Food can be so visually appealing that there are museums around the world dedicated to a certain dish, ingredient, or cuisine. The Peking Duck Museum at Beijing’s Quanjude Restaurant made headlines last year when it was hatched, in time to coincide with the restaurant’s 150th anniversary, to trace the imperial origin of the roasted entrée. And in 2016, the mighty SPAM Museum is scheduled to reopen in downtown Austin, Minn.
If you’re hungry for more, here’s a list of food museums worth sampling:
Southern Food & Beverage Museum (Photo: Southern Food & Beverage Museum)
As a centerpiece for displaying the history of Southern food and drink, this New Orleans-based museum celebrates the cultures and the preparers who have contributed to this region’s culinary heritage for centuries. Artifacts include a vintage Café Brûlot set from Antoine’s Restaurant, antique oyster tongs from Maryland, Parkway Bakery’s Po’ Boy miter box, and an 1851 wooden bar from Bruning’s Restaurant. Recently, SoFAB unveiled an exhibit on the history of barbecue in America and its various preparations. And, of course, New Orleans has a special place here: A gallery showcases the city’s flavorful legacy as well as Louisiana’s unique cuisine.
Gingerbread - Żywe Muzeum Piernika — Toruń, Poland
Make your own creations at this gingerbread factory. (Photo: Żywe Muzeum Piernika)
This northern Polish city has lengthy culinary ties to Pierniki, a traditional gingerbread that was been made as far back as medieval times. As a tribute to those who baked this special treat, Żywe Muzeum Piernika transports visitors back to a 16th-century gingerbread factory for a full-on demo that gets their hands doughy. From sieving flour to casting molded shapes, apprentices might even get to finish off their work with some icing! Other museum insights include showing how the traditional, hands-on baking process switched gears due to the Industrial Revolution.
Frietmuseum — Bruges, Belgium
Where’s the big ketchup bottle? (Photo: Frietmuseum)
Fries may have a French-sounding name, but these potato strips actually were invented in Belgium. Luckily we have the Frietmuseum to answer how this universal side order came to be. This educational center first explains the history behind the potato — the key ingredient — which has been traced back as far as 10,000 years ago and has been found in tombs in Peru and Chile. It also shows how this once-wild plant was cultivated and made its way from Peru to Europe. The second part of the museum focuses on the Belgian origin of fries and gives tips on how to make really good ones.
Shin-Yokohama Raumen Museum — Yokohama, Japan
Take a gander at the city streets, inside. (Photo: The Shin-Yokohama Raumen Museum)
As a theme park for Japan’s notable noodle soup dish, this ramen institution has a replicated streetscape featuring nine renowned ramen shops from different regions to order from. The scenery is set in 1958 period style to commemorate the year when instant ramen was invented. The gift shop is stocked with goods like chopsticks, bowls, and utensils for preparing ramen at home. And you can pick up some candy from Dagashi-ya on Yu-yake Shoten (Sunset Shopping Street), an old-fashioned sweet shop.
National Mustard Museum — Middleton, Wis.
The cutest mustard container ever! (Photo: National Mustard Museum)
At this museum, there’s a whole lot of mustard to behold. Its collection counts approximately 5,676 mustards, from all 50 states and more than 70 counties. After having a late-night epiphany in a supermarket, founder and curator Barry Levenson decided to quit his job in the early 1990s and set forth on pursuing his mustard-infused dream. Over the years, his mustard medley grew to include antique pots and memorabilia, such as advertisements. Visitors can sample mustards and buy them, along with other condiments, from the gift shop.
Deutsches Currywurst Museum — Berlin, Germany
The currywurst is the sausage you never knew you needed. (Photo: Deutsches Currywurst Museum)
What exactly is currywurst? It’s a German fast-food order of pork sausage that’s boiled, then fried, and covered with curry ketchup. But this interactive museum near Checkpoint Charlie lets you in on more than the recipe. Invented in the late 1940s by a woman named Herta Heuwer, the dish has earned national fame, with featured roles on TV, in film, and even in music. The museum has a hands-on design. Visitors can chill out on a sausage-shaped sofa, then pretend to cook up currywurst and get sniffy at a spice chamber. Before leaving, get a taste of the real thing by ordering some from the snack bar.
Museu do Pão — Seia, Portugal
Who knew that bread could have such a history? (Photo: Museu do Pão)
Bread can be found across the globe, and the mission of Museum do Pão is to preserve and display objects relating to Portuguese bread. The 3,500-square-foot museum contains four exhibition rooms covering this staple’s tasty history and its social, religious, artistic, and even political aspects. A visual tutorial tells what goes into the cycle of making Portuguese bread, from grain to table, complete with a recreated bakery. The building even houses a grocery store where visitors can buy breads and other products and a massive library of books on bread, cuisine, and Portuguese history.
Cork Butter Museum — Cork, Ireland
Visit this museum in Ireland. It’s like butter. (Photo: William Murphy/Flickr)
This museum in Cork offers a multifaceted spread on Ireland’s history with butter and its success story as a top export. The ground-floor gallery features displays that trace the origins of early Irish dairy farming and cattle-raising (cows were valued like currency) and continues until butter became a major industry in the 20th century. Spot a 1,000-year-old butter keg, among other artifacts and photographs. The second part of the museum focuses on the once-mighty Cork Butter Exchange, a major international butter exporter.
Idaho Potato Museum — Blackfoot, Idaho
Travel to the capitol of spuds. (Photo: Idaho Potato Museum)
Idaho provides a lot of spuds, so it’s fitting that the state has a potato museum to salute its signature crop. And it’s starting off 2015 with a new (remodeled) skin. Built inside a century-old former train depot, the museum shows visitors quite a tater or two, including exhibits showcasing the evolution of the potato industry, from the time when the potato first sprouted in Idaho to the creation of the World’s Largest Potato Chip Crisp by the Pringles Company. Also catch the Idaho russet signed by former Vice President Dan Quayle (remember his famous spelling gaffe?), farm equipment, and, yes, potato heads!
Taiwan Nougat Creativity Museum — New Taipei City, Taiwan
See how tasty nougat is made. (Photo: Taiwan Nougat Creativity Museum)
Nougat was first introduced to Taiwan in 1956 through the company Salico Foods, and now this tourist factory lets visitors watch the candy being made throughout its production process. The well-stocked gift shop has a wide array nougats. Plus, you can learn more about local traditions through descriptions of Chinese wedding customs (the son of the company’s founder launched a wedding cake line) and examples of wedding and engagement gifts.
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