Thanksgiving: The Great American Holiday

 Presented by
Penelope Bingham


Podcast Courtesy of WBEZ’s Chicago Amplified

Nine out of ten Americans eat turkey on Thanksgiving, and most do so around a family table. Food and tradition are the heart and soul of this most-loved, most-observed holiday. Thanksgiving has become the origin myth of America and the expression of deeply held American cultural ideals. As it considers the evolution of Thanksgiving, from the “First Thanksgiving” in 1621 to the present day, this program invites the audience to think about what this holiday and its food traditions mean for American culture and identity.

Following lifelong passions for books and for cooking, Penelope Bingham began accumulating cookbooks over 40 years ago. Her personal collection of cookbooks now exceeds 2,000 volumes. She is particularly interested in the stories American cookbooks of the last two centuries about American culture and identity. She has given programs on American Cookbooks and Culture to libraries and cultural organizations throughout Illinois as a Road Scholar for the Illinois Humanities Council, as well as in conjunction with the Smithsonian’s traveling exhibition, “Key Ingredients: America By Food”. She has also addressed the International Association of Culinary Professionals, the Culinary Historians of Chicago, The Wednesday Club of the Newberry Library of Chicago, the Cookware Manufacturers Association, and home economists of Kraft Foods. Her work with American Cookbooks and Culture was recently featured in Chicago Magazine and on WBBM/TV’s “Table For Two”. Since 1990, she has been the volunteer “Cookbook Lady” for the Annual Book Fair of the Newberry Library of Chicago, preparing for sale the thousands of vintage cookbooks that are donated each year. Penelope holds degrees from Wellesley College and the University of Chicago. She is a member of the Culinary Historians of Chicago and the International Association of Culinary Professionals.

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