Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Smithsonian Folklife Festival

The Smithsonian "castle"

There are some advantages to living near DC, including one that had completely escaped my notice up until last week. The Smithsonian Folklife Festival has been going strong for 39 years (almost as long as I've lived here), but it wasn't until this year that I paid it a visit. Actually, two visits.

Alice Waters' edible school garden

This year one of the themes was "Food Culture USA". I think food has always figured into the festival programs, but it has been a footnote rather than the focus. For instance, this year Oman and the Forest Service were two of the other programs and each included a series of presentations related to food. In the "Kitchen Oasis" tent you could sit in on "Coffee, Dates and Hospitality" or "All About Halwa". In the "Camp Foodways" tent, presentations included "Cooking in the Field" and "Catfish". But I only gave these parts of the festival a passing glance, for "Food Culture USA" had more than enough to monopolize my attention.

OK, I'm going to drop some names now... Paul Prudhomme, Lidia Bastianich, Sheila Lukins, Joan Nathan, Lisa Yockelson, Emeril Lagasse, Todd English, Alice Waters, Suvir Saran, and more, so much more! I wish I could have seen them all, but I felt fortunate to see as much as I did. I saw Paul Prudhomme, Susan Belsinger, Suvir Saran, and Lisa Yockelson.

Susan Belsinger

Lisa Yockelson

Paul Prudhomme

Suvir Saran

Each gave a 45 minute cooking demonstration/talk and answered questions. The format they used sometimes worked well and other times seemed forced - a Smithsonian staff member or volunteer sort of acted as an emcee, introducing the cook, bantering with them, and calling on people with questions - but the presentations were informative and the speakers/cooks were interesting, funny, and down-to-earth. I also attended two presentations by "home cooks" (neither was a professional chef or food writer) which weren't as entertaining or informative, but which were still enjoyable. Joan Nathan was the co-curator for the program and judging from what I saw, she did a great job. I just wish they could do this every year!

camels on the Mall


Stephanie said...

Once again, I'm not the jealous type. But your posts are pushing me in that direction!

The whole experience sounds wonderful...

Anonymous said...

Very Cool! Sounds like a fun event.

Cathy said...

Hi Stephanie - it really was wonderful. Not the kind of thing I would normally get the chance to see.

Hi Alice - it was fun! I will definitely make a point of going in future years - even if there is no cooking.

Anonymous said...

Cathy--what a nice photo of me sifting flour at the Food Culture USA! Thank you for attending my baking demonstration and I hope that you had a good time. Happy Baking! Lisa Yockelson

Cathy said...

Hi Lisa! I'm thrilled that you visited my blog, and I really enjoyed your presentation. I actually tried to see you a couple of times, but the schedule was changed both times and I only caught the last part of your presentation on the 3rd. I think in the photo you were sifting confectioners sugar - I remember that you explained about the cornstarch, etc., and that you mentioned how King Arthur had "glazing sugar" (which I'm going to have to look into). Anyway, I really did have a good time!