NASHVILLE, TN – June 5, 2019 – The Tennessee State Museum will explore the rich and diverse history of Tennessee’s food through a new exhibition, “Let’s Eat! Origins and Evolutions of Tennessee Food,” set to open on Aug. 9, 2019 and run through Feb. 2, 2020.
The exhibition will be presented through eight sections that trace the state’s food from its Southeastern Native Americans origins to contemporary food festival celebrations. All are complemented by artifacts from the Museum’s collection, digital storytelling, graphics, and location photography.
“The Three Sisters” begins with the story of how Southeastern Native Americans cultivated crops during the Woodland Cultural Period, planting together beans, corn and squash – referred to as the “three sisters.” This section also highlights the role of strawberries and corn, tells the story of the state’s Strawberry Festivals and highlights South Pittsburg, Tennessee, site of Lodge Cast Iron’s headquarters and the National Cornbread Festival. “The Buckle of the Barbecue Belt” looks at West European influences on Tennessee Food – the introduction of cattle, pigs and chickens to North America – with visits to Ridgewood Barbecue, Memphis in May and the Kosher BBQ Fest.
In “A Love for Spices,” West African influences on the state are explored, along with the foods prepared by enslaved persons at the Hermitage. Visitors will be introduced to Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack in Nashville and the Four-Way Soul Food Restaurant in Memphis.
“Making Do” looks at some of the dishes that emerged when Tennesseans had to feed their families from limited resources in their kitchens. Visitors will learn about Florence Mathai and beaten biscuits, festivals that celebrate the wild pungent ramp, “slugburgers” from Pat’s Café in Selmer and renowned fermenter, Sandor Katz. In “Cooking for Others,” the exhibition introduces visitors to significant Tennessee cooks Melinda Russell and Rufus Estes and boarding house operator, Mary Bobo.
Illustrative of the “evolutions” aspect of the show’s subtitle, the influence of immigrants figures heavily in the exhibition. The “Immigration and Tennessee Food” section highlights the Swiss Colony of Gruetli, the Hola Hora Latina Festival in Knoxville, the Global Café in Memphis, Varallo’s Chili and the Conexión Américas Communal Kitchen in Nashville.
“Preserving Tennessee Food Traditions” introduces visitors to Muddy Pond Sorghum, Helen’s Barbecue, Benton’s Smoky Mountain Country Hams, Boyette’s Dining Room, Vegan Soy Dairy and Book Publishing at The Farm and Cruze Farms Buttermilk.
About the Tennessee State Museum
The Tennessee State Museum, on the corner of Rosa L. Parks Blvd. and Jefferson Street at Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park, is home to 13,000 years of Tennessee art and history. Through six permanent exhibitions titled Natural History, First Peoples, Forging a Nation, The Civil War and Reconstruction, Change and Challenge and Tennessee Transforms, the Museum takes visitors on a journey – through artifacts, films, interactive displays, events and educational programing – from the state’s geological beginnings to the present day. Additional temporary exhibitions explore significant periods and individuals in history, along with art and cultural movements. The Museum is free and open to the public Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sundays from 1-5 p.m. For more information on exhibitions and events, please visit www.tnmuseum.org.
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