Wednesday, February 1, 2006

Smithsonian in Chillicothe?

This afternoon Katherine and I went with another homeschooling mother-daughter to a traveling exhibit of the Smithsonian. The subject was American food history. The Smithsonian provided the national history exhibit, and a local historical society has to provide the local food history and the volunteers. We enjoyed the day thoroughly, although I was a bit dismayed by the gentleman who was showing us how to use a cream separator. He said that after the cream was separated, they used it for their coffee and threw away the skimmed milk. It surprised me that a man with gray hair would say that -- doesn't he know that people NEVER threw away good food "back then?" I said to another of the guides that if the people didn't want to use the skimmed milk, they would have fed it to their pigs or chickens.

"Chickens don't drink milk," she replied.

"Yes, they do. They love milk," I said. "When I make cheese, I give them the whey."

"But they're vegetarians."

"No, actually they're carnivores." (Okay really they're omnivores, but I was thinking on my feet, so give me a break.)

"Well, they'll peck at each other," she said.

"No, I've seen them tear a frog apart," I said as her faced changed to a look of shock bordering on horror. Not wanting to upset her day too much, I quickly added, "They also eat worms and bugs."

I didn't even get into the fact that skimmed milk can also be used to make bread, soup, gravy, etc. And I'm sure they used the cream for far more than "their coffee." He should have listened to the other man who showed us the butter churns -- and they were some mighty fancy looking butter churns!

This is really sad. These people are supposed to be educating the public, yet they don't know anything beyond what their training manual tells them. I suspect the man who said they threw away the skimmed milk was just guessing. He followed up his comment with, "Everyone drank raw milk back then." So he didn't know the difference between pasteurized and homogenized milk either. Is our food history really becoming so obscure? Pasteurized milk is heat treated. Homogenized milk has been mixed to the point that the cream won't separate and rise to the top. In other words, skimmed milk is still raw milk, unless you heat it.

I was very pleased that the woman who did the open-hearth cooking talk was quite knowledgeable about her area of expertise. She talked about making soap and cheese and using a real Dutch oven -- the big cast iron Dutch oven with hot coals -- to bake bread, pies, biscuits, even pizza! Afterwards, she and I chatted about my interest in forgotten household crafts, and she said that if I enjoyed giving talks and demonstrations, she'd be happy to send me a long list of groups who are always looking for people to do that ... so I came home with her email address. She also gave me an idea on where I might find a nitrate-free recipe for making ham and bacon!

Another interesting exchange ... normally I am able to keep my enthusiasm reigned in, so that I'm not gushing about my life out here, but being around all of the "stuff" at the exhibit that is part of my everyday life, I wasn't as restrained as normal. First of all, it amazes me that most people just don't "get it" when I say that we were suburbanites until 2002. I hardly knew one end of the milk goat from the other, but I've studied and learned. So, maybe I should not have been surprised by this woman's comment when I said that once you get used to fresh food, you can't go back, and I specifically mentioned that I wouldn't buy commercially produced eggs ever again. Fresh eggs are just so much better.

"Yeah, but you're used to that."

I stood there, mouth agape, thinking about asking her if it was a bad thing that I'm used to fresh eggs. "The eggs in the store are old," I said hesitantly, "and they just go splat when you break them, rather than standing up like a fresh egg."

"But I'm not used to that."

Well, I wasn't used to that either four years ago! But it's not very hard to get used to fresh eggs. As I was trying to figure out what to say next, I was saved by someone else walking up and starting a new conversation. Whew! I'm still wondering why it's a bad thing that I'm now accustomed to fresh eggs.

The strangest thing about this woman is that she lives in the country. She could have a little flock of chickens to have her own fresh eggs, but like most people who live in the country today, she chooses to continue buying eggs at the store.

1 comment:

Ivy said...

That reminded me something happened a while ago...
(I told my sis that my sister-in-law had egg-laying hens and would sell fresh eggs to me for $1 a doz.)

sis: nah, I get mine at Whole Foods. Their eggs are very fresh.

me: But Teri's fresher!

sis: so how fresh?

me: how about eggs laid this morning?

sis: *silence* ... well, get me a doz. then.

(Yeah, like Whole Foods would have eggs THAT fresh!!)

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