The Foods, People, and Innovations That Feed Us–A Sweeping History of Food and Culture with Smithsonian Curator Paula J. Johnson

Presented on: Tuesday, April 2nd at 2:00 PM EDT

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Virtually step into the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History with Curator Paula Johnson as she discusses the book Smithsonian American Table: The Foods, People, and Innovations That Feed Us.

American Table is a sweeping history of food and culture that summons everyone to the table for a fresh look at some of the people, ingredients, events, and movements that have shaped how and what we eat.

Johnson, curator and project director of the American Food History Project, will discuss several stories featured in the volume, with an emphasis on those that intersect most directly with the Smithsonian’s research, collecting, and programming around food history.

During this event, Johnson will engage viewers in discovering the connections between food and American history:

  • How immigration and migration has shaped (and continues to shape) American tables,
  • How food companies have influenced home cooks through advertising, from Jell-O salads to Crock-pots.
  • How individuals from Brownie Wise to James Beard and Julia Child inspired generations of cooks and eaters across the United States.
  • And show viewers how uniting in the kitchen can change the shape of our collective futures, specifically highlighting growers and chefs who are reclaiming and reinventing regional and cultural traditions, including Indigenous ingredients and cooking techniques.

After this enlightening, enriching, and entertaining webinar, you can cook your way through the recipes that are featured in the volume that reflect American history and culture.   Hungry for more? Register now!


About the Speaker

Paula Johnson is a Curator in the Division of Work and Industry at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and is responsible for strengthening and maintaining the food history and marine resources collections. She is also the Project Director for the Smithsonian's multi-faceted American Food History Project and director and co-curator for the exhibition, FOOD: Transforming the American Table, which opened in 2012; a refresh of the exhibition was completed in 2019. As one of the curators who collected Julia Child’s home kitchen in 2001, she was also on the team that developed the exhibition Bon Appetit! Julia Child’s Kitchen at the Smithsonian, on view from 2002 to 2012. Over more than three decades at the Smithsonian, Johnson has collected a wide range of artifacts and archives reflecting the work and experiences of diverse Americans and communities.

Johnson has published books and articles on the Chesapeake Bay, maritime communities, and material culture, and has lectured widely on these and topics related to American food and wine history, field research, oral history recording, and community-based documentation. She is an inaugural member of the editorial collective for Gastronomica: The Journal for Food History and received the 2020 Smithsonian Distinguished Scholar in the Humanities Award. Johnson is working on a book about Julia Child’s home kitchen for publication in Fall 2024.


The views expressed by presenters are their own and their appearance in a program does not imply an endorsement of them or any entity they represent. Reference to any specific product or entity does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation by Edison Public Library.