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Webcasts from the Science, Technology & Business Division

Food, Foodways and Food History

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.

Programs

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:

  • Judith Jones, writer and pioneering cookbook editor for a long list of esteemed food writers, on her book, "The Tenth Muse: My Life in Food."
  • Steven Raichlen, barbecue expert, television personality and "master griller", on the history of barbecue from live-fire cooking to gas grills and modern barbecue restaurants.
  • Joan Nathan, noted culinary writer and expert on Jewish cooking, on her books, "King Solomon's Table: a Culinary Exploration of Jewish Cooking from Around the World" and "The New American Cooking.

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 continues 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.


Homegrown Foodways in West Virginia

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.


Homegrown Foodways in Central New Jersey

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.

These talks will premier in November and you can click on the link below to see the event page for each premiere. Check back for updated links to the videos after the premieres!


Homegrown Foodways in New Orleans

In 2023, the AFC Homegrown Foodways Film Series will focus on food traditions, practices, and businesses in New Orleans.

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:

  • Adrian Miller, lawyer, politico-turned-foodie and award winning writer, on his work, “Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time" (National Book Festival, 2014)
  • Cat Cora, "Iron Chef" and co-founder of Chefs for Humanity, on her work, “Cooking from the Hip: Fast, Easy, Phenomenal Meals" (National Book Festival, 2007)
  • Giada De Laurentiis, professional chef and television personality, on her work,“Everyday Italian" (National Book Festival, 2005)
  • Marcus Samuelsson, executive chef, restaurant owner and television personality, on his work, “The Soul of a New Cuisine: A Discovery of the Foods and Flavors of Africa" (National Book Festival, 2006)

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: