Food museums aren’t just for foodies. With food museums usually being located in places where the subject in hand is of significance, they are a great way of learning about an area’s history and culture. They are usually a hive of weird and wonderful facts, colorful stories and strange implements associated with the project so you can find some surprises. Food museums aren’t usually on the main tourist drag so if you visit one you are also supporting a local tourist economy. Fancy a browse around any of these food museums?
Like many food museums, this one has a natural home in the place where the product originated. Spam was invented in 1937 by Hormel Foods in Austin, Minnesota – a.k.a. Spam Town. For those of you who are wondering what is spam – it is a pre-cooked meat product in a can. It is a mixture of ham, pork shoulder, salt and sodium nitrate and, famously, was the most readily available meat to the Brits during the 2nd World War. The Spam Museum covers 16,500 square feet and is packed full of everything Spam. If you need assistance, a “Spambassador” will happily show you around. Naturally, there is a gift shop where you can load up on Spam.
Despite the name and French protestations, the Belgians claim ownership of the French Fry so naturally, one of their museums of food would be dedicated to the humble fried potato (known as chips in the UK). The museum is housed in a stunning 14th century building in the awesomely beautiful medieval city of Bruges and is owned by the same people who own Choco-Story – the chocolate museum, also in Bruges. If you’re wondering where the Belgian Museum of Beer is, that is to be found in Brussels.
If we’re going to talk fries, it’s only right that we include the potato in our selection of food museums. Another US museum, this time it is located in where else, but Idaho; in the town of Blackfoot to be precise – the “Potato Capital of the World.” Lovers of spuds will adore this place, from the huge sculpture of the baked potato out front to the history of the versatile tuber. The exhibits include the largest Pringle in the world, potato storage vessels from Peru that are 1,600 years old, and an amazing collection of potato mashers. Don’t miss out on “free taters for out of staters” if you don’t live in Idaho!
The curry dog first hit Berlin’s street in 1949, introduced by famed German hot dog and sausage maker Herta Heuwer – although back then she was just a street vendor. Things were still scarce in post-war Berlin and to make the now iconic sauce for the city’s favorite fast food, Herta mixed ketchup, curry powder and Worcestershire sauce that she got from British soldiers. The Currywurst Museum is dedicated to Berlin’s culinary emblem and exhibits include a sausage stall, the Spice Chamber and even the story of how biodegradable tableware is produced in the exhibit that explains the relationship between fast food and ecology.
One of the interesting museums dedicated to food in Asia is the Muzium Nanas in the Malaysian city of Pontian. With everything from the biology of the pineapple to the full story of the cultivation of the fruit in Malaya, the museum is very informative and you’ll learn more things about the pineapple than you ever could imagine. Did you know, for example, that there are at least 18 varieties of pineapple grown in Malaya – who knew! The exhibitions include the full story of how the pineapple goes from growing plant to processing plant, and there’s a rather extensive collection of artifacts and publications about the prickly fruit.
With it being such a favorite, there are a number of food museums in Japan dedicated to the ramen noodle – there’s one in Osaka for instance. However, the daddy of them all has to be Shin-Yokohama. More like a theme park than a museum homage to the noodle, there’s a marvelous food court set in a late 1958 Tokyo cityscape (the year the dish was invented) where you can try the iconic fast food from a whole range of top noodle houses from all over Japan, with many different styles and flavors of noodles and broths.
If you have ever been to Germany in the spring time, you will have noticed the abundance of asparagus. The Germans love it so much there’s an Asparagus Museum in the Bavarian town of Schrobenhausen. Housed in a medieval tower, the “royal vegetable” is celebrated with a wide range of exhibits and artifacts which even includes a painting of asparagus by Andy Warhol. The white variety is preferred over the green and Asparagus season is promoted with lots of public events and festivals and big promotion of asparagus dishes by restaurants.
Some food museums aren’t suitable for all audiences and the Jello-o Gallery in Le Roy, New York, is probably not the best destination for vegetarians, vegans and sensitive children. If you want to know how powdered gelatin is produced from slaughterhouse leftovers, this is the place to go. Jell-o was invented by a carpenter by the name of Pearle Watt back in 1897. After his recipe was sold, it became a smash in the USA and then spread worldwide. The museum is fairly small, but it is crammed full of tons of paraphernalia relating to the wobbly stuff. Of course, there a gift shop loaded with Jell-o related memorabilia and souvenirs.
There are food museums all over the world paying homage to everything, like bananas, mustard, kimchee (a South Korean dish), vinegar, et al. There’s even a museum of burnt food in Arlington, Massachusetts. Is there a museum dedicated to your favorite food?
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