The Food Column: Anticipating the History Center's new Heinz exhibit

We’re celebrating tomatoes here at Post-Gazette Food & Flavor this week, and in a sense, they’re celebrating them – primarily in the form of ketchup – over at the Heinz History Center, too.

This Saturday, Sept. 6, the Strip District center debuts a new exhibit focusing on Pittsburgh’s storied H.J. Heinz Co. Upon leaving from the elevator, visitors to the new fourth-floor exhibit will see a 10½-foot ketchup bottle made up of more than 400 individual ketchup bottles. It’s a photo-op piece and a nod to the product that is perhaps most closely associated with this city, aside from the obvious steel.

One of the exhibit’s highlights is a timeline of Heinz products and packaging spanning 100 years from the first product, horseradish, which came out in 1869. It’s a chance for visitors to see how Heinz products changed over the years and how the company influenced what people ate. For instance, in the 1890s, Heinz came out with more “exotic” canned fruits, such as pineapple, in order to compete with home canning, curator Emily Ruby said.

Some of the more unusual products visitors will see include mincemeat and ketchups made from products other than tomatoes. Nowadays, we just assume “tomato” when we say “ketchup,” but early ketchups were made from walnuts, anchovies, mushrooms and other foods.

Other exhibit highlights include:

• “Heinz at the Table,” an interactive table where visitors can pull products off the shelves, set them on the table and trigger videos about the products. This exhibit focuses more on how Heinz products are used in different cultures; for instance, a can of baked beans triggers a video about how baked beans are eaten more in British society than anywhere else in the world.

• A look at Henry John Heinz, the man behind the company, who lived from 1844 to 1919 and first sold produce from his mother’s garden in Sharpsburg. He was an innovator in advertising and marketing, so the exhibit also looks at some of the more unique Heinz advertising promotions over the years, including World’s Fair exhibits, Heinz Pier in Atlantic City, pickle pins and modern-day commercials.

• Details about the Heinz factory on the North Side, which when it opened was very innovative and drew engineers and designers from around the world for tours, Ms. Ruby said. Mr. Heinz was reportedly concerned about strikes and wanted his employees to be happy, so he added amenities such as a roof deck for employees to stroll on lunch breaks and an auditorium for concerts.

The History Center has held the Heinz archives, consisting of more than 3,000 artifacts, since the early 1990s, so this exhibit represents an effort to cull the best and most interesting and put them out for public display.

On opening day this Saturday, the History Center’s first 57 visitors will receive free admission. During opening weekend (Saturday and Sunday), all visitors will be able to enter a raffle for four Steelers tickets for the Sept. 28 game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. And for the first 57 days of the exhibition (through Nov. 1), all museum visitors will receive free Heinz pickle pins.

Heinz products, such as ketchup t-shirts, holiday ornaments and cookbooks, will now be sold in the museum gift shop.

For more information, go to


Preserving the Season: Susanna Meyer, author of “Saving the Seasons: How to Can, Freeze, or Dry Almost Anything,” and Danielle Marvit of Pittsburgh Canning Exchange demonstrate ways to freeze and dry herbs, make refrigerator pickles and jam, and otherwise preserve the season’s bounty. 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 10, at East End Food Co-Op, Point Breeze. Free, but $10 donation suggested to Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture. Reservations: 412-242-3598.

Healthy Heritage Cooking Series: Learn to can fruits and vegetables straight from the garden with the head chef of Legume Bistro. 11 a.m. or 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 13, at Heinz History Center, Strip District. Free with museum admission.


St. Alphonsus’ Harvest Home Dinner & Festival: Sit-down dinner with produce donated by Shenot Farm, Soergel Orchards, Wexford Farms and Eichner’s Family Farm, plus a country store, game booths, raffles, auction, children’s games. 1 to 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 7, at St. Alphonsus Church in Pine. Dinner is $13 for adults and $7 for children.

Lebanese Food Festival: Baked chicken, kibbee, falafel, grape leaves, hummus, lamb kebabs, spinach pie and other Lebanese favorites. 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday, Sept. 12, and Saturday, Sept. 13; noon to 6 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 14. Our Lady of Victory Church Hall, Carnegie.

Mother Earth News Fair: Sustainable lifestyle event with demos and workshops on small-scale agriculture, gardening, green building, renewable energy, green transportation and more, plus vendor displays. Noon to 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 12; 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 13; and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 14, at Seven Springs. $20 for one day; $25 for full weekend.

A Taste of Dormont: Wines from six Pennsylvania wineries, a couple brews, food from local restaurants, music, auctions and raffles. 5 to 9:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 13, at Dormont Pool. $30.

Charitable campaigns

Social Dish: Back in the spring, The Food Column featured Social Dish, a contest and promotion that ran this summer in several local restaurants (see column here:

Participating restaurants designed signature appetizers using locally grown basil. Diners who ordered the appetizers triggered $1 donations to the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank; they also had the opportunity to rate the restaurants’ food and service. Ten restaurants participated, and the winner, with the highest customer ratings, was the Strip District’s Gaucho Parrilla Argentina.

The effort raised $500 for the Food Bank.

Look for another Social Dish competition next fall.

Restaurant-to-Restaurant Ice Bucket Challenge: Several local restaurants used social media to challenge each other to an Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS last month. Participating restaurants were Cioppino, Osteria 2350, Donato’s Fox Chapel, Braddock’s American Brasserie, 3 Rivers Restaurant in The Wyndham Downtown, and Monterey Bay Fish Grotto. The restaurants raised more than $500 for ALS research.


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