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Author Cindy Ott Joins the National Park Service and Grant House Restaurant to Provide Pumpkin Food, Pumpkin History, and a Discussion and Book Signing of her New Book, Pumpkin: The Curious History of an American Icon

Pumpkin: The Curious History of an American Icon
The cover of Pumpkin: The Curious History of an American Icon

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News Release Date: November 15, 2012
Contact: Cassie Anderson, (360) 816-6247
Contact: Suzy Taylor, (360) 906-1101

The National Park Service and the Grant House restaurant partner to bring you an autumn evening all about pumpkins! Dine on pumpkin dishes while Dr. Cindy Ott discusses her new book, Pumpkin: The Curious History of an American Icon, in the cozy atmosphere of the Grant House restaurant, Tuesday, November 27, 6:00-7:00pm. Reservations required (360) 906-1101). Dr. Ott will be signing hardcover copies of the book throughout the evening, available for $30 cash, check, or credit.

About the Book, Pumpkin: The Curious History of an American Icon

Why do so many Americans drive for miles each autumn to buy a vegetable that they are unlikely to eat? While most people around the world eat pumpkin throughout the year, North Americans reserve it for holiday pies and other desserts that celebrate the harvest season and rural past. They decorate their houses with pumpkins every autumn and welcome Halloween trick-or-treaters with elaborately carved jack-o-lanterns. Towns hold annual pumpkin festivals featuring giant pumpkins and carving contests, even though few have any historic ties to the crop.

In this fascinating cultural and natural history, Cindy Ott tells the story of the pumpkin. Beginning with the myth of the first Thanksgiving, she shows how Americans have used the pumpkin to fulfill their desire to maintain connections to nature and to the family farm of lore, and, ironically, how small farms and rural communities have been revitalized in the process. And while the pumpkin has inspired American myths and traditions, the pumpkin itself has changed because of the ways people have perceived, valued, and used it. Pumpkin is a smart and lively study of the deep meanings hidden in common things and their power to make profound changes in the world around us.

"A harvest of precise, wide-ranging research, Pumpkin traces the historical roots twining beneath the pumpkin patch and modern farm-stand agriculture." - John R. Stilgoe, Harvard University

"An extraordinary scholar and storyteller, Cindy Ott tracks the culture that altered the very nature of the pumpkin-and in doing so, tells us a revealing story about ourselves. Her book is a new optic on the relation between food, environment, cultures, and markets, and is not to be missed." - Philip J. Deloria, author of Playing Indian and Indians in Unexpected Places

"When you scoop out that October pumpkin, you get lots of seeds, a mountain of pulp, and more than three centuries' worth of jumbo ideas about politics, men, women, modern life, and American identity." - Jenny Price, author of Flight Maps: Adventures with Nature in Modern America

About the Park, Fort Vancouver National Historic Site

Fort Vancouver National Historic Site is woven into the fascinating history of this squash. In many of the same areas that native peoples harvested acorns and other native plants and the Hudson's Bay Company produced European crops in its large corporate farm, small groups of American soldiers planted and nurtured company gardens with traditional American plants to complement the spartan Army diet. Even Ulysses Grant, after whom the Grant House restaurant is named, experimented with vegetable farming, but it proved unsuccessful.

The U.S. Army's relationship to the squash extends beyond Captain Ulysses Grant's era at Vancouver Barracks. Driven by the expansive philosophy of Manifest Destiny and the urge to demarcate and build the nation, the U.S. Army at Vancouver Barracks steered much of the industrial development in the west-churning the country away from the agrarian past of the pumpkin and onward into the twentieth century. As the U.S. Army, headquartered at Vancouver Barracks, laid more railroad tracts across the west and pursued greater wealth, land, and material goods, many urban Americans felt they were losing their connection to the natural world and to an authentic way of life. The pumpkin helped them rebuild those connections.

"Nestled next to this national park's newest additions - the 33 buildings of the East and South Barracks - the historic Grant House, built in 1850, is a supreme setting for this discussion of the history of both the pumpkin, and the park," says Cassie Anderson, park ranger.

About the Restaurant, The Grant House

The Grant House, tucked away on Officers Row in Vancouver's Historic Reserve, is a favorite among local diners. Family operated for the last seven years, The Grant House has been dubbed Vancouver's best kept secret.

Like the Pacific Northwest, The Grant House menu reflects a wide variety of cultural traditions from around the globe filtered through a unique vision and passion for great food.

Whether you're in the mood to relax with a glass of wine on the veranda, have a leisurely lunch on the garden patio, or join for dinner, service from one of the caring staff members is always an exceptional experience. There's no better time to experience the "secret" of The Grant House than on this themed evening of pumpkin food and pumpkin history.

About the Author, Dr. Cindy Ott

Cindy Ott is an Assistant Professor in the American Studies Department at Saint Louis University.  Her work explores the intersections of cultural identity, history and memory, and the natural and material worlds.

Dr. Ott's research and teaching interests have been strongly influenced by her work as a museum curator and public historian.  She has organized cultural history projects and art exhibitions at the Smithsonian Institution, community development and urban revitalization programs at the University of Pennsylvania and Saint Louis University, and historic preservation projects at the National Park Service.  She has also built alliances and partnerships between academia and nonprofit environmental groups as the communications director of Rachel's Network, a women's environmental organization. Dr. Ott is currently a consultant for the National Park Service, assisting national parks to develop or enhance their history programs.  She is also the graphics editor of the journal Environmental History and a regular grant review panelist for the National Endowment for the Humanities.

COST: Book talk is free; The Grant House menu prices vary. Hardcover copies of Pumpkin available for $30 cash, check, or credit.

WHEN: Tuesday, November 27, 6:00-7:00 p.m.

WHERE: The Grant House, 1101 Officers Row, Vancouver, WA 98661. Reservations required (360) 906-1101.

BACKGROUND: Fort Vancouver National Historic Site is one of the 398 national parks which make up the National Park System and it is located in both Washington and Oregon.This national park is also the heart of the Vancouver National Historic Reserve which is located in Vancouver, Washington. The Vancouver National Historic Reserve brings together a national park, a premier archaeological site, the region's first military post, an international fur trade emporium, one of the oldest operating airfields, the first national historic site west of the Mississippi River, and a waterfront trail and environmental center on the banks of the Columbia River. The partners of the Reserve teach visitors about the fur trade, early military life, natural history, and pioneers in aviation, all within the context of Vancouver's role in regional and national development. The National Park Service's vast array of public programs -- including living history events, festivals, cultural demonstrations, exhibits, active archaeology, and other special activities - serve communities in Washington and Oregon and create a dynamic, fun, and unique tourist destination for people of all ages.

-NPS-

Did You Know?

Image of the interior of the Fort Vancouver NHS collections facility

Did you know that Fort Vancouver National Historic Site curates over two million objects, relating to the American Indian, fur trade, and U.S. Army occupations of the site? More...