Visitors to the National Museum of the American Indians Mitsitam Cafe can enjoy the cedar-planked salmon platter.
“My team and I pored over cookbooks, researched all the writings of the Works Progress Administration’s America Eats series. We were tracking down rare books, talking to experts and libraries, calling upon our friends at the National Archives,” Andrés said of the due diligence required to piece together the exhaustively footnoted carte presented to AET patrons.
Though the restaurant came into being only a short time ago, Andrés insists the inspiration for it has eaten away at him for years.
“This idea of celebrating American food ... has been with me for a long time. Ever since I first found an early edition, a family-published version of the ‘Joy of Cooking’ many years ago. That was such an amazing connection for me. And then finding an early copy of the ‘Virginia Housewife,’ and many other books,” he shared. “I have had these ideas in my head, and finally with America Eats Tavern, we were able to pull it all together. Only we are still searching, still researching, still looking at every dish. Even though this restaurant is temporary, we are still learning, still experimenting and seeing what more we can do.”
Each dish, naturally, tells a story. Some just happen to be more fantastic — particularly after they’ve received signature Andrés flourishes (deconstructions, unorthodox fusions) — than others.
What remains paramount, at least in Andrés’ eyes, is not just honoring the spirit of all the painstakingly reclaimed dishes but carrying that undying respect forward with every lift of our collective fork.
“My goal is to have every member of Congress, of the administration, coming to dine with us. To put the history of our food on the plate in front of them. To have them consider the current food issues of our nation. And to think about solutions for the future,” Andrés said.