9 of the World’s Most Delicious Food and Drink Museums
Rebecca Fishbein |
June 19, 2018
From cheese in Amsterdam to pasta in Italy, there’s a good chance your favorite food has its very own museum.
Though museums dedicated to food aren’t new, over the last two decades they’ve become quite en vogue, thanks to the combined rise of foodie culture and social media, which together have helped create fad foods and popularize interactive exhibitions.
Whether old or new, there are food museums all over the world, from New York to the Netherlands to Italy’s food-rich Emilia-Romagna region. Here are 9 of the most delectable ones.
Museo della Pasta, Parma, Italy
image courtesy i Musei del Cibo
Italy’s official pasta museum, the Rome-based Museo Nazionale delle Pasta Alimentari, is currently closed. Luckily, the country has more than one shrine to its national food — enter the Museo della Pasta in the province of Parma, which provides visitors with an in-depth look at the historical significance and production of pasta over its multi-century existence. The museum is housed in the medieval Corte di Giarola alongside the Museo del Pomodoro (Tomato Museum), both of which are part of Parma’s five-museum Musei del Cibo (Museums of Food) circuit.
“Introduced in Italy from the Middle East, pasta was for centuries a food reserved for soldiers, sailors, and merchants,” says Giancarlo Gonizzi, the director of the Musei del Cibo. “In the 19th century in Naples, local production was widespread, and pasta became a popular, low-cost street food. From here, pasta conquered the world.” Exhibits at the Museum of Pasta include a survey of the agricultural tools used to harvest wheat for pasta, a reconstructed grinding mill, a replica of a 19th-century industrial pasta factory, and lots of pictures, paintings, and advertising leaflets. “The food, with its long history, surely deserves a museum to tell it,” Gonizzi says.
Museo del Prosciutto di Parma, Parma, Italy
image courtesy i Musei del Cibo
Another member of the Musei del Cibo circuit, the Museo del Prosciutto di Parma is located in the former Foro Boario of Langhirano, where people once bargained for livestock. The museum delves into the history and production of prosciutto, Italy’s signature ham. “Before the Po Valley was conquered by the Romans, the Celts lived here and raised pigs,” Gonizzi says. “They preserved the meat using precious salt, which was extracted from the salt water wells of Salsomaggiore, a town in the hills of Parma.” Thus prosciutto was born.
The 500-square-foot museum is split into sections, one covering the area’s terrain and pig population, another focusing on the different types of salt and salt extraction, and a third featuring the tools and techniques used to prepare sausages. There’s also a historical delicatessen and tastings of local delicacies.
Hollands Kaasmuseum, Alkmar, Netherlands
image courtesy Kaasmuseum
The Hollands Kaasmuseum, or Dutch Cheese Museum, is a small volunteer-run operation that focuses on Edammer and Gouda cheeses, two of the Netherlands’ biggest exports. The museum is housed in the 500-year-old Waaggebouw building located off of Alkmar’s Waagplein Square, and it features exhibits on cheesemaking, historical cheese markets, and a survey of rural life in the Netherlands, along with ancient cheese-related artifacts. The Kaasmuseum also offers a number of interactive presentations, games, and plenty of cheese samples for visitors to enjoy.
Deutsches Currywurst Museum, Berlin, Germany
image courtesy Deutsches Currywurst Museum Berlin
One of Berlin’s signature foods is currywurst, a fast-food dish consisting of fried pork sausage topped with curry powder. The Currywurst Museum, located near the city’s famed Checkpoint Charlie, opened in 2009 and uses interactive exhibitions to celebrate the dish’s cult status. Visitors can check out a walk-in snack stand that digs into the history of Berlin’s curried-sausage stands, step into a spice chamber that emanates different curry-related aromas, wander through a simulated kitchen that explores the culinary scene of the 1940s, when currywurst was invented, and sit inside an “Eco-cube” that discusses currywurst’s ecological benefits.
The museum also features currywurst-related documentaries, a gift shop, and a “Currymat” where visitors can sample different kinds of currywurst. Visitors can also listen to songs about sausage and learn about the food’s cultural importance. “No other fast food has ever been such an inspiration for songwriters, authors, comedians, artists, and their different requirements,” says Bianca Wohlfromm, the museum’s spokesperson. “Currywurst means simplicity and honesty, being in the world, down-to-earth — yet special.”
National Mustard Museum, Middleton, Wisconsin
image courtesy Barry Levenson
The National Mustard Museum got its start in the wee hours of October 28, 1986. “The night before, my beloved Boston Red Sox had just lost the World Series to the Mets,” says Barry Levenson, the museum’s founder. “I was very depressed. I went to my car, went to an all-night supermarket, and just walked up and down the aisles.” He decided he needed a hobby to distract himself, and he spotted a bottle of mustard. “I heard this voice that said, ‘If you collect us, they will come.’” Levenson, then Wisconsin’s assistant attorney general, started gathering mustards from all over the world, and in 1992, he left his full-time gig to start the National Mustard Museum.
Now the free museum boasts more than 6,000 different mustards, including a coffee dill mustard from Sweden, a French mustard that looks like sparkly gold, fruit mustards, beer mustards, and mustards hailing from as far away as Azerbaijan. “It’s a condiment that just seems to have resonated everywhere,” Levenson says. Visitors can scope the mustard collection and ornate mustard jars, learn about the condiment’s history, peruse mustard art that parodies famous paintings, and sample mustard varieties at the gift shop.
The Butter Museum, Cork, Ireland
image courtesy Roland Paschhoff/The Butter Museum, Cork
Ireland’s most significant food export, it turns out, isn’t beer — it’s butter, which Ireland produces and sends out to countries all over the world. The Cork Butter Museum, located in a several-century-old building in the city’s Shandon neighborhood, traces butter’s history in Ireland, including the country’s role in the 19th-century International Butter Exchange and the rising popularity of Kerrygold, one of Ireland’s biggest butter companies.
Highlights include a massive collection of butter wrappers, butter trade artifacts, and a thousand-year-old piece of bog butter. “Burying butter in a bog is an established practice in Ireland,” says Peter Foyle, the Butter Museum’s curator. “The oldest butter in the world is Irish bog butter, dated circa 1700 BCE. Our example is only from 1000 CE, but it is a fine piece and emblematic of an entire culture reaching back millennia.”
Museo Branca, Milan, Italy
The Branca distillery in Milan
The Branca Museum, conceived by Niccoló Branca, the fifth-generation head of Fernet-Branca, is located in the amaro’s original distillery, which has been in Milan since 1910. The collection includes 500 barrels that have helped distill Fernet-Branca over the last 173 years, as well as vintage Fernet-Branca-branded memorabilia, classic Fernet-Branca bottles, and a wide array of Fernet-Branca advertisements and promotional materials from throughout the company’s history.
There is also a hall of portraits, showing the Branca family over many decades. Edoardo Branca, the sixth-generation descendant of Fernet-Branca founder Bernardino, walks down that hall every time he goes into his Milan office. “It’s very emotional,” he says. “You have this feeling of your whole family looking over your shoulder. They give [me] help in [my] everyday work.”
Museum of Ice Cream, various U.S. cities
image courtesy of Walter Wlodarczyk
The Museum of Ice Cream made waves when it debuted as a pop-up in Manhattan in 2016, and it has since gone on to host installations in Miami, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. The Instagram-friendly museum, which tailors each pop-up to its specific city, invites visitors to photograph themselves and their friends in colorful ice-cream-and-candy-themed exhibits, including a rock-candy cave, a rainbow sprinkle swimming pool, a carnival room with an animal cracker carousel, and a mint jungle. Plus there’s plenty of real-life ice cream to sample, with local offerings like a key lime pie ice cream in Miami and goods from Chinatown Ice Cream Factory in New York.
The Egg House, New York, New York
image courtesy The Egg House
Another Instagram-friendly offering, the pop-up Egg House made its way to Manhattan in April 2018, presenting an immersive, multisensory experience for fans of all things ova. Exhibits housed inside life-sized rooms tell the story of Ellis the Egg, who was born from a sunny-side flower and eventually wound up on the Lower East Side. Highlights include an egg ball pit, an egg swing, an egg bedroom where Ellis sleeps, and a variety of egg treats, from socks to snacks, that you can purchase from local vendors.
Watch artists playing with their food in very creative ways here.
To get to know the elaborate, messy world of edible art, go here.
To read about artists reimagining restaurants, click here.
For a French-trained chef doing very playful things with cookies, head here.