Presidential Foodie Fun

The McKinley Presidential Library & Museum’s new Keller Gallery exhibition Stark County Food: From Early Farming to Modern Meals will open on June 13, 2019 at 6pm with a free opening reception featuring food from Canton restaurants.  The exhibition is based on the themes in Kim Kenney and Barb Abbott’s new book of the same name, which explores what Stark County residents have eaten over the past 200 years.  The exhibition is sponsored by the Stark County Farm Bureau.

Stark County Food is part of Project EAT!, a countywide celebration of all things food.  Partners across the community have joined together to bring Stark County residents a full schedule of food-related events and programs in 2019.  From June 22 through July 21, three area museums will have food-themed exhibitions on view.  The Canton Museum of Art’s exhibition Food for Thought, featuring food-themed artwork from their permanent collection, is on view now through July 21.  A Heritage of Harvest:  The Industry of Agriculture in Western Stark County opens at the Massillon Museum on June 22.

There’s also a Foodie Bus Tour on Friday June 28 from 8:15am – 3pm.  The trip includes breakfast at the Museum catered by Deli Ohio, a visit to a working dairy farm, and an afternoon Canton Food Tour, featuring a series of small plates at several of Canton’s finest restaurants. There will be walking and standing involved so guests should dress accordingly. The cost is $80 for museum members, $85 for non-members.  RESERVATION DEADLINE IS JUNE 7. Pre-paid reservations required, and space is limited. Tickets may be purchased at or call Chris at 330-455-7043.

Stark County Food begins with a look at farming in the region, which includes a large cash register that was used at Harry Ink’s Aplink Orchard in the early 20th century.  Other sections include grocery stores, wholesale food companies, restaurants, cookbooks, rationing, ethnic influences, bakeries, dairies, legacy families, community organizations, and culinary tourism.  A special section will feature the evolution of kitchen appliances over time, including an early refrigerator, an apartment-sized electric stove, and a microwave with so much chrome, it rivals a 1950s automobile.

“This exhibition has been so much fun to put together,” said Kim Kenney, executive director of the Museum and curator of this exhibition.  “We searched our permanent collection for artifacts that demonstrate the ways in which we have eaten over time.  We have everything from cast iron pans to refrigerators, and everything in between.”

The exhibition includes video clips from the Project EAT! Oral History Project, based on interviews that were conducted in 2017 and 2018 by Carmella Cadusale, an AmeriCorps volunteer.  Intern Rose Stull reviewed many hours of interviews in order to find the best clips to share in the exhibition.

“There are five people featured in the video,” said Kenney.  “They share their own memories of what their families cooked when they were little, and what restaurants and grocery stores they remember.  Ernie Schott from Taggart’s explains how the famous Bittner was invented, too.  The clips we have selected provide an interesting snapshot of our community’s foodways over time.”

The exhibition includes a section of carefully curated nutrition handouts sponsored by Canton Food Tours.  Topics include Be a Healthy Role Model, How to Read the Nutrition Label, Kid Friendly Fruits and Veggies, and Make Better Food Choices.

There is also a panel that highlights the organizations who are fighting food insecurity in Stark County.  “An estimated 15.3% of Stark County’s population and 23.8% of children are food insecure,” said Kenney.  “We wanted the exhibition to include that information, to inspire our visitors to donate food, money, or their time to these organizations.  The need continues to increase.  The number of people seeking food assistance from the Stark County Hunger Task Force has swelled from 3000 people per month in 1981 to 30,000 people per month in 2017.  We have invited leaders from these organizations to speak about their work before many of our Project EAT! programs.  We are also running a series of drives for food, gardening tools, and pots and pans throughout the exhibition’s run to benefit food pantries and StarkFresh.  Visitors will receive $1 off admission during each of the drives.”

Stark County Food also includes a binder featuring more than 75 reproduction menus from local restaurants and banquets.  The ephemeral nature of menus means that the collection is by no means complete.  “You aren’t supposed to take the menu home with you when you eat out,” said Kenney.  “But the program from a special event, that happens to include the evening’s menu, was designed as a keepsake.” As a result, the Museum’s archival collection includes many more banquet menus than restaurant menus.

The Museum is approaching the collection of visitor responses a bit differently for this exhibition. “Instead of the traditional guest book, we have purchased a 1950s metal kitchen table and chairs,” said Kenney.  “We invite our visitors to have a seat at our table to record their own food memories, which can be posted on a large bulletin board near the table.  There are also coloring and activity sheets for kids.”

“One of my favorite parts of the exhibition is a handout I made that includes strange recipes from old Stark County cookbooks,” said Kenney.  “Recipes include Hot Lettuce Sandwiches, Frozen Tomato Salad, Pork Cake, and Banana Soup.  We want to encourage our visitors to try some of the recipes at home and tag us on social media for a chance to win a copy of my new book with co-author Barb Abbott Stark County Food:  From Early Farming to Modern Meals.”

Stark County Food will be on view through January 5, 2020.

The McKinley Presidential Library & Museum is located at 800 McKinley Monument Dr. NW in Canton, Ohio.  The Keller Gallery is the Museum’s temporary exhibition space and features a variety of topics each year.  The Museum also includes the McKinley National Memorial, McKinley Gallery, Street of Shops, The Stark County Story, Discover World, and the Hoover-Price Planetarium.  The Museum is open Monday – Saturday from 9am – 4pm and Sunday from 2-4pm.