Exhibit exploring Iowa’s culinary heritage opens at Old Capitol Museum

The Land Provides
A traditional Czech lamb cake mold, spice jars and utensils from the kitchen of Norwegian immigrant Elizabeth Koren are among the objects featured. — photo courtesy of University of Iowa Pentacrest Museums

As part of their Food for Thought semester programming, the University of Iowa is hosting an opening reception for the exhibit The Land Provides: Iowa’s Culinary Heritage this evening from 5 – 7 p.m. at the Old Capitol Museum’s Hanson Humanities Gallery.

This exhibit showcases a range of objects that relate to cooking and agriculture in Iowa’s early years of statehood, with a distinctly immigrant perspective. It also includes profiles of several immigrants, the earliest of which is a Scottish immigrant who arrived in Cedar County in 1837.

“The way we relate to cooking has changed so significantly, and the way we relate to our food, too,” says Kathrine Moermond, education and outreach coordinator for the Old Capitol Museum. “Everything from making their own butter, to butchering pigs, to getting their own eggs, milking their own cows … food preparation was much more woven into their life.”

The University has partnered with several museums and historical societies around Iowa to bring together items for the exhibit. These include cooking implements typical of the period, such as a copper kettle, a large breadboard and a lard press, which was used to extract fat from meat trimmings so that early Iowa immigrants could make such things as soap and candles. There are also five early cookbooks from the UI Special Collections, the oldest being from the 1830s.

“[We want to] inspire the viewer to reassess their own relationship with food,” says Moermond. “We have a lot of excess … and [the exhibit] puts things in perspective.”

The opening exhibit and reception are free and open to the public and will offer snacks inspired by the pioneers profiled in the exhibit. For those who cannot make the reception this evening, The Land Provides goes through Aug. 1.

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