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Current Exhibit

The Donald and Barbara Tober Exhibit Room is on the main floor of the Conrad N. Hilton Library. The exhibit room is open to the CIA community and to the public.  :: view campus map ::

Clarifying Butter: A Cultural History of Fat
April 2023 - December 2023


The very word, fat, conjures images of unctuous oils, crispy fried foods, and flavorsome pools of golden richness (indeed, medieval European foods that were described as “rich” meant both fatty and foods of the privileged). Conversely, the idea of fat can also make people frown with scorn, concerned over blocked arteries or a perceived moral laxity of a diner.  

Fat, as an substance found in animals, and oil, as a plant-based ingredient, appear across time and place, and reveal cultural attitudes and historical changes. At a culinary school, we use fats and oils daily, and as eaters, they literally become part of us. While ubiquitous they are never without deep meaning. This exhibit explores but some of the aspects of a food group that is simultaneously present and polarizing.  

This exhibit was researched and curated by the CIA Spring 2023 Food History class as part of the Applied Food Studies program. The class was taught by Dr. Beth Forrest in collaboration with archivist Nicole Semenchuk. Special thanks to Donald and Barbara Tober and all of the patrons that made this exhibit possible.



Image designed by Yukun (Mia) Liu.

Past Exhibits

Setting a Bigger Table: Reconsidering American Foodways
August 2022 - April 2023

Throughout history American Foodways has been understood largely through the lens of the white, (northern) European, middle-class experience. Yet, as we know, countless cultures and people have grown or foraged for ingredients, cooked and created dishes, and eaten together to build community and given meaning to the practices and experiences surrounding food in the United States.

This exhibit seeks to tell the stories and celebrate the ingenuity of these unrecognized and underappreciated groups.

Sipping a Stimulating History: Coffee, Tea, and Chocolate
August 2021 - August 2022

There are good reasons that when scholars study either the history of stimulants or of commodities, tea, chocolate, and coffee are often lumped together as if they had been collectively steeping in a cup for centuries. The leaves and beans from three plants—Camellia sinensis, coffea, theobroma cacao—all converged in Europe at roughly the same time, around the 16th century.

It would be folly to limit the study to such similarities, for tea, chocolate, and coffee each have their own varied and complicated pasts. They may all speak to similar themes—tastes, societal transformations, economics, social power, producer-consumer relationships, definition of the self, and meanings of power—but the paths they took and the nuances that they reveal can be quite different, if we are to consider religion, gender, or meaning. Tea, chocolate, and coffee, rather than having a history, have many fragmented histories, which have developed over time and place. It is in this spirit that we consider these commodities.

They continue to reside in our lives today. They are objects of banal daily habits as well as centerpieces of highly ritualized moments and this against a backdrop of large historical changes of capitalism, industrialism, and geopolitics. In this exhibit we attempt to balance the sweet side of history—convivial, comforting, gustatorial pleasure—with a realistic dose of bitterness—slavery and exploited labor, Imperialism, and "othering"—to illustrate the complex nature of history.

This CIA student-researched exhibit was curated by Professor Beth Forrest’s Food History class as part of the  Applied Food Studies program. Special thanks to Archivist Nicole Semenchuk, Donald and Barbara Tober Foundation, The Hershey Foundation, and all of the patrons that made this exhibit possible.


Amber Waves: Transforming Grain, Transforming America in the 19th and 20th Centuries
December 13, 2019 - July 2021 (extended because of COVID-19)

Grains such as wheat, corn, barley, oats, rice and others have been critical in American history. This exhibit focuses on the advancements in grain production and how they impacted American society during the 19th and 20th centuries. Several areas that chronicle the symbiotic relationship between grain and the American culture were technology, labor, alcohol, economy, politics, science, and ritual. The displayed artifacts, images, and multimedia illustrate these changes in the field, kitchen, and across industry.

This CIA student-researched exhibit was curated by Professor Beth Forrest’s Food History class as part of the Applied Food Studies program. Special thanks to Archivist Nicole Semenchuk, Donald and Barbara Tober, and all of the patrons that made this exhibit possible.

Amber waves

State of Ate: New York's History Through Eight Ingredients
July 18, 2019 - December 10, 2019

This exhibit interrogates aspects of New York’s history through the lens of eight ingredients: apples, beef, corn, milk, oysters, salt, sugar, and wheat. We consider the role of economics and technology in shaping our diet and health. We see how the migration of people and their cultures impact New York’s foodways and agriculture. Through food, we reflect on how we interact with the environment and value preservation, and we better understand New York’s relationship with the rest of the United States and intersecting global networks.

This exhibit was researched and curated by students in the summer 2019 Food History class, part of the Applied Food Studies program at the CIA.

Appetites for Change: Foodways in Post-War America
December 12, 2018 - July 15, 2019

In Post-War America (1945-1970), food -- through both cooking and eating --highlighted the economic boom and agricultural efficiency resulting from WWII. Technological advances and the emphasis on convenience changed the way Americans shopped, cooked, and ate. Advertising and media shaped prevailing meanings of food across class, gender, and ethnic identities. These mainstream ideas, however, were contested through the Civil Rights movement, the counter-culture, and the culture of poverty, all of which made food the nexus of changing values. 

This exhibit was researched and curated by students in the fall 2018 Food History class, part of the Applied Food Studies program at the CIA.

appetites for change

Guns & Butter: American Food Experiences During the World Wars

July 24 - December 10, 2018

Guns & Butter showcases many aspects of the relationship between food, World War I, and World War II in American history.  The title of the exhibit draws on the economic theory of a nation’s resources. As part of the National Defense Act of 1916, a Congressional debate over the use of nitrates for American farmers or to build munitions brought the phrase “Guns vs. Butter” into public consciousness. In this exhibit, CIA students not only mark the centennial of the armistice of WWI, but reframe the debate to illustrate the intimate relationship between guns AND butter, that is war and food.

This exhibit was researched and curated by students in the summer 2018 Food History class, part of the Applied Food Studies program at the CIA.

You Are What You [M]eat: The Culture of Meat in 19th - 20th Century America

December 15, 2017 - July 2018

Meat has been the centerpiece of the American meal since settlement. Abundant hunted game transformed into large, centralized feedlots; by the 19th century, the average consumption per capita exceeded 150 pounds, annually. Since the 19th century, meat has symbolized masculinity, good health, status, and a rugged environment. It was so desirable to have shaped the American landscape. Yet, at the same time, native peoples, having a long relationship with meat-animals were forced to relocate, health attitudes have shifted, and fear surrounding meat has inspired laws, and moral concerns impelled abstention.

This exhibit considers the cultural role of meat in American society, from the 19th century to the present. By examining various moments and spaces where consumed animals and their consuming humans meet, we seek to contemplate the aphorism, “you are what you [m]eat.”

This exhibit was researched and curated by students in the fall 2017 Food History class, part of the Applied Food Studies program at the CIA.

Cooking up a Nation: [Im]migration & American Foodways

July 25 - December 13, 2017

Press release

Scholars have characterized The United States as a “melting pot,” “salad bowl,” and “kaleidoscope.” In all of these descriptions, food and foodways become part of the narrative. With the exception of Native Americans, all Americans left their home or descended from people who migrated here. Yet, the reasons why they came to America differed considerably. Some arrived by choice (immigrants), some by force (enslaved peoples), some because their very survival depended on it (refugees), and others didn’t move at all (but the nation’s border did, with westward expansion). Settlement patterns, reception when arriving in America, and maintenance of heritage impacted their food practices; this influence was not one-way, but also impacted the nation. This is the story of many people who helped shape what and how we eat in America.

This exhibit was researched and curated by students in the summer 2017 Food History class, part of the Applied Food Studies program at the CIA.

Sweet & Salty: Tastes of Cultural History

April 11 - July 19, 2017

Press release

Sweet and salty are the first two tastes that humans perceive after birth. Yet, more than part of physiology, the desire for sugar drove slavery and continues to impacts health, while salt was synonymous with wealth and economic prosperity. This exhibit considers the integral roles that both tastes have played in culture. It examines the many sweet and salty products that span in use from food preservation to religious salvation as well as technological changes that have shaped and changed our interactions with these products and, ultimately, our very taste.

The exhibit was researched and curated by the Spring, 2017 Food History class with Dr. Beth Forrest.


Fire in the Belly: Cultural Moments around the Hearth and the Table

December 16, 2016 - April 4, 2017

Press release

"Fire in the Belly" explores the intimate relationship among humans, food, and fire. In fact, anthropologists argue that it is fire that made us human, while historians look to fire as a part in forging culture. This exhibit looks at moments in history when flames, in part, created dishes and meanings.  Themes include religion, agriculture, cooking methods, gendered spaces, and a myriad of ways smoke and fire are harnessed in the dining room and for producing artifacts for cooking and eating.

This exhibit was researched and curated by the Fall, 2016 Food History class with Dr. Beth Forrest.

Food on the Move: Travel and Transportation

July 26 - December 9, 2016


The relationship between food and transportation is closely intertwined. With technological advances in ships, trains, automobiles, and planes, we see shifts in food access, culinary traditions, and attitudes toward eating while traveling.  From ancient trade along the Mediterranean on ships, to the refrigerated trucking industry across America, from the rise of luxury dining cars on trains, to exclusive meals on supersonic jets, the movement of food — and people who needed to eat while in transit — incorporate and reflect larger historical developments.  By looking at “food on the move,” we may also consider ideas regarding economics and politics, globalization and power, and aesthetics and taste.

This exhibit was researched and curated by the Summer, 2016 Food History class.

Giambelli's: A Celebration of Francesco and Mary Giambelli

June 17 - July 20, 2016

View online exhibit

Francesco Giambelli (1915-2006) was an immigrant from Voghera, Italy who lived the American dream. He and his wife Mary owned Giambelli 50th in New York City.  Known for their authentic Northern Italian cuisine and their gracious hospitality, the restaurant prospered for decades. The Giambellis lived upstairs from the restaurant – the restaurant was home and the staff was family. The Giambellis often dined alongside patrons but would get up from their meals to greet guests, suggest dishes, and make sure every diner was satisfied. The refined cuisine and the many dishes made table side, distinguished Giambelli 50th from other Italian restaurants and attracted such guests as U. S. Presidents, senior business executives, and, in 1995, Pope John Paul II. The Francesco and Mary Giambelli Collection was donated by the Francesco and Mary Giambelli Foundation, Inc. in 2014.

H2O ~ Water2Food

April 11 - June 15, 2016

H2O ~ Water2Food is an exploration into hydrohistory. Like water itself, the exhibit merges fluidly the local histories and ecology of the Hudson River into a larger consideration of the presence of water in how we eat and drink in North America. From the role of water in ancient civilizations to its seemingly banal place in the household, and from the Hudson River source at Lake Tear of the Clouds to its meeting with the Atlantic ocean, water is ever-present and always changing. In all its forms, uses, and locations, water is the basis of our ability to nourish ourselves with food.

This CIA student-organized exhibit was curated by Dr. Beth Forrest’s Food History class and Dr. Deirdre Murphy’s Ecology of Food class during the spring semester, 2016. Both classes are part of the CIA’s Applied Food Studies program.

From Grape to Glass: Wine Artifacts from the CIA Archives

February 8 - April 1, 2016

From Grape to Glass highlights tools and implements that describe the wine-making process from the vineyard to the table.  Included are rare artifacts such as leather treading shoes, cooper’s tools, a bung hammer, wine thieves and venencias, corkscrews, a drinking horn, and a wineskin. Wine lists from our menu collection supplement the display.

Because many of these artifacts are from the Julius Wile Collection, in the center cases we have highlighted his personal Cellar Master’s Record along with a journal and letters from his travels to European vineyards in 1938/1939 while apprenticing for the family importing business.

The historical origins of these artifacts are unknown, but we hope your imagination will place them in old vineyards and wine cellars surrounded by the mingling smells of grapes and wine barrels and the rowdy laughter of hard-working men and women who for many centuries worked only with their hands and simple tools to produce the wines that today we can only read about.

“Nothing more excellent or valuable than wine was ever granted by the gods to man.” - Plato

Dutch Foodways in the Old and New World

December 3, 2015 - February 4, 2016

Press release

Foodways is the term used to describe all the practices related to the production and consumption of food in a culture, region or historical period.  This exhibit introduces the visitor to Dutch foodways in both the Old and New World.  Historical developments of colonialism, religion and technology from the 17th–19th centuries impacted Dutch foodways in ways in which food and culture intersected with large, theoretical issues that included economics, slavery, morality, and health. History changed both what and how people ate.

The images and material culture on display explore everyday life in the New Netherlands in the 17th century. Furthermore, they highlight iconic Dutch commodities, including spices, cheese, beer, gin, and chocolate.

This is the CIA’s inaugural student-organized exhibit. It was curated by LeeAnn Corrao, Applied Food Studies major, and Dr. Beth Forrest’s Food History class.

Supper under the Stars: Nightlife in American Restaurants, 1930s-1960s

August - November, 2015

View online exhibit

Menus tell stories and the menus in this exhibit tell a story of a time when restaurants were destinations for the evening, when dancing and music were as much a part of the restaurant landscape as the food, when stars like Frank Sinatra entertained guests who sipped cocktails and nibbled on their hors d'oeuvres. In the days and years after Prohibition ended there was no shortage of entertainment across the country, even during the darkest days of the Depression and World War II. Cabarets, nightclubs, supper clubs, and hotel roof gardens were some of the hottest places to spend an evening.  The sixty menus on display illustrate the intersection of food and culture across the United States, from New York City and its speakeasies to Miami Beach and its nightclub-hopping tour buses, from Detroit where celebrities were on layover between New York and Los Angeles to an infamous supper club in Biloxi, Mississippi.  Supper clubs, popular in the Midwest, are also represented, as are two interesting U. S. military nightclubs in Italy and Germany. All of the menus are from The Culinary Institute of America Menu Collection.

What Will You Have? Beverages in the 20th Century

April - July 2015

CIA Professor Doug Miller kicks off the 2015 CIA Beverage Symposium with this exhibit of his collection of paraphernalia representing beverages throughout the twentieth century. This unique display includes bottles, tools and implements, product packaging and advertising related to beverages--from beer and spirits, to soda and champagne.  Supplementing the exhibit are cocktail lists and books from the CIA Archives and Special Collections.

Selections from The Francesco and Mary Giambelli Collection

March 4 - April 9, 2015

Press release

The Francesco and Mary Giambelli Collection was donated by the Francesco and Mary Giambelli Foundation, Inc. in 2014.  Selections from this archival collection are on display for the first time in the Tober Exhibit Room. The exhibit showcases the popular New York City restaurant, Giambelli 50th, and notable events from the Giambellis careers.  Photographs, memorabilia, artifacts, awards, papers, and correspondence all contribute to depicting a generous couple and a restaurant that focused on gracious hospitality and service.

Good Living: Historical Recipe Pamphlets from the Special Collections of The Culinary Institute of America

October 2014 - February 2015

Press release

The Good Living exhibit showcases over seventy recipe pamphlets from The Culinary Institute of America’s special collection of 800 historical pamphlets.  The selection of material broadly illustrates American recipe pamphlets from the 1870s to 1970s and reflects trends in food advertising and consumption from the days of patent medicines, through both world wars, with the advent of the electric refrigerator, the introduction of convenience foods, and the increased accessibility of non-local produce.  The bright colors, clever slogans, images of happy consumers, and “interesting” recipes in these pamphlets encourage an entertaining as well as informative experience.

Handwritten Recipes by Famous Chefs from the Craig Claiborne Collection

March - September 2014

Press release

In September 1990, noted food writer, Craig Claiborne, celebrated his 70th birthday at the Hôtel de Paris in Monte Carlo.  Many of the world’s greatest chefs attended—the New York Times called it “an international culinary exchange of tastes and ideas”—and in lieu of gifts, Claiborne requested that each chef give him a handwritten recipe.  These recipes, now part of The Culinary Institute of America’s archives, reflect the chefs’ own culinary traditions and preferences, as well as reveal the respected friendships between Claiborne and his guests.

A Selection of International Menus from the Bruce P. Jeffer Menu Collection

August - February 2014

Press release

The Bruce P. Jeffer Menu Collection was donated to the Culinary Institute of America in 2013. Bruce Jeffer, a California lawyer and wine connoisseur, began collecting menus during his travels as a child. This collection of 2,600 menus includes many international menus. This exhibit features menus from over 50 countries across 6 continents.


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