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Food and World War I


Theo Mayer: Welcome to the How World War I Changed America podcast series, sponsored by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. I'm Theo Mayer, your host for this episode. Our subject today is food in World War I. As a famous slogan and poster of the time stated, "Food will win the war." With us today to cover this topic is the series' regular host, but today a guest, Dr. Libby O'Connell. Dr. O'Connell is a very diverse historian and person, the former chief historian at the History Channel, appointed as one of the 12 US world War I Centennial Commissioners, a key figure in the recently approved design of The National World War I Memorial in Washington DC, and an author of a book entitled The American Plate, A Culinary History In 100 Bites. Libby, it's wonderful to be exploring the subject with you today.


Libby O'Connel: I'm excited to go on this adventure with you, Theo.


Theo Mayer: Libby, as a historian, I know that you think that food is a wonderful paradigm through which to explore history. Can you explain that idea?


Libby O'Connel: Sure. I think one big problem we have in this country is people feeling distant from history. They don't quite get that personal connection. Food is a way to explore the past through something we all experience. My first job was at Plymouth Plantation, a living history museum on Cape Cod, and I worked in the food house. We were cooking food over an open hearth and I noticed that everybody stayed to ask questions because food was something that they had direct experience with. It's really a great way to get people engaged in history.