October 3, 2014 - November 22, 2014

at the UAF Community & Technical College in downtown Fairbanks

American food is impossible to define. Our diverse recipes, menus, and traditions tell a lot about who we are. There is no real recipe for American food, just a few key ingredients defined by history, technology, landscape, culture, and ethnicity.

Key Ingredients: America by Food explains the little known, the everyday, and the obvious through an entertaining and informative overview of our country’s diverse regional cooking and eating traditions. The exhibit explores how food on the American table is rooted in centuries of continuous borrowing and sharing between people across generations, across cultures and across the land. It also underscores the contributions made by Native American cultures to our eating habits and addresses the entrepreneurial spirit on which many food production industries are based, such as those of Heinz and Campbell.

The UA Museum of the North along with the Downtown Association of Fairbanks and the Co-op Market co-sponsored this exhibit produced by the Smithsonian Institution. The exhibit was on display at the UAF Community & Technical College and enhanced with stories of a rich legacy of food in Fairbanks. The museum also launched the popular fundraising event Chefs at the Museum as part of the celebration of food inspired by this exhibit and produced a cookbook featuring a collection of Alaska recipes from participants and community members. 


Downtown exhibit explores food traditions

Theresa Bakker
An exhibit at the UAF Community and Technical College in downtown Fairbanks delves into the historical and social traditions that merge in everyday meals. “Key Ingredients: America by Food,” a Smithsonian Institutions traveling exhibit, features a selection of artifacts and illustrations that examine how culture, landscape and tradition influence the flavor of American meals.
The exhibit will open with a First Friday reception Oct. 3 from 5-7 p.m. “Key Ingredients: America by Food” is presented by the University of Alaska Museum of the North in cooperation with the Alaska Humanities Forum. The museum partnered locally with the Downtown Association of Fairbanks and the Co-op Market to bring this free exhibit to UAF’s Community and Technical College.
David van den Berg of the Downtown Association of Fairbanks said the exhibit is an excellent way to celebrate the cultural life of the community.
“Downtown is Alaskan culture through and through, and all its restaurants express that three meals a day,” he said. “Food has been evolving alongside culture in downtown Fairbanks for longer and on a larger scale than in any other community in the Interior. For that reason, we’re really pleased that ‘Key Ingredients’ will be exhibited here.”
People often eat without giving a thought to the wealth of history and culture that shapes the dining habits of Americans. The nation’s recipes, menus and even fast food options are directly affected by its rich immigrant experience, the history of food preparation technology and the ever-changing availability of key ingredients.
Dairy cows browse in front of the Creamer’s Dairy buildings in Fairbanks.
The exhibit also gives Fairbanks an opportunity to celebrate its regional food heritage through videos featuring a variety of food producers and culinary experts, a photo-sharing wall featuring historic Fairbanks photos, and an online recipe collection site.
“Whether it’s your version of salmon dip or a photo of the biggest zucchini you’ve ever grown, the act of sharing these photos helps us tell the story of the people who have lived here through changing times and how they lived,” said museum educator Maïté Agopian.
“By putting a photo of carrots grown in your garden on the exhibit wall or submitting a family recipe on the museum’s website, the exhibit invites people to share their own food culture.”
In addition, the museum is presenting a number of food-related family programs during the month of October. Family Day: Food on Saturday, Oct. 11, will feature the culture, art and science of food. A variety of activities will also be presented during regular museum programming.
“Key Ingredients: America by Food” will be on display in the UAF Community and Technical College at 604 Barnette St. in downtown Fairbanks through Nov. 22, 2014. Admission is free.
ADDITIONAL CONTACTS: Jeremia Schrock, Downtown Association of Fairbanks, at 907-452-8671 or via email at

Key Ingredients - In the Media

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