In addition to its famous art museums, New York City is home to a Troll Museum, a sex museum, a Girl Scout Museum, an elevator museum, a museum of Morbid Anatomy, and a museum housing all the animals of the Torah in taxidermy form, to name just a few of its weirder cultural institutions. But it lacks a museum devoted to that most universal of human interests: food.
That will change in October, when the Museum of Food and Drink opens its first permanent location, the 5,000-square-foot Mofad Lab, in Williamsburg. It will feature rotating exhibitions devoted to the history, science, culture, production, and commerce of food, complete with tastings and live demonstrations.
Its first exhibition, “Flavor: Making It and Faking It,” will be a multisensory exploration of the $25 billion flavor industry. It will span from the industry’s origins, with the transformation of vanilla from expensive spice to mass-manufactured commodity, to its current state, in which MSG manufacturers have used seaweed to create a “new understanding of deliciousness.” Visitors will learn how their nose and tongues sense flavor molecules, how to create aromas using Mofad’s “smell synth,” and how to deconstruct the flavor of a strawberry and put it back together again.
The museum has been nearly a decade in the making. “Why isn’t there a museum devoted to food at the same level of something that’s like the Natural History Museum or the Smithsonian?” founder and president David Arnold told CNN of his vision in 2012. “If I want to learn about you, I’m going to go to your house and we’ll break bread. We’ll have dinner. Then I feel like I’ll know who you are. And it’s that idea that we can experience cultures through what we eat and how we eat and the history of how we eat. That (idea) needs a museum because you can’t eat on TV. You can’t read about food and have tasted it.”
As part of their effort to offer a holistic view of the history and culture of food, the museum’s curators will take care to avoid any sponsorship from Big Food corporations–the exhibits will never be promotions for McDonald’s or Kellogg’s.
Mofad Lab has space to host one exhibit at a time. It’s a precursor to what executive director Peter Kim hopes will be the world’s first full-fledged food and drink museum, on the scale of the Smithsonian or the Museum of Modern Art.“When you think of the full museum as a restaurant, Mofad Lab is a test kitchen,” Kim told the New York Times. They’re aiming to open a 30,000-square-foot space that could host three shows and a restaurant sometime in the next few years.
Presale tickets for Mofad Lab will be available September 28th.
[via The New York Times]