From curry sausages to fermented cabbage, this selection of shrines to humble and strange foodstuffs will titillate your tastebuds. This article is an excerpt from Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2013.
Pick Salami & Paprika Museum, Szeged, Hungary
You should never enquire too closely into how a sausage is made, and the same is probably true for salami. However, who could resist buying a ticket to a salami museum in a country famous for this tasty food? Within the Pick Salami & Paprika Museum, captions explain how salami is made, next to displays of industrial equipment operated by dummies wearing overalls, enormous moustaches and cloth caps. The upstairs section is devoted to paprika, the ever-present spice in Hungarian food. Price of entry includes a sample of the in-house salami.
The museum is only open from 3pm to 6pm from Tuesday to Saturday, so pick your arrival time carefully. More details at www.pickmuzeum.hu.
Sausages have long been a popular German food, but what’s the connection with curry? Enterprising Berliner Herta Heuwer obtained curry powder from British troops after WWII, then mixed it with ketchup to create a sauce which was a hit on top of wurst. Now this iconic Berlin snack has been given its very own museum. Within you can simulate the experience of running a currywurst stall, learn about the history of Heuwer’s original sauce, and view clips of German film and TV characters scoffing currywurst onscreen. You can also enter the Spice Chamber… if you dare.
The best value option is the Snack Ticket, including entry and a serve of currywurst. Visit www.currywurstmuseum.de.
Shinyokohama Raumen Museum, Yokohama, Japan
The popular noodle dish ramen (sometimes spelled raumen) can be found across Japan in a dazzling array of regional variations. It’s often topped with pork, fish, dried seaweed or green onions. This museum, which styles itself as a ‘food amusement park’, features a replica of a Tokyo streetscape of 1958, the year in which instant noodles were invented. However, this is the best type of food museum – the type in which you can eat the food. Within its walls are branches of ramen restaurants from across Japan, serving their own unique take on the tasty dish. Itadakimasu!
A one-off adult ticket is 300, but if you’re really keen a three-month pass is 500. See www.raumen.co.jp.
Pulmuone Kimchi Museum, Seoul, South Korea
Kimchi, usually made from spiced-up fermented cabbage, is an omnipresent dish in Korea. The crunch of the cabbage is complemented by the heat from red chillies, and the result is a side dish that goes well with all Korean cuisine. The Pulmuone Kimchi Museum celebrates this everyday food and its cultural pre-eminence via displays on its history, its many varieties, its regional variations and the jars it’s been stored in over the centuries. If you’re really keen, you can watch a film on how to make more than 80 types of kimchi.
The museum is located beneath the COEX Mall, 159 Samseong-dong, Gangnam-gu. Visitor guide at www.kimchimuseum.co.kr.
Jell-O Gallery, LeRoy, USA
When carpenter Pearle Wait invented a simple gelatine-based dessert in his home in LeRoy, New York in 1897, he had no idea how big his wobbly invention would get. He sold his recipe, and in the hands of clever marketers, Jell-O became a hit in the early 20th century. Recipe books were widely distributed, as the USA and eventually the world enthused over the just-add-water treat. The Jell-O Gallery presents displays on the history of the foodstuff, focusing on the stars of TV and radio who’ve promoted it over the years. There’s also a gift shop packed with jelly-related memorabilia.
The Gallery is located between Rochester and Buffalo. For a map and opening hours, see www.jellogallery.org.
Spam Museum, Austin, USA
In the days before unsolicited email, the Monty Python comedy team had fun creating a song in homage to this mundane processed pork product. Derived from the words ‘spiced ham’, canned Spam was first manufactured in 1937 and is celebrated in this museum in its home town of Austin, Minnesota. Within, you can learn about Spam’s heroic role in WWII, peruse old-fashioned advertising, have a go a canning the foodstuff and watch a movie about it. And it’s all for free. Just don’t spam your friends about it when you get home.
Swing by the Spam Museum from 10am to 5pm Monday to Saturday and from noon to 5pm on Sunday. Find out more at www.spam.com/games/Museum.
‘Do you want fries with that?’ might be one of life’s most mundane questions, but you can’t help but say yes when visiting this institution. Those humble fried strips of potato may be known as ‘French fries’ in the USA, but this museum insists that they originated in Belgium. Within are displays on the history of the potato, fries, and the sauces that Belgians like to put on them. The 14th-century building itself is part of the attraction, being a classic example of Bruges’ historic charms. You can even sample fries and other Belgian dishes here.
The museum is only 300m from the Central Market Place and its famous belfry. See www.frietmuseum.be.
Su No Sato Vinegar Museum, Handa, Japan
Vinegar has long been sprinkled on fish and chips in Britain, but it’s also been a popular condiment in Japan since the 5th century. In Handa, south of Nagoya, vinegar was created as a by-product of sake brewing, and the small town became prosperous by exporting it to Tokyo. Today Handa is home to the Su No Sato Vinegar Museum, adjacent to the Mizkan vinegar factory. Exhibits explain the history of vinegar making and its healthy aspects, along with traditional utensils used in its creation. A fermentation room demonstrates how to make the best vinegar.
From Nagoya, catch a train to Obu, then switch to Handa. The museum is at 2-6 Nakamura-cho, open daily from 9am to 4pm.
Burlingame Museum of Pez Memorabilia, San Francisco, USA
Pez consists of small brick-shaped pieces of confectionery, invented in 1927 by Austrian businessman Eduard Haas – but the taste isn’t what makes this sweet treat stand out. Its claim to fame derives from its novelty dispensers, often shaped like celebrities or fictional characters. The rarer examples are hugely collectable, selling for thousands of dollars, and this museum holds one of the widest collections. Check out dispenser heads ranging from Wonder Woman to Miss Piggy, along with a specially made 2.4m-high dispenser.
Located between San Francisco International Airport and the San Mateo Bridge, next to Burlingame Avenue train station. Details at www.burlingamepezmuseum.com.
European Asparagus Museum, Schrobenhausen, Germany
Germans go crazy for asparagus. Visit the country in springtime and you’ll find restaurants breathlessly promoting their chefs’ dishes involving the fibrous vegetable. The green version is good, but Germans wax even more lyrical about the thicker white asparagus. The Spargelzeit (asparagus season) each year provokes much celebration, including public events. This museum, located within a medieval tower in Bavaria, houses a wide-ranging set of exhibits on asparagus, covering such aspects as its farming, history, health benefits and cultural significance. It even has a painting of asparagus by Andy Warhol.
The museum can be found at Am Hofgraben 3, Schrobenhausen. The price of admission includes entry to other city-run museums.