On December 9, The Museum of International Folk Art will open a new exhibition titled New World Cuisine: The Histories of Chocolate, Mate y Más, that explores the ways in which the foods of the New World impacted the cuisines of the Old World, and vice versa.
The mixing of peoples and foods—the fusion of cultures and traditions referred to as mestizaje—began in August 1598. It was then that Juan de Oñate’s 500-strong expedition of soldiers, families, and Franciscan friars settled in New Mexico on the fertile and irrigated farmland of the Tewa Pueblos of Yungue and Okhay, located at the confluence of the Chama and Rio Grande Rivers.
But the ingredients for change were tossed into the melting pot a century before by Christopher Columbus when foods from the Old World were mixed with those of the new and brought improvements from farm to table.
The Old World gained new staple crops, including potatoes, sweet potatoes, maize, and cassava. Chile peppers, cacao, and pineapples also were introduced, and some became culinary centerpieces in many Old World countries: the chile pepper in India, Korea, Thailand, and China, via the Philippines; and paprika made from chili peppers, in Hungary.
On view will be more than 300 objects objects from the museum’s vast collection of historical culinary items related to food harvesting, preparation, table settings, and utilitarian and decorative implements. Some examples are Asian and European spice jars retrofitted with intricately detailed locking metal lids in Mexico City to protect a household’s cacao from thieves; traditional pottery cooking vessels reimagined by metal smiths using hammered copper to accommodate the molinillo used to froth chocolate; talavera kitchen and tableware modeled after Chinese import porcelains; fine antique and contemporary silverware from Europe and the Americas. All provide insight into the importance placed on crafting exquisite food vessels and implements—and that you are what you eat with.
More information can be found at www.internationalfolkart.org