Take a Trip In Time, and Bring a Can Opener

While many contemporary food curricula are stressing fresh, seasonal produce, Dallas Heritage Village is readying an exhibit to teach children about the joys of tinned vegetables.

"We'll be looking at how amazing it is to have a can of tomatoes when it's not tomato season," says Evelyn Montgomery, curator of exhibits and collections. "It's a miracle to buy peas and carrots year-round. It's a completely different sense of luxury."

Tomatoes, peas and carrots will be among the food items lining the shelves of the museum's revamped general store, set for a soft opening next month. The store was supposed to open this week, but, Montgomery says, "I can't pull all-nighters at my age."

The general store marks the 42-year-old museum's first significant foray into hands-on learning. Children will be encouraged to role-play at the store, weighing beans and ringing up orders.

"We've learned children want to touch stuff," says Montgomery, who's furnished the circa 1900 store with reproductions and century-old original objects that still look plausibly new.

The goal of the exhibit is to instruct children in the differences -- and similarities -- between past and present meal preparation practices (According to Montgomery, both rely on Campbell's soups.) The next exhibit slated for upgrade is a farmhouse, where students will learn more about food production -- and how farmers might have traded surplus potatoes for canned tomatoes.

"We hope this will be an exciting education in how you manage to grow your supper," Montgomery says.

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