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America explored through food

June 24, 2007|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

WASHINGTON COUNTY - A traveling Smithsonian Institution exhibition that opened Saturday offers food for thought.

What cultural significance does food have?

How do we prepare it?

Where does it come from?

"Key Ingredients: America By Food" will be at the Washington County Rural Heritage Museum at the Washington County Agricultural Education Center on Sharpsburg Pike through Aug. 4.

Dorry Norris, who was part of the committee that arranged to bring in the exhibition, said Washington County is the first of six temporary homes it will have in Maryland.

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It arrived in 19 cases, with assembly required.

"It is like a giant Tinkertoy," Norris said.

Marge Peters, the president of Friends of the Washington County Rural Heritage Museum, received a pleasant surprise when she noticed something familiar in a display case. It was a menu from the Lexington Diner, three miles from her hometown in the Philadelphia area. She said her parents celebrated their 40th anniversary at the diner.

Marsha Scorza of Shepherdstown, W.Va., who saw the exhibition on opening day, said it was interesting that tomatoes originated in South America, yet went to Europe first before immigrants brought them to the United States.

Scorza brought Dongyan Hu of Beijing and Yazhou Yang of Shaanxi province, also in China, with her on Saturday.

Both Chinese residents temporarily are working at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Appalachian Fruit Station in Jefferson County, W.Va.

Hu got a kick out of the section of the exhibition that mentioned Chinese fortune cookies.

A display said they are an American invention "possibly the brainchild of Makoto Hagiwara, who served cookies with notes at his Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco in 1914."

Other assorted facts offered at the exhibition include the pizza difference between Chicago ("more dough, more sauce, more everything") and New York (can be "easily folded in half and eaten with one hand"), the origin of ranching (12th-century Spain) and where most popcorn is grown (Nebraska and Indiana).

Anyone who wants to pretend to be a Green Bay Packers fan also can try on a foam cheesehead.

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