Food tells a story — several in fact. Where did the recipe for that dish originate? Where did the raw ingredients come from and how did they get here?
Food’s story and the answers to those questions are found in the Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibition Key Ingredients: America by Food.
The Payson Public Library, in cooperation with the Arizona Humanities Council, will host the exhibit from June 25 through Aug. 7.
Most of us eat day in and day out without giving a second thought to the wealth of history and culture that shapes our dining habits and taste preferences. Our recipes, menus, ceremonies, etiquette and even our fast food are directly affected by our country’s rich immigrant experience, the history and innovations of food preparation technology and the ever-changing availability of key ingredients.
Key Ingredients: America by Food explains the little known, the everyday and the obvious through an entertaining and informative overview of our country’s diverse regional cooking and eating traditions. It investigates how culture, ethnicity, landscape and tradition influence foods and flavors we enjoy across the nations.
Key Ingredients demonstrates how our food is rooted in centuries of continuous borrowing and sharing between people across generations, across cultures and across the land.
In addition, it underscores the contributions made by Native American cultures to our palate and eating habits. It also addresses the entrepreneurial spirit on which many food production industries are based, such as those of food pioneers Heinz, Campbell and Borden.
Curated by Charley Camp, Key Ingredients: America by Food explores the connection between Americans and the foods they produce, prepare, preserve and present at the table — a provocative and thoughtful look at the historical, regional and social traditions that merge in everyday meals and celebrations.
Through a selection of artifacts, photographs and illustrations, Key Ingredients also looks beyond the home to restaurants, diners and celebrations that help build a sense of community through food. The exhibit addresses farming, table manners, history, markets and kitchen gadgets in a lively presentation that stimulates comparisons of back then and right now, over there and right here.
“We are very pleased to be able to bring Key Ingredients to our area,” said Terry Morris, director of the Payson Public Library.
“We hope that it will inspire many to become even more involved in the cultural life of our community,” she said.
Special features of the Payson exhibit are a photo showcase of mining and ranching history, including the “August Doin’s” Rodeo, deep-pit barbecue and Dutch oven cooking; a photo exhibit of the Tonto Apache’s food traditions, including acorn and pinion harvest; a 1940s kitchen display with antique stove and utensils; a display of historic and current cookbooks; and passes to the Rim Country Museum to see the historic kitchen of pioneer daughter, the late Anna Mae Deming.
The exhibit at the Payson library will include a series of special events, some in advance of the opening of the exhibit June 25.
• Monday, June 20, 10:30 a.m. — Library Friends of Payson general meeting features Key Ingredients guest speaker, Gregory McNamee of Tucson, author of “Moveable Feasts: The History, Science and Love of Food,” who will explore the traditions of food in Arizona. A potluck luncheon will follow. The event is free.
• Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce ribbon cutting and grand opening for Key Ingredients, the Smithsonian traveling exhibit at the Payson Public Library, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., Friday, June 24. The evening will feature the exhibit and refreshments. Reservations are required, call (928) 474-4515.
• Saturday, June 25 - Sunday, Aug. 7 — Key Ingredients: America by Food, Smithsonian exhibit at the Payson Public Library; open to the public and free of charge.
• Tuesday, June 28, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. — Extreme Couponing Class with Monica Vaughn, a Key Ingredients Smithsonian Exhibit event, Payson Public Library. Vaughn is 35, married and the mother of three girls, ages 10, 11 and 13. She started couponing a little in August 2010 and really went nuts with it just last December. “I saw someone’s pictures online of groceries, and was curious to see why they were posting pictures of food, saw that they had only paid pennies on the dollar for it and wanted to know how I could do that too. Researched it, and started.
“Now I too post coupon pictures and have gotten several people turned on to couponing. I will never buy things the way I used to again. I have a small stockpile in my garage of canned foods, toiletries, laundry products, oral care items, and more. I will never pay for razors, toothpaste, toothbrushes, mouthwash, body wash, lotion and many more items ever again. I have taught a few classes at my home and have even gone to the store with people to help them shop.”
This is a free event, but registration is required. Call (928) 474-9260 to register.
• Thursday, June 30, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. — Fry Bread for Families fry bread lunch sale, a Key Ingredients Smithsonian Exhibit event at the Payson Public Library.
Fry Bread for Families evolved from a decision by Mazatzal Hotel & Casino employees, while planning the annual
Christmas Party, to focus on the giving aspect of the holidays. Since Tonto Apache Tribal members have often made fry bread at fund-raisers for Payson schools and other benefits in the community, hosting a fry bread event to raise money for the Tribe’s newly-founded employee outreach program made sense.
The Fry Bread for Families team held four fry bread sales from September 2009 through December 2009 to raise money to help 10 families identified by local school districts. Veteran fry bread cooks, Sophie Davis, Kathy Hinton, Randy Lewis and Arlinda Waterman prepared the fry bread while the remaining members of the team ran the event.
Proceeds from the fry bread sales, as well as numerous donations of food, toys and household items by employees and casino vendors combined to make Christmas magical for the 10 Payson area families. In 2010 the program expanded and helped 21 local families. In addition, the Fry Bread team purchased school supplies for Payson’s three elementary schools.
“We want to extend our outreach efforts in 2011,” says Program Coordinator Michell Marinelli.
See more about fry bread in the sidebar.
• Saturday, July 16 — Rim Country Auto Club Exhibit, a Key Ingredients Smithsonian Exhibit event at the Payson Public Library. Free admission.
• Tuesday, July 26, 10 a.m. to noon; 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.; and 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. — Pie in a Jar cooking classes, a Key Ingredients Smithsonian Exhibit event at the Payson Public Library. Call (928) 474-9260 to register for the class of your choice; the fee is $10 per person.
• Thursday, July 28, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. — Fry Bread for Families fry bread lunch sale, a Key Ingredients Smithsonian Exhibit event at the Payson Public Library.
• Saturday, Aug. 6, noon — Deep Pit Cooking demonstration, a Key Ingredients Smithsonian Exhibit event at the Payson Public Library. Call (928) 474-9260 to register for this event.
The project Web site, keyingredients.org invites people across the country to share their family recipes and food stories, learn about others’ food traditions and identify favorite small town eateries. Basque families in Nevada can swap recipes with Finnish towns in Wisconsin and Cuban communities in Florida.
In Payson, fry bread is a popular attraction at many festivals, rodeos and Native American pow-wows. No silverware is needed; you simply top the fry bread with the desired ingredients, roll it up and eat. Topped with ground beef
or beans to make a “Navajo taco” people often add lettuce, tomatoes, cheddar cheese and green chiles to complete the dish. Others prefer it sweet, topped with honey or powdered sugar.
Fry bread is in our bones and hearts here in Payson, bringing us together in times of both celebration and need, and reminding us of comfort and home.
Cowbelle Fry Bread
3 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon shortening, lard or corn oil
1/2 cup warm water
vegetable oil for frying
Measure the dry ingredients into a deep mixing bowl. Add the shortening and knead with hands until the dough is in small pea-sized pieces. Add warm (not hot) water and knead with hands for at least 5 minutes, until the dough is smooth and leaves the sides of the bowl.
Cover the dough with a clean towel and place it in a warm place to rise for 30 minutes.
Divide the dough into portions that are about the size of a golf ball and pat (slap or roll) out as round as possible and roughly 1-4-inch thick.
Fry in hot oil, about an inch deep, until both sides are light golden.
Serves five to 10.
Courtesy of Lena Aja, as adapted from her entry in The Chuck Box, a cookbook produced by the Northern Arizona Chapter of the Arizona State Cowbelles, a women’s professional organization that promotes the ranching industry.