[November 2012] For months, I’ve been seeing ads on Metro trains for an exhibit at the National Geographic Museum in Washington, DC called “Food: Our Global Kitchen.” The posters described it as a farm to table experience which really piqued my interest. Learning more about non-toxic food ingredients has made me more interested in where my food comes from and how it is grown, and I try to be a locavore whenever possible.
I had a great experience at NatGeo. I thought the layout of the exhibit was really clever. The “farm to table” effect involved taking the museum-goer through the full experience of food, winding us through displays on history and development of agriculture, to facts about food production and trade, to global cooking techniques.
The exhibit was sponsored by Whole Foods so I was curious how topics like GMOs would be presented. I assumed that it might be very biased but while all of these issues were mentioned throughout the exhibit, but I never felt it was one-sided or forced. Because those issues affect food production and consumption, it is important they are mentioned when describing the global landscape of food. But visitors were left to draw their own conclusions. Some highlights of the exhibit were:
- Learning about cassavas — who knew they were such a staple of the human diet, or that they could grow to be as large as a person! I’m not sure I’ve ever eaten one, but now it’s on my to-do list.
- A scale of heat rankings for peppers — I’ve seen comparisons like this before, but it was interesting to see it in person and see all the kinds I’ve tried (my experience stopped at about the third from the bottom with the jalapeno. No thank-you, ghost pepper!).
- A model scene of a historical food market in South America — very cool to see a life size re-creation of a market and all the different types of animals and produce considered exotic to me, but normal to a person in that time and place.
- A display of cookbooks from around the world, in all different languages — really makes you think that food is one of the few things that all humans have in common as a need. We’re not so different after all!
One theme reiterated throughout the exhibit is the fact that humans are using more food resources that ever, and growing the food to feed all of us has very real environmental and health consequences for us. The main take-away is that it is so important for each of us to understand where our food is coming from, and what exactly is in it. In most cases, ignorance is bliss but with food, increased knowledge of what we eat, how and where it was grown, and how it was prepared, makes it more enjoyable and healthful in the end.
The exhibit is open until February 22 and tickets are $11 — well worth the price. Hope you can check it out!