CONTACT: MELVIN O. SHAW
100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0010; fax (319) 384-0024
Release: March 22, 2000
NPR commentator helps show impact of food, culture on American traditions
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- You are what you eat. In this land of plenty, foods and
cooking techniques like those from Africa and other countries are at the core
of American culinary traditions. At a Friends of the University of Iowa Libraries
annual dinner April 14, America's culture and culinary influences will be
tasted and traced in bites of Caribbean deviled crab, jerk chicken, Southern
peach cobbler and other delights.
"The Americas' Table: A Story of Food and Culture" buffet scheduled
from 6 to 9:30 p.m. in the R. Wayne Richey Ballroom of the Iowa Memorial Union
is more than a hunger-sating affair. It is a palate-whetting exploration of
American identity that has been shaped in part by foods. The event features
as its guest speaker National Public Radio "All Things Considered"
commentator Vertamae Grosvenor, an
author and self-described culinary anthropologist. Grosvenor is the host of
the award-winning NPR show, "Seasonings," and the television show,
"The Americas' Family Kitchen," which airs nationwide on PBS stations.
The event is open to members of the public who can make reservations to
attend the $35 per-plate dinner program by calling the UI Libraries at (319)
The program includes an opening reception and book signing with cash bar,
hors d' oeuvres live jazz music, a buffet style dinner with selections from
Caribbean, Creole and African American cuisine, and a presentation by the
Grosvenor's most recent cookbook, "Vertamae Cooks Again: A Taste of
Home," is one in a series of cookbooks by the prolific writer whose stories
have appeared in "The New York Times," "The Washington Post,"
"The Village Voice," "Ebony," "Redbook," and
Grosvenor, a South Carolinian from Beaufort, grew up speaking Gullah, a
combination of West African languages and English. She served as a consultant
for Gullah language and was a featured actor in "Daughters of the Dust,"
an American Playhouse movie by Julie Dash. Grosvenor also served as an actor
and culinary consultant in the recently released movie "Beloved,"
based on the novel by Nobel laureate Toni Morrison.
Doris Witt, assistant professor in the UI Department of English and author
of "Black Hunger: Food and the Politics of U.S. Identity," studied
Grosvenor's writings and will introduce the guest speaker at the special program
scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. Both Grosvenor's and Witt's books will be available
at the event.
The Friends of the University of Iowa Libraries is an association of individuals
committed to the enrichment and growth of the University Libraries. Established
in 1964, it is one of the oldest such organizations affiliated with a university
5 p.m. "Tracing Americas' Culinary Influences Through the Libraries
Collections," in the Reading Room, Special Collections, (Third Floor,
Main Library). Presented by David Schoonover, head, Special Collections. This
public program is free to people not attending the dinner.
Program schedule for "The Americas' Table":
6 p.m., reception with drinks and appetizers;
7 p.m. buffet-style dinner;
8 p.m. featured program
Cash bar: Wine, beer, Szaceracs, Mint Juleps, mixed drinks
Buffet dinner: Caribbean: Deviled Crab Bouchees; Pepperpot Soup; Heart of
Palm and Beet Salad; Jerk Chicken; Old-time rice pudding with golden raisins;
Southern/Creole: Sweet potato biscuits; shrimp and sausage gumbo with rice;
boiled peanuts; bread pudding with Bourbon sauce;
African American: Coleslaw; black-eyed pea salad; fried catfish and hush
puppies; peach cobbler.