10 interesting food museums from around the world

While many people visit museums in order to learn about culture, art, or history, how many out there can say they’ve gone to a museum to see an exhibit on SPAM? Or to learn the processing history of salami? While somewhat out of the norm, these 10 interesting food museums from around the world will give you insight and fun facts into some of your favorite cuisine.

PEZ Museum in California

Burlingame Museum of PEZ Memorabilia
Location: Burlingame, California

From vintage Pez dispensers to new Pez-related items, come to Burlingame Museum of PEZ Memorabilia to learn the history of Pez as well as buy Pez products. The highlight of the museum is seeing the world’s largest Pez dispenser, which is in the form of a 7 ft’ 10” tall snowman and can hold 6,480 Pez candies. And if you get sick of looking at Pez dispensers all day, the museum also has a Classic Toy Museum and a Banned Toy Museum on site.

Located at 214 California Dr. Museum hours are Tuesday-Saturday, 10AM-6PM. SPAM Museum in Austin, Minnesota The SPAM Museum
Location: Austin, Minnesota

The SPAM Museum is a tribute to this pre-cooked, canned meat that includes vintage advertising, memorabilia, SPAM trivia, and interactive exhibits. Visitors can even test their SPAM-canning skills as well as learn about the large role SPAM played in the diet of WWII soldiers. See walls made entirely of SPAM cans and ceilings holding massive burger buns as you walk through this retro-style museum.

Fun Fact: An actor from New York named Kenneth Daigneau won a contest in 1936 put on by the creator of SPAM, Jay Hormel, that allowed him to choose the name for the canned meat. Mr. Daigneau chose SPAM, which is where the name comes from. He also won $100, which today could have bought him $1,500 in SPAM products.

Located at 1101 North Main St. Museum hours are Monday-Saturday, 10AM-5PM, and Sunday, 12PM-5PM.

Pick salami and paprika museum in hungary The Pick Salami and Szeged Paprika Museum
Location: Szeged, Hungary

The Pick Salami and Szeged Paprika Museum gives visitors a chance to learn everything there is to know about Pick salami and paprika through a showcase of photographs, history lessons on founder Mark Pick, production displays, and butchering guides. The best part of the museum is the life-size wooden dolls wearing authentic costumes that are setup in ways that depict scenes in the salami and paprika making process with production equipment out on display. Luckily, the Picks are still in business so after learning about these delicious treats you can purchase some for yourself.

Located at Felso Tisza-Part 10 . Museum hours are Tuesday-Saturday, 3PM-6PM.

Musard museum in Minnesota The National Mustard Museum
Location: Middleton, Wisconsin

How much could there possibly be to learn about mustard? Apparently, a lot. The National Mustard Museum is home to more than 5,600 different types of mustard, including kinds from all 50 states as well as over 60 different countries. Visitors can sample the different varieties, some of which include tequila, chocolate, and cranberry mustard, for free at the Tasting Bar, where you will be guided on a sensual (and sometimes spicy) experience by a Confidential Condiments Counselor. A visit to the National Mustard Museum is not only a tour for the taste buds, however, but also for the eyes, as you admire antique mustard pots, reminisce over vintage mustard ads, view a film at the Mustardpiece Theatre (The Sound of Mustard, anyone?), take a mustard cooking class, and more.

Located at 7477 Hubbard Ave. Museum hours are 10AM-5PM, daily.

Chocolate museum in cologne, germanyThe Chocolate Museum Cologne
Location: Cologne, Germany

Of course, what food-related list would be complete without chocolate. What makes the Chocolate Museum Cologne unique is that it’s more than just displays of chocolate. At this museum you will travel through three levels of chocolate history, spanning over 3,000 years. Level one will introduce you to the cocoa tree, as you literally visit a tropical house to admire one up close. Next, see a glass chocolate factory to learn about the production of this sweet staple. On the next level visitors are introduced to chocolate as a luxury item, beginning in Mesoamerica. The final level allows you to peruse chocolate advertising and signs, watch films in the chocolate cinema, and see chocolate items that developed a cult following. There are lots of interesting tidbits of chocolate knowledge to learn here. For instance, did you know that 80 years ago the high calorie content in chocolate was seen as a good thing? I definitely would have liked to be around back then.

Located at Am Schokoladenmuseum 1a, 50678. Museum hours are Tuesday-Friday, 10AM-6PM, Saturday-Sunday, 11AM to 7PM.

international banana club museum in california The International Banana Club Museum
Location: Hesperia, California

I have never seen anyone as bananas for anything as Ken Bannister, the founder of the International Banana Club Museum, is for, well, bananas. This museum, decorated with banana art, clocks, photographs, and more, holds the largest collection dedicated to one fruit in the world and is the perfect place to come if you’re looking for something a little more on the wacky side. Begin in the “Hard” section and browse through pipes, trees, pins, knives, golf putters, belts, rings, cups, and more, all with a banana theme. There is even a rock-hard petrified banana that has been in the museum since 1975. Next, check out the “Food, Drink, and Notions” section, including banana-related foods, drinks, soaps, oils…even banana tobacco. The final sections are the “Clothing Section” (banana nose, anyone?) and the “Soft” section, which is the perfect place to end your day at the museum, as there is an eight-foot long banana couch and tons of comfortable banana pillows.

Located at 16367 Main St. Museum hours are Tues-Thurs, 9AM-1PM, and the first Saturday of each month, 9AM-1PM.

Raumen museum in tokyo, japan Shin-Yokohama Raumen Museum
Location: Tokyo, Japan

Who would have guessed that your favorite meal in college (or the only one you knew how to cook) had an entire museum dedicated to it? The Shin-Yokohama Raumen Museum includes a huge recreation of Tokyo as it looked in 1958, the year Raumen (or Ramen) was created. Visitors also get the chance to dine in some of the most well-known Raumen noodle restaurants in existence. Walk near walls covered in Raumen packages, browse Raumen and houseware displays, watch Raumen commercials on replay, and enjoy interactive Raumen video games.

Located within walking distance of Shin-Yokohama Train Station. Museums hours are 11AM-10PM, daily.

currywurst museum in berlin germany Deutsches Currywurst Museum
Location: Berlin, Germany

One may wonder why a city would decide to dedicate an entire museum to curried sausage. The truth is, there is no German dish that “inspires as many stories, preferences, and celebrity connoisseurs” as currywurst. While this may sound a bit dramatic, a visit to the Deutsches Currywurst Museum may make you a believer, as well. Get your picture taken at the old-fashioned snack bar, explore the spice chamber to solve the mystery search for the perfect ingredients, and take in the unique decor including a sausage sofa, over-sized ketchup drops hanging from the ceiling, and humongous fry displays. Visiting Deutsches Currywurst Museum is also a learning experience, as you hear about currywurst history and legends, take part in the experimental kitchen, and watch some famous currywurst scenes on film.

Located at SchÜ tzenstrausse 70. Museum hours are 10AM-10PM, daily.

idaho poato museum The Idaho Potato Museum
Location: Blackfoot, Idaho

Being that the potato is Idaho’s most famous product, it is no wonder that there would be an Idaho Potato Museum dedicated to the starchy vegetable. This museum holds a lot of information about the history of the potato, including a film about the development of the potato industry, old farming equipment, as well as educational exhibits of the harvesting process and nutrition. The real attraction at this museum, however, is the world’s largest potato chip, which, according to Roadside America, is a 25×14-inch Pringle created in 1991 by engineers at Proctor and Gamble. The gift shop here is also worth mentioning, as it sells all kinds of potato-related gifts including potato ice cream and potato fudge.

Location is 130 NW Main St. Museum hours are April-September, Monday-Saturday, 9:30AM-5PM and October-March, Monday-Friday, 9:30AM-3:30PM.

Frietmuseum in brugge, belgiumFrietmuseum
Location: Brugge, Belgium

After discussing a museum dedicated to the potato, it is only fair to talk about a museum dedicated to the world’s favorite potato product, the French fry. Frietmuseum is the first museum in the world dedicated to the fry. While fried potatos are an international treat, what many people may not know is that they actually originated in Belgium. While you will learn the history of French fries and condiments at Frietmuseum, what really attracts tourists is the Saaihalle, the 14th century building that it is housed in. When sampling some of the museum’s fried cuisine, you will be taken downstairs to the medieval cellars of this building, which is the oldest in Brugge.

Located at Vlamingstraat 33. Museum hours are 10AM-5PM, daily.

Undiscovered New York: Top 5 breakfasts

To truly experience New York during your next visit, you need to start your day with a good breakfast. No meal better epitomizes the different attitudes and moods of the city’s residents then this first (and sometimes last) meal of the day. Whether we’re talking about the quintessential lazy weekend brunch, a bacon egg & cheese from a deli or a strong cup of joe from the street cart, New Yorkers’ breakfast choices are about as diverse as the city itself.

You’re probably already familiar with the old standbys – New York bagels are legendary the world over. And New York’s iconic paper coffee cup never seems to go out of style. But for everything you think you already know about what New York likes to eat for breakfast, there’s plenty of surprises. Breakfast here includes everything from your standard omelette to Chinese Dim Sum to Dominican Mangu and Italian breakfast panini.

With all these choices, where exactly does a breakfast-lover get started? Breakfast is, after all, the most important meal of the day, and who can stomach such an essential daily ritual becoming something bland or boring? This week Undiscovered New York is here to get your New York morning off on the right foot. We’ve compiled a list of our top five breakfasts from across the city. Step away from that yogurt and see what we picked…
Breakfast Five – Barney Greengrass
It would be downright sacrilegious to leave the classic lox and bagel off a New York breakfast list, and Barney Greengrass is arguably one of the best places to get it. Located well off the beaten path on New York’s Upper West Side, this delightfully old-school institution has been slinging some of the city’s best cream cheese, bagels, smoked salmon and whitefish since way back in 1908. Enjoy your bagel with some schmear and the Sunday New York Times in the restaurant’s old-school wood-panelled interior.

Breakfast Four – Joe Art of Coffee
New York could not function without caffeine. The self-proclaimed “city that never sleeps” seems to be mainlining a constant IV drip of the brown stuff. The problem is most of it sucks. The scalded, bitter excuse for caffeine you’ll find at most delis simply won’t do. Instead head to Joe the Art of Coffee, one of the city’s growing range of quality coffeeshops. In addition to a zealous dedication to a quality cup, Joe also offers in-store classes to help take your appreciation and coffee brewing skills to the next level.

Breakfast Three – Chinese Dim Sum
Consider this while you’re crunching that morning bowl of Special K – breakfast around the world is as different as the people that eat it. And in many countries, the typical yogurt, fruit and cereal is not on the menu. New York’s large population of Chinese residents happen to enjoy Dim Sum for their weekend breakfast, a leisurely meal that consists of many small plates chosen from constantly moving food carts. Though there’s no one typical dish served at Dim Sum, the meal usually includes staples like dumplings, spare ribs and sweets filled with bean paste. Try Chinatown spots like Jin Fong, the Golden Unicorn or Flushing’s Ocean Jewel.

Breakfast Two – Alpha Donuts
Way out in the Sunnyside section of Queens, they take their breakfast seriously. That is to say, they don’t mess around with fancy-pants breakfast food like brioche french toast or omelettes filled with goat cheese. What they are serious about is donuts – the ultimate sugary breakfast favorite. That’s why Alpha Donuts leads the pack. In a city filled with fancy breakfasts, Alpha Donuts stands out for its simplicity and commitment to this classic American staple, which they’ve been making since World War II.

Breakfast One – Shopsins
There’s no easy way to explain what to order at Shopsins, a hilariously quirky breakfast establishment located in Manhattan’s Essex Street Market. The correct answer is probably “What do you want to eat?” Not only does Shopsins serve all the classic breakfast favorites like skillets, sausage and cereal – they’ve also got plenty of one-of-a-kind morning meals prepared by the surly owner Kenny Shopsin. How about some “Slutty Cakes” made with pumpkin, pistachio and peanut butter? You also can’t go wrong with the “Jihadboy Sandwich” topped with beef, pomegranate, olives, sheep feta and tahini.

Big in Japan: Can’t get skinny? Eat a banana!

You can never be too skinny or too rich, at least according to the old expression…

Of course, in a country where size S is the veritable norm, and hyper fashion demands perfection in every curve, the pressure to stay thin and beautiful can quickly consume every waking moment of your day-to-day life.

As you might imagine, Japan practically invented the fad diet, which means that every month or so, some new food item is reported by so-called experts to be the miracle cure for obesity.

While there really is no substitute for a healthy diet and exercise, Japanese women, and increasingly men, have chowed down on a pretty lengthy list of fad foods: boiled eggs, apples, chili peppers, soybeans, black tea fungus, cocoa, carrots, yam paste, beer yeast, and even baby formula!

So, what is the current fad food that has recently risen in price by 20% as a result of supply shortages? Bananas!

Yup, bananas, those elongated yellow pods that are high in fiber, packed with vitamins and minerals, and largely comprised of H2O.

So, how does the Morningu Banana Daietto (???????????????????????????????????????, Morning Banana Diet) work? Keep on reading to find out!

The Morning Banana Diet is attributed to a woman by the name of Sumiko Watanabe, a pharmacist in Osaka, who designed this diet specifically to help out her tubby hubby.

Here is how it works:

In the morning, you can eat as many bananas as you want, alongside room temperature water. This is the key as breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and a few bananas in the belly certainly helps in getting your digestion going.

For lunch and dinner, you can pretty much eat anything you want, along with a small afternoon snack, but you have to avoid desserts, stop eating by 8pm, and go to bed before midnight.

According to Mrs. Watanabe, her husband quickly lost 37 pounds, which prompted her to release the diet on mixi, the Japanese equivalent of Facebook or MySpace. The Osaka pharmacist has also published her Morning Banana Diet in Japanese, Korean and Chinese, and has thus far sold close to a million copies.

Of course, while Mrs. Watanabe is lugging her suitcases full of yen to the bank, food distributors are quickly realizing that their supply of bananas can’t meet demand, especially following a recent TV appearance by the Watanabes.

According to Takeshi Ozaki, a spokesperson of Life Corporation, which runs more than 200 supermarkets throughout Japan: “Bananas suddenly flew off the shelves, there was a 70%-80% increase in weekly sales compared to the same period last year.”

However, before you rush out and buy a few crates of Chiquita bananas, keep in mind that not everyone is convinced.

According to Professor Masahiko Okada of Niigata University School of Medicine: “The human body has three essential nutrients – carbohydrates, fat and protein. The golden rule is to balance these three nutrients and a daily calorie intake. Once you understand that, you don’t have to be swayed by the fad diet any more.”

Again, the secret to good health really is a balanced diet and regular exercise, though a few bananas in the morning might not be a bad idea!

** Front-page image taken by Eriko Sugita at Reuters. All other images courtesy of the WikiCommons Media Project **