Interdisciplinary in nature, the history of food is a subject well suited to research at the Library of Congress, using the Library's extensive collection of cookbooks, scholarly works, and special collections on food history. Additionally, the Library of Congress hosts public events featuring cookbook authors, culinary historians, food writers, and scholars such as Dr. Jessica B. Harris, Judith Jones, Joan Nathan, Steven Raichlen and others. The Library has been recording food history events since at least 2005 and makes the recordings available on our website.
The Library of Congress hosts public events throughout the year that feature cookbook authors, culinary historians and food writers. We have been recording these Library events for years and have curated a collection of gastronomic talks in this collection. Past notable speakers include:
According to author Alan Davidson's third edition of The Oxford companion to food, the term "foodways" is one that "encompasses the food habits and culinary practices of a group of people -- be they a township, ethnic grouping, or people living in a historical period -- and the interaction between those habits and their more general circumstances." (p. 321)
The AFC Homegrown Foodways Film Series is a collaboration between the American Folklife Center, of the Library of Congress, and state folklife organizations. The films of the series explore a range of food traditions and highlight the many ways that foodways are essential to create, reinforce, and reinvent community.
The series began in 2021 as a collaboration with the former West Virginia State Folklorist, Emily Hilliard, and Mike Costello and Amy Dawson of West Virginia's Lost Creek Farm. In 2022 the series continued as a collaboration with folklorist Sally Van de Water and colleagues at the Division of Folklife and Cultural Heritage at the Arts Institute of Middlesex County, NJ, and in 2023, the program will shift to focus on food traditions, practices, and businesses in New Orleans.
The AFC Homegrown Foodways Film Series began in 2021 as a collaboration with the former West Virginia State Folklorist, Emily Hilliard, and Mike Costello and Amy Dawson of West Virginia's Lost Creek Farm. The "AFC Homegrown Foodways in West Virginia" program included four films and a culminating discussion event with filmmakers and those featured in the films.
In 2022, the AFC Homegrown Foodways in Central New Jersey program includes three films: "Folklife, Foodways, and Women’s Empowerment in Afghanistan" with Nasrin Rafiq; "Multigenerational Ukrainian Foodways" with Roman Kovbasniuk; and "REPLENISH and Nourishing Neighbors through Community Food Equity." The film series is a collaboration with folklorist Sally Van de Water and colleagues at the Division of Folklife and Cultural Heritage at the Arts Institute of Middlesex County, NJ.
The culinary arts are well represented at the National Book Festival, an annual literary event organized by the Library, that brings together best-selling writers and thousands of book fans for author talks, panel discussions, book signings and other activities. Past presenters have included notable speakers such as:
And many more!
The Library of Congress and individual divisions and sections of the Library sponsor a wide variety of talks on many different subjects related to food. These include fields such as agriculture and gardening -- how does our food grow? -- as well as topics such as food production, systems, marketing, and consumption -- how does it get from fields and farms to our tables?
With that in mind, here are a few talks on food-related topics which have been sponsored by Library divisions and sections: