6 Great Food Museums: Food as Art, Or Not

Gelato at Gelato Bar

Guzzle & NoshGelato at Gelato Bar

Last week, the Carpigiani Gelato Museum opened in Anzola dell'Emilia, Italy, just outside Bologna; the first in the world, it says, to "delve into the history, culture, and technology of artisan gelato." Inside, you'll learn about the history of the frozen treat, from an 11th century recipe for pomegranate sorbet to a collection of gelato machines. We don't know if the museum also pays tribute to the role of gelato on the liberated woman's journey to self-discovery, but we certainly hope so.

Gelato is the subject of just one of many, many museums dedicated to the food we eat (or, sometimes, don't). Turn the page for a few amusing, sometimes amusingly serious, museums of food.

Pizza from Pizzanista

Anne FishbeinPizza from Pizzanista

6. Pizza Brain in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania:

Last month, the world's first pizza museum opened in Philadelphia, a Kickstarter project-turned-reality complete with the "world's largest" collection of pizza-related memorabilia. After a requisite run up the Rocky Steps, then, you can drop into the museum and check out slices of pizza history, including the soundtrack from that other Julia Roberts classic, Mystic Pizza. Next door, an "artisan pizzeria" offers pies with various toppings.

5. Kool-Aid Exhibit in Hastings, Nebraska:

At the Hastings Museum's Kool-Aid exhibit, you'll learn all about the official soft drink of Nebraska: Namely, that it was invented in Hastings in 1927 by one Edwin Perkins (a relentless inventor, he also invented "Nix-O-Tine" to help smokers stop smoking). According to the museum, Perkins "had a dream to become a self-employed business success -- and he discovered his dream through hard work and a little ingenious marketing." The exhibit is aptly titled "Discover the Dream" and features "the original Kool-Aid Man costume worn in the television commercials" for those fascinated, as opposed to frightened, by an oversized glass pitcher with a smug mug. After you have discovered the dream, you'll probably have some time to explore other installations in the museum: Rocks, Minerals and Fossils, perhaps, or People on the Plains.

Cup Noodles

[puamelia]/FlickrCup Noodles

4. Cup Noodles Museum in Yokohama, Japan:

Because every food museum ought to have some sort of theme, the Cup Noodles Museum focuses on "Creative thinking." That would be in reference to the "creative thinking" -- and lack of sleep -- that led Momofuku Ando to invent the world's first instant ramen: "In a little shed behind his home in the town of Ikeda, Osaka Prefecture, Momofuku started work on a invention for quickly making ramen at home by just adding hot water. He worked alone, sleeping only four hours a night and without a day off for an entire year." After going to the United States and observing "supermarket managers breaking up Chicken Ramen noodles, putting them in a cup, pouring in hot water, and then eating them with a fork," Ando created Cup Noodles. At the museum, you'll find all sorts of fun exhibits, including a "faithful recreation" of Ando's work shed and a Chicken Noodle Factory where you can make your own ramen.

At the Kimchi Museum

ecodallaluna/FlickrAt the Kimchi Museum

3. Kimchi Museum in Seoul, Korea:

Established in 1986, the Pulmuone Kimchi Musuem is devoted to kimchi ("the archetypal Korean food), and its stated goal is to be an authority on all things kimchi, using information "selected based on accurate historical facts and objective evidence, to the people of the world who live in a deluge of information." At the museum, then, you'll learn about the various types of kimchi and marvel over a collection of Joseon Dynasty-era jars used for storage. You'll also run into a mannequin dressed as a Korean woman, holding out a piece of radish kimchi to no one in particular. What you do here is between you and your iPhone.

Burnt toast, a candidate for the Burnt Food Museum

alanwoo/FlickrBurnt toast, a candidate for the Burnt Food Museum

2. Burnt Food Museum:

In a recent New Yorker piece on the Tate Gallery, museum director Nicholas Serota noted the changing face of the curator in the age of Pinterest: Rather than passively accepting the opinions of art experts, "people have got used to pulling stuff off the Web and assembling their own picture of the world." Which brings us to the Burnt Food Museum, a site best characterized as Tastespotting's evil twin. As founder Deborah Henson-Conant explained to an NPR intern back in 2008, the museum "is not just about the food. It's really a chance at redemption." In this celebration, rather than condemnation, of both the process of distraction and its results, you'll find burnt gems like vegan brownies that don't appear burnt but serve as a "reminder that the soul of burnt-food exists within even the least-burnt-looking of life's culinary gems" and a failed attempt to warm a tortilla over an open gas flame (title of exhibit: "Don't Try This If You're Not from California").

A potato anomaly

Monster Pete/FlickrA potato anomaly

1. Museum of Food Anomalies:

If the char on your burnt toast looks vaguely like Mitt Romney, and you don't want to send it to the Burnt Food Museum (because they already have burnt toast and redundancy in art is overrated), send it instead of this Museum of Food Anomalies, an online archive of the "Art of Regular Food Gone Horribly Wrong." Here, you'll find instances of pareidolia in everyday food: There's the requisite Jesus sighting (on a banana), pickles with happy faces, and, in a particularly meta twist, a French fry that is a dead ringer for Mr. Peanut.

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