Edible City: A Delicious Journey

Exhibit Created by Museum Of History And Industry . Curated by Rebekah Denn


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MOHAI Press Release, August 2016:

In Seattle, food has always meant more than a meal. The city’s journey from the earliest oyster middens to the modern four-star restaurants is a reflection of Seattle’s geography, history, and people. Edible City: A Delicious Journey, organized by Seattle’s Museum of History & Industry (MOHAI) and on view Nov 19, 2016 – Sept 10, 2017, serves up the story of how Seattleites eat in their city and how urban palates have developed over the years.

Curated by two-time James Beard Award winning food writer Rebekah Denn, Edible City uncovers the secret history of Seattle’s favorite foods. You’ll learn the origins of the Rainier cherry, view the recipe that inspired the phenomenal Cinnabon, see treasures from the long history of Pike Place Market, get acquainted with the man behind the city’s first sushi bar, and debate Seattle’s signature dishes. Our displays include items close to the city’s heart and histories, from Seattle’s first espresso cart to the tools of the former Sagamiya bakery.

"For nearly two centuries, Seattle has been a region whose culinary traditions, like its people, are distinguished by the confluence of cultures, the wise use of natural resources, and the willingness (and oftentimes necessity) to try something new," said Leonard Garfield, MOHAI’s Executive Director. "Edible City: A Delicious Journey celebrates that rich heritage, saluting the roots of a unique food culture while heralding the new faces and new techniques that are forever reinventing our city. We are thrilled to bring this important exhibition to Seattle."

Shaped by the Pacific Northwest passion for food and culture, Seattle has become one of the country’s top places to eat and innovate. And, while it took more than a century to establish a definable Seattle cuisine, its raw ingredients were here all along.

Seattle’s geography had traditionally allowed fishermen, foragers, and farmers to feed themselves. Its waterways and shores were rich Native harvesting grounds for every sort of wild food, from salmon to smelt. Tribal members dug wapato bulbs and picked serviceberries, little known today beyond private tribal events or educational presentations. They also foraged delicacies as trendy on modern restaurant plates as blackcap raspberries and miner’s lettuce.

"As for dining out, there have been eateries in Seattle just about as long as there have been workers here to support them," said Denn. "The cedar-plank Yesler’s Cookhouse, built in 1853, is credited as the original Seattle restaurant — as well as its first civic center, courthouse, general hangout, and jail."

As our city has grown and evolved, so have our choices about what we eat and why. Though the faces have changed, there are common threads behind the people who provide our foods.

"We’ve come to see that our city’s foods are both local and global, as exuberant as a public market and as intimate as a garden patch," said Denn. "We’re as contemporary as a vegan food truck and as timelessly elegant as a plate of vermouth poached prawns. From the view of Mount Rainier to the huckleberries foraged on its sunny slopes, from savory pho to sweet fair-trade chocolate, the food we eat is an integral part of the city we love."

Structured in a combination of six thematic sections, Edible City takes visitors on a culinary journey through Seattle.

Raw Ingredients is the first section and explores what is a "Seattle" food, and why? Visitors visually dine on both imported and native foods that are the building blocks of Seattle’s cuisine.

The second section is Processing and Prepping and explores the industries that shaped a savory Seattle, from canneries to coffee roasters. 

In Market-to-Market, visitors sample the places where Seattleites go to the market. Guests learn about the outlets that help define the city, from co-ops to farmers markets to ethnic markets, big and small.

The next section, Bringing it Home, spotlights the region’s home cooking through a real, preserved Seattle kitchen. The history of food justice in the area through P-Patches, community gardens, and other efforts to bring homegrown food to diverse communities is studied.

Cooking Tech-niques examines how Seattle high-tech jobs have made its residents look at cooking in a whole new way in the fifth course. Sniff out some of the area’s groundbreaking food-tech endeavors.

The final section focuses on Serving it Up. Here, visitors survey the rich and diverse banquet of restaurants that have been around almost as long as there have been city dwellers here to support them. Meet the farm-to-table chefs who have made Seattle a national dining destination, and savor the way they developed a modern Northwest cuisine.

Edible City will be supported by programs ranging from food tastings to cooking demonstrations, featuring some of the region’s best and brightest food experts and revealing the stories that transformed Seattle into one of America’s best places to eat.

MOHAI has gathered 30 of the city’s brightest chefs, culinary entrepreneurs, food sourcing education professionals, service industry leaders, and food technology professionals, to advise and collaborate on program development for this unique and ambitious exhibition.

World-renowned chefs/restaurants and companies represented on the committee include Tom Douglas Restaurants, Matt Dillon Restaurants Theo Chocolate, Starbucks Coffee Company, Sugar Mountain, All Recipes, and Ste. Michelle Wine Estates.

The exhibit is accompanied by a companion book, Edible City. Written by Denn, Edible City unveils the complex and progressive narrative of how Seattle’s vibrant food scene went from its first restaurant to what it is today. The Edible City publication is supported by Laird Norton Wealth Management.

Edible City: A Delicious Journey is presented by The Boeing Company with generous support provided by Oxbow Farm & Conservation Center, PCC Natural Markets, The Julia Child Foundation for Gastronomy and the Culinary Arts, Tulalip Tribes, 4Culture, Mike Repass, Marylyn and Edward Gregory, Laird Norton Wealth Management, Mary Ann and John Mangels, Uwajimaya Inc., and Allrecipes.com. Media support provided by The Seattle Times, KUOW and KCTS 9. Promotional support provided by Visit Seattle.