Chinese barbecued pork and discuss her advocacy work. This program is free and open to the public.

In addition, the museum will present “objects out of storage” to showcase Young’s family wok and chinaware, as well as objects donated by Asian American chefs and restaurateurs including Cecilia Chang and Paul and Linda Ma.

Marina Beer
Lager brewed by Chicago’s Casa Humilde, one of several Latino-owned breweries to be featured at Food History Weekend 2022. IMAGE Jesus Reyes (CR Films)

American Latinos in Beer

The weekend’s theme of conserving food cultures also encompasses the nation’s fast-growing Latino brewing community.

On Oct. 14, ¡Salud! to American Latinos in Beer will explore the contributions of American Latinos to the brewing industry, in celebration of the new Molina Family Latino Gallery at the National Museum of American History. “Latinos represent a diverse and often underappreciated thread among the nation’s brewers and beer lovers,” said Theresa McCulla, curator, American Brewing History Initiative.

“By building taprooms and communities that look and taste innovative, [Latino brewers] are writing the next chapter in American beer history.” —Theresa McCulla, curator, American Brewing History Initiative

Many Latino brewers use ingredients with Latin roots—prickly pear, piloncillo sugar, tamarind, guava—to create unique beer styles. “By building taprooms and communities that look and taste innovative, they are writing the next chapter in American beer history,” McCulla said.

Supporters of the National Museum of American History’s 25 at 25: Food Fund for the Future initiative include: Stephanie Bennett-Smith, Ph.D., Cabot Creamery Cooperative, The Cafaro Foundation, Clark Construction, Al Diaz and Angela Phillips Diaz, Carl Fleischhauer, Johanna Mendelson Forman, The Julia Child Foundation for Gastronomy and the Culinary Arts, Macchu Pisco, Napa Valley Vintners, Joan Nathan and the Gerson family, Potomac Construction, Wegmans Food Markets, Barbara and Warren Winiarski and an anonymous friend.

Food History Weekend 2022 programs will be recorded and posted on the National Museum of American History’s YouTube channel post-event.

Published October 2022 in IMPACT Vol. 8 No. 3

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