From high-protein insects, consumed in countries such as Mexico, China, Thailand and Brazil, to fermented and rotting meats in Mongolia, Iceland and Italy, each culture straddles unique food traditions with everyday eats. Lounge takes a look at seven museums from around the world that showcase the history, flavours and textures of traditional specialities, lending insight into these countries’ culinary cultures.
Alimentarium–a nestlé foundation (Vevey, Switzerland)
Situated by Lake Geneva in Vevey, Alimentarium is the first museum in the world focused on the science of nutrition and food. It has been founded by Swiss consumer goods company Nestlé, and visitors can acquaint themselves with the eating habits of different countries and the scientific, cultural and artistic aspects of food, in an interactive way. The museum organizes cooking classes, exhibitions, gastronomic tastings, guided tours and more. A vegetable garden is used for nutrition-related workshops.
The emblem of the Alimentarium is an 8m-high fork which protrudes from Lake Geneva. This work of art holds the Guinness World Record as the world’s tallest fork.
Tickets, 13 Swiss franc (around ₹900)
Shinyokohama Ramen Museum (Yokohama, Japan)
Ramen is a Japanese dish consisting of broth, noodles and toppings. The base of the broth is meat or vegetables cooked for hours. Toppings depend on preference, such as meat, eggs, scallions, mushrooms and fried garlic. Located on the outskirts of Tokyo, the Shinyokohama Ramen Museum is a one-stop shop to experience the many varieties of ramen.
The first floor takes one through the history of the popular comfort food. The ground floor is a reproduction of a Japanese street market from 1958—the year instant ramen was invented. The nine shops there offer ramen dishes from different provinces of Japan. For those who want to sample different types of ramen, try “mini ramen”, a small portion of each shop’s most popular ramen.
Tickets, 310 yen (around ₹190)
Disgusting Food Museum (Malmö, Sweden)
This limited-time museum (31 October 2018–1 September 2019) presenting the most controversial foods from around the world is not for the faint-hearted. The Disgusting Food Museum is an induction into unfamiliar tastes and smells—making visitors confront their ideas of what is and is not appetizing. It is on at the Slagthuset MMX, an entertainment and concert venue in central Malmö.
Gourmands, travellers and the just plain inquisitive can smell novel and face-cringing scents and try selecting samples at the unusual grand-finale tasting bar. Eighty diverse food exhibits include frog smoothies and roasted guinea pig from Peru, maggot cheese from Sardinia, surströmming, the infamous putrid sea herring dish from Sweden, baby mice wine from China, and hákarl, or well-aged shark from Iceland.
Tickets, 185 Swedish krona (around ₹1,400)
Frietmuseum or Museum of French Fries (Bruges, Belgium)
Who doesn’t love crispy, melt-in-your-mouth French fries or potato fries? The Frietmuseum is the world’s first and only museum dedicated to French fries, or friet. Since fries were invented in Belgium, it is not surprising that the museum is located in that country. Comprising three sections, the Frietmuseum invites visitors to learn about the history of the potato (first grown in Peru about 10,000 years ago) and potato fries. There are approximately 400 fries-oriented exhibits. Visitors can appreciate artworks, including sketches of Bruges’ well-known frituur chip stalls, and learn the secret to making delicious potato fries. They can also sample a variety of potato fries at the museum.
Tickets, €7 ( ₹550)
Dutch Cheese Museum (Alkmaar, Netherlands)
This museum is devoted to cheese, the Netherlands’ biggest export, specifically its two famous cheeses, Edam and Gouda. Celebrated as “the city of cheese”, Alkmaar is a haven for cheese aficionados. At the Dutch Cheese Museum, visitors can learn about the history of cheese through historical objects and paintings on cheese preparation and life in the Netherlands countryside. It hosts educational treasure hunts and games for children, interactive demonstrations and screens movies.
The museum is located in one of Alkmaar’s oldest buildings, the 16th century cheese weigh house in Waagplein Square. In vibrant, cheese-inspired interiors, a super-sized model cow aids in the understanding of the milking process. In addition to the museum, people can also visit the nearby world-famous cheese market.
Tickets, €5 (around ₹400)
Museum of Food and Drink (New York City, US)
Discover the cultural significance of food at Brooklyn’s Museum of Food and Drink (Mofad), where visitors can taste, touch and smell food. The interactive, educational resource also operates Mofad Lab, a 5,000 sq. ft space where Chow: Making The Chinese American Restaurant is at present on display. Chow features chef-curated tastings, as well as an extensive collection of old Chinese-American restaurant menus. Visitors can submit their own fortune cookie advice, which is printed and baked inside a fresh batch of fortune cookies. These are then served to visitors.
Tickets, $14 (around ₹970)
Museum of Bread Culture (Ulm, Germany)
The museum was founded in 1955 by Willy Eiselen and the first exhibitions opened to the public in 1960. At present, it is managed by the Eiselen Foundation and houses over 16,000 objects and pieces showcasing bread through the ages. Exhibits include advancements in bread- making over the past few centuries and items highlighting the cultural, social and religious importance of bread. The museum even has a bread-related library comprising more than 6,000 books, as well as magnificent paintings displaying the long history of bread, by artists such as Markus Lüpertz, Salvador Dali, Käthe Kollwitz, Pablo Picasso, Georg Flegel, Max Beckmann, Man Ray and Ernst Barlach.
Tickets, €4 (around ₹310)