- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 8, 2011

✓ Exhibit: ‘What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam?’

Before the government told us margarine would give us cancer, it told us to eat at least one serving per day. “For health,” read the very first government food guide issued during World War II, “eat the basic 7 every day.” Among the seven were foods we’re used to seeing, including meats and grains, but also “butter and fortified margarine with added Vitamin A.” Fruits and veggies, meanwhile, were divided across three categories based on color: White (potatoes and bananas), red (tomatoes and grapefruit), and green and yellow (corn and peas). Which just goes to show that while first lady Michelle Obama’s foodocracy is annoying, it’s hardly unprecedented. In 1911, the National Bureau of Fisheries encouraged Americans to eat more carp by insisting that because some 43 million pounds of carp had been sold in 1910, that “somebody ate those carp, therefore the carp must be good to eat.” Posters disseminated during World War II warned military chefs that “overcooking destroys vitamins,” and up until 1996, Congress required all tea importers to have their wares inspected by the “National Board of Tea Experts.” While such slogans and policies have an expiration date, they live on in paper and film in this exhibit at the National Archives.

Through Jan. 3 at the National Archives, Constitution Avenue Northwest between Ninth and Seventh streets.

Phone: 866/272-6272.

Web: www.archives.gov/exhibits/whats-cooking.

Festival: Maryland Renaissance Festival

What was true for Gandhi is also true for Ren Fest: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” The only difference is that at Ren Fest, the fighting is choreographed, and the chucklers are secretly jealous they can’t attend. This is a place where anachronism is hip, where eating a turkey drumstick as messily as possible is the sign of a prince, not a slob, and where ancient entertainment — sword fights, fire-breathing, magic — will erase any doubt you may have that your time would have been better spent watching college football. This year’s Renaissance Festival features some modern delights as well, such as the Danger Committee (fresh from an appearance on “America’s Got Talent”); the nail-swallowing, glass-chomping Cheeky Monkey Sideshow; and contortionist Jonathan Burns, whose specialty is “flexible comedy.”

Through October, 1821 Crownsville Road, Crownsville, MD.

Phone: 800/296-7304.

Web: www.marylandrenaissancefestival.com.

Class: Intro to Improv

Everybody knows somebody who is just so funny, he/she/it should try his/her/its hand/claw in comedy. If you’re that person, or if that person is standing near you while you read this, now’s the chance to put that hypothesis to the test. Washington’s premier improv group, the Washington Improv Theater, is holding free intro to improv classes. WIT can’t promise you a recurring role on “30 Rock,” or that your classmates will laugh at everything you say, only “the tools to get yourself out of bad situations and into awesome ones.” That’s a pretty good deal.

Through Sept. 11 at Source, 1835 14th St. NW.

Phone: 202/204-7773.

Register online at www.washingtonimprovtheater.com.

Exhibit: ‘Landscape in Mind’

The recent unveiling of the new Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial was marred not just by Hurricane Irene, which derailed the commemoration ceremony, but also by the news that the statue was designed and manufactured by Chinese sculptor Lei Yixin. King’s aggressive stance and a garbled quote on the side of the statue were given extra heft when it was revealed that the artist had formerly designed a memorial for Chinese dictator Mao Zedong. As the foofaraw continues to rage, the National Art Museum of China is staging a relatively inoffensive landscape exhibit at the Kennedy Center. The work on display was created by China’s most accomplished (government-subsidized) artists, including Xu Jiang, Ding Yi and Wu Jian’An.

Through Oct. 30 at the Kennedy Center, 2700 F St. NW.

Phone: 202/467-4600.

Web: www.kennedy-center.org.

Book Talk: Debra Lattanzi Shutika

As any Washingtonian can attest, the problems and pleasures of illegal immigration aren’t restricted to the border states. Though thousands of miles from the Mexican border, the District is rich with Hispanic food joints and documented and undocumented workers alike. Debra Lattanzi Shutika, author of “Beyond the Borderlands: Migration and Belonging in the United States and Mexico,” would know. Her book begins with immigration to Herndon, Va., where “in 2005 it felt as if the border had moved into my backyard.” But rather than make a case for or against these changes, Miss Shutika instead looks at the way immigrant communities grow, ground themselves and assimilate into the culture of the U.S.

Sept. 14 at the National Portrait Gallery, Eighth and F streets NW.

Phone: 202/633-1000.

Web: www.npg.si.edu.