Museum travel experiences – food museums

A recent posting on Gastro Obscura (sibling to Atlas Obscura) included a compendium of 81 museums around the world that collect, interpret, and preserve food(s). I think the Museum of Food and Drink in New York (mofad.org) did not make the list. Nor did the Alimentarium in Switzerland (https://www.alimentarium.org/en). Actually, I’ve not visited either. I only learned of the New York institution during a stream of recent series of zoom rooms.

The long list transported me back to my past life of museum tourism, most of it as part of attending conferences overseas and … food museums. Food per se is another subject altogether!

Did you ever hear the old Dutch proverb with reference to the sacrifice of Isaac told in the bible (Genesis 22.6)? The saying is – “knowing where Abraham gets the mustard.” It means something like “getting it well.” Apparently, Isaac carried a bundle of wood up the mountain. ‘Mutsaard’ means ‘bunch of branches.’ The word was distorted to ‘mustaard’ and later to ‘mostaard.’ Finally it became ‘mosterd.’

Abraham in Groningen

On a long ago visit in the Netherlands we stopped at Abraham’s Mosterdmakerij and Restaurant (https://www.abrahamsmosterdmakerij.nl/en/). It’s not quite a museum, but the building was filled with displays of the history of the mustard factory. The US has its own National Mustard Museum in Wisconsin where visitors can see more than 5,000 contemporary and “historic” mustards from around the world  (https://mustardmuseum.com/). Actually, a student kindly shared photos of her visit there!

National Mustard Museum

The summer of 1995 found me in Norway for the triennial of the International Council of Museums (ICOM). I spent a few days touring Oslo, then traveled to Stavanger for our meetings. What a great time we had. One afternoon our Ethnographic Museum group visited the Norwegian Canning Museum (https://norskhermetikkmuseum.no/en/). What a great time learning about this important industry even though we were pressed into filling tins with sardines to experience the intensity of the work ladies endured in the past.

Speaking of sardines, grad school best friend and I traveled to Portugal for a conference on Intangible Cultural Heritage. While wandering the streets of Lisbon, we stumbled on a sign-board advertising an archeological site. We wandered through an interesting panel exhibit about Roman Lisbon then were guided underground to the remains of a Roman workshop for preserving and shipping local sardines. Amazing, they were found beneath a bank building and were now open to the public. No tasting at the exhibit!

2001 and I was on the road again with ICOM – meetings and museums, a great way to travel. It was summer in Barcelona. Wandering around the city on an afternoon off, I found the Chocolate Museum (http://www.museuxocolata.cat/?lang=en). I suppose their exhibits might be in flux in our age of “decolonializing.” The story of chocolate is entirely wrapped up with the colonization of the western hemisphere, the home of this amazing food. Many of the displays address how chocolate was brought to Europe by the Spaniards. Other exhibits are huge chocolate sculptures of everything from Asterix to chariot races, to Gaudi’s famous La Sagrada Familia.

On my first visit the price of admission included a chocolate cake or a cup of hot chocolate. The memory of the molten deliciousness remains on my palate! On my second visit, 10 years later, the admission ticket was a chocolate bar (the wrapper lives in a space on my desk!).

As you might have read in these blogs, I’ve had a number of opportunities to visit Korea and enjoy Korean food. I got an almost overwhelming introduction during my first visit in 2004, again for an ICOM meeting. Our conference was held at the COEX, a huge high rise center filled with offices, meeting rooms, shops, and somewhere in the basement the Museum Kimchikan. The displays included small dioramas showing the kimchi-making process, tasting stations, also hands-on activities. It has since moved at least once.

On a more recent trip to Korea, our study tour went to Incheon, close to the international airport of the same name. We toured the different international areas of the city to learn their histories. There, we were introduced to the amazing dish jajangmyeon (Noodles in Black Bean Sauce), an import from China is now thoroughly assimilated to Korean tastes, at the Jajangmyeon Museum. (https://www.afar.com/places/jajangmyeon-museum-incheon).

So many other museums on the long list caught my eye and my fancy. There are two Salt & Pepper Museums, one in Larnaca, Cyprus. The other is in Tennessee. Last year (see March 27, 2020 post) I wrote about such a display I saw in a museum in rural Ohio, while attending the Ohio Museum Association annual meeting. A Quonset hut was filled with row after row of private collections including salt and pepper shakers from the collection of a community member. I guess lots of people collect them.

Somehow while in Hungary a number of years ago we missed the Zwack Unicum Museum (https://www.budapestbylocals.com/zwack-museum/). I think this is more of a glorified tasting room devoted to a bitter Hungarian liquor; it’s promoted as Central Europe’s largest collection of mini-bottles. We did taste it and … it’s bitter.

The Indian River Citrus Museum in nearby Vero Beach, Florida made the Gastro Obscura list, too. Orange production remains important here. Row upon row of low orange trees in bloom is a favorite site when we drive across the state. I’ll have to put it on my growing list of places to visit once we can break out of the restraints of Hotel California.

Here’s the link to the so-called ultimate guide to the world’s food museums. Maybe you’ve also visited some or will put them onto your “must see” list:

2 comments

  1. There is a Currywurst Museum in Berlin near the Friedrichstrasse. It delves into the (contested) history of Currywurst and you get a sample to taste at the end,

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