Hidden Kitchens — we aren't the first project to look for them. Our search for the kitchen legacies of this country has uncovered rituals, recipes and now, an archive. Producer Jamie York and The Kitchen Sisters followed a listener's call to the Library of Congress and beyond — and discovered "America Eats."
Library of Congress
Men wrap beef in cheesecloth at a sheriff's barbecue in Los Angeles. The photo was one of many taken for the WPA's "America Eats" project between 1930 and 1941.
During our planning process, we read Mark Kurlansky's book Choice Cuts: Food Writing from Around the World and Throughout History and came across the following passage:
"In the 1930s Nelson Algren, a young fiction writer who in 1949 would win the first National Book Award for The Man with the Golden Arm, joined the Illinois Writers Project, part of the federal Works Progress Administration (WPA)."
It set us on the course of this story and led us to the Library of Congress, where some of the "America Eats" archives are housed. This remarkable WPA project chronicling American "foodways" in the 1930s has never been published. The parallels between this project and ours astounded us.
Each region had its own "America Eats" team. Their writings, photographs and even some scripts for a proposed weekly radio program are tucked away in collections around the country — at the New York Municipal Archive, the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, the University of Iowa Library, and the State Library and Archives of Florida, as well as at the Library of Congress.
Independent producer Jamie York traveled to Florida to interview one of the last living writers on the project, Stetson Kennedy, whose photographs you can view in our photo gallery on this page, and online at The Library of Congress.
— The Kitchen Sisters