Local History Through the Lens of Food: Nutritional Anthropology in the Pioneer Valley

Exhibit Chronicles Northampton History Through Food

Interested in the history of food? Take a peak at the new exhibit in Northampton. Come see how people produced and sold food and how people cooked and ate it, through the years. The exhibition is curated by Barbara B. Blumenthal, a member of Historic Northampton’s Board of Trustees. Barbara was a museum guide and hearth cook at Historic Northampton in the 1980s and early 1990s. Her passion for local history and food history led her to poke around in our collections looking for tasty tidbits to share with the public.

Historic Northampton offers a food-centric take on the city’s history through Table Talk: Food, Cooking, and Eating in Northampton Then and Now, an exhibit chronicling the production, purchase, and preparation of the foods enjoyed throughout two and a half centuries of Northampton’s history. With its focus lying on the city’s food-filled downtown, the exhibit offers a new take on the history of local food : rather than sharing the history of farming in Northampton, the exhibit emphasizes the role that local businesses – especially restaurants – have played in the local food chain.

On view from now until May 1, 2016, Table Talk: Food, Cooking, and Eating in Northampton Then and Now has much to offer. Made up of a collection of photographs, food-related objects and tools, and historical information and anecdotes, the exhibit speaks to more than just food history.

In visiting the exhibit, families will not only explore local food history, but can connect their new understandings to larger topics such as the evolution of technology (including the discovery of electricity), changes in the country’s economic structure, and shifts in belief systems and values in American culture (especially relating to race and gender). Additionally, families can use the exhibit to spark a self-guided walking tour of Northampton, locating the addresses of restaurants and grocery stores past to see the ways in which the building’s use has evolved.

Highlights of the exhibit include the non-electric versions of cake mixers and toasters, vintage pictures of local landmark restaurants like Fitzwilly’s, and information about small-scale downtown gardening in 1916 and today. Historic Northampton is open to visitors Wednesday through Saturday from 10am-4pm and Sunday from 12noon-5pm. The museum is located at 46 Bridge Street. For more information, call 413-584-6011.

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