Exploring the world's food museums

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01 August 2011
  • The museum is housed in the 19th-century building that was once the most powerful Butter Exchange in Europe; An old butter churnPickled herring even finds it way onto the breakfast menu in Iceland.The Icelandic Herring Era MuseumKiwi360 fights the Australian monopoly on big things attractions

Celebrating establishments that go beyond the call of duty when it comes to the scholarly study of eating obsessions.

Chopsticks Museum, Shanghai, China
191 Duolun Lu, near Sichuan Lu, Metro Line 3 Dongbaoxing Lu Station, Shanghai, China.
+86 21 5671 7528 (call ahead to make an appointment).
This museum is probably the smallest on the list and is the inspired creation of octogenarian writer Lan Xiang. His collection of more than 2000 pairs of kuaizi is displayed in a cabinet (the most valuable ones are stashed away in a vault) and includes a gilded silver set from the Tang dynasty. And yes, he’s written a book on the utensils, Chinese Chopsticks.

The Icelandic Herring Era Museum
Snorragata 15, S-580 Siglufjördur, Iceland
Open June 20 to August 15 10am to 6pm and during spring and autumn 1pm to 5pm.
Siglufjörður, Iceland’s most northerly town, is dramatically set along a beautiful fjord just 40 kilometres from the Arctic Circle and was the herring capital of the North Atlantic from 1900 to the late 1960s. Its Icelandic Herring Era Museum is the country’s largest maritime museum and celebrates the glory days of this fishing region. The oldest museum building, built in 1907, features an exhibition on herring salting.

Shinyokohama Ramen Museum
2-14-21 Shin-Yokohama, Kohoku-ku, Yokohama, Japan.
(3 minutes from JR Shin-Yokohama station). Shin-Yokohama is 45 minutes by train from central Tokyo or 15 minutes if you take the bullet train.
The highlight of this museum is the kitsch underground recreation of a 1958 street where you can dine at Japan’s top ramen chains’ outlets. You can also learn some vital ramen facts: such as the birth of the cup noodle (considered by some Japanese as their greatest invention of the 20th century) and stock up on weird and wonderful souvenirs at the shop.

The Chili Museum (Museo del Peperoncino), Pizzo, Italy
Via San Francesco 2, Pizzo 89812, Italy
June 1 to September 30: 5pm – midnight weekdays; Sat & Sun: 10am - 1pm
and 4pm - 7pm
Pizzo is 109 kilometres south-east of Diamante, site of the region’s September Festival de Peperoncino.
You’d think Mexico or the USA would be the obvious choice but the world’s only shrine to all things chili is located in a former duke’s palace in a Calabrian town. There are several varieties grown locally and you will find the fiery devils in dishes such as ciambotta (a stew of eggplant, peppers, potatoes and tomatoes), the salami soppressata, and even wine.

Te Puke, New Zealand
This attraction dedicated to the national superfood, is in the Bay of Plenty in the North Island, approximately 171 kilometres from Auckland. Upon arrival you can climb into a KiwiCart for a tour of the horticultural theme park. There is also a café and restaurant (we recommend a kiwi muffin or the fresh kiwi juice) a shop, and, of course, a giant kiwi.

The Pulmuone Kimchi Field Museum
Gangnam-gu Samseong-dong 159 COEX MALL B2, Seoul, South Korea.
The garlic, onions and chili of Korean pickled cabbage can pack an antisocial punch but this condiment is purported to help maintain a healthy weight, eliminate cholesterol and promote intestinal health. This museum explores the health benefits of kimchi and its cultural context, educating both Koreans and tourists.

Cork Butter Museum
The Tony O’Reilly Centre,
 O’Connell Square, Cork,
This museum in the historic area of Shandon in Cork City documents Ireland’s most important food export: The Cork Butter Exchange became the largest butter market in the world in the 19th century and the development of ‘butter roads’ is traced while the commercial and social life of Ireland is recalled. There are displays of home butter making and the Kerrygold brand, a creamy butter called: ‘The Pot of Gold at the End of the Rainbow.’

The Tomato Museum (Corte di Giarola)
Strada Giarola, Collechio (just outside of Parma), Italy.
+39 521 228 152.
The Tomato Museum is the brainchild of Parma’s Museums of Foods, which operates three museums in this abundant and picturesque province of Italy famed for its ham, salami, parmesan, vegetables, and local eateries. Lesser known is that Parma had a leading role in the development of the tomato canning business in the 1920s. The monastic farmstead dates back to the 11th century and retains stalls, a dairy, pig raising facilities and a 19th century tomato-preserving factory.

Vlamingstraat 33, Bruge, Belgium.
While many believe that Saint Teresa of Ávila (1515-1582) may have fried the first chips in Spain, the Belgians have a fervour for fries that almost begs disbelief, with countryman Chris Verschueren holding the 2010 Guinness World Record for non-stop French fry making following an 83-hour marathon. The controversial history (France vs Belgium) of the fry is uncovered at Frietmuseum, set in one of Bruges’ most beautiful medieval buildings.

Pizza Brain Pizzeria and Pizza Museum
2313 Frankford Avenue.
Philadelphia, USA.
The world's first pizza culture museum is scheduled to open in the USA spring 2012. Co-founder Brian Dwyer will display his groaning pizza memorabilia collection and the sustainable pizza joint will have arcade games, a mural (featuring icons of the city at a pizza party), and a performance space. Dwyer’s parents owned a pizzeria and he believes: “Pizza brings people together. Fried chicken party? It doesn’t have the same feel.”

Melissa Pearce


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