And what a year it has been! But Sarah, you say, a year? Didn't "The Food That Built America" only come out in August? Why yes, dear reader, it did. But the magic of television isn't created overnight. And it was exactly on January 16, 2019 that the dear folks hired by the History Channel to do the production of that wonderful series sent me an email through this very website.
Although I have been on television before, this was my first interview of this length and professionalism. It took place on a frigid January day in a Brooklyn warehouse equipped with a very noisy heater. So it was off during filming. My 2 pm interview was constantly interrupted by the air brakes and backing-up beeps of the trucks that still visited the industrial area where we were filming. At one point you could see my breath on the air. But dear reader, it was so FUN. There were two cameras, one on a track to my side, which was a bit intimidating. The other was affixed with a mirror so I could see interviewer Thaddeus in the reflection (he was sitting to the side of the camera) and look right into the camera while appearing to look him in the face. Which made things much easier and less intimidating, to be honest. There were also about 10 people in the room with us, but of course they were so quiet it was easy to forget they were there. Thaddeus asked me lots of interesting questions, and I did my best to give good answers and, my specialty, lots of fantastic context to all the topics they were discussing. On several occasions, I even managed to repeat myself after each truck interruption without losing too much of the original quote. In all, I'm pretty proud of how I acquitted myself.
My only regret is the World War I context - Thaddeus didn't make it clear in his questioning that they were going to be talking primarily about the businesses during WWI, so my responses were all about the regulations on individual Americans. Had I realized, I could have pontificated at length about the impacts on food businesses and retail during the war. Oh well. No one's perfect.
At any rate, a friend who teaches Family and Consumer Science (or FACS, as it is often called) told me the other day that FACS teachers around the country were using "The Food That Built America" in their lesson plans. And every couple of months another person I went to high school with or I know through work takes the time to mention that they saw me on TV, which is always fun. Although, sadly, I did not receive payment for my interview (as I'm sure few of the other interviewees did), I did get a free train ride and a car to pick me up, so that was nice.
If you haven't seen "The Food That Built America" yet and you have cable - check out the History Channel from time to time - they seem to be replaying it quite frequently. Looks like they removed the online screening from The History Channel website, sadly.
BUT! If, like me, you do NOT have cable, you can purchase or rent the episodes through Amazon Prime. As an Amazon affiliate, if you purchase anything from this link, I will get a small commission.
Have you seen "The Food That Built America?" What was your favorite part?
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Sarah Wassberg Johnson has an MA in Public History from the University at Albany and studies early 20th century food history.