Top Takeaways from “Our Global Kitchen” at the Museum of Natural History

rsz_1img_0404Glynwood Institute staff traveled uptown recently to visit the American Museum of Natural History’s exhibit, “Our Global Kitchen: Food, Nature, Culture.” It’s an impressive exhibit, with separate sections dealing with how food is grown, transported, cooked, eaten and used in to celebrate different cultural milestones.  It would be impossible to do it justice in a single post, but below are some (admittedly subjective) highlights.

  • The Power of Scent: The exhibit includes information about the intermingled role of all five senses in our responses to food.  It also demonstrates this very effectively with stations that release powerful food scents (cinnamon, garlic, fennel, lavender) at the touch of a button.
  • A Doughnut by Any Other Name: Tastes differ widely around the globe, as the exhibit makes clear – but there are also many commonalities. For example, fried dough for breakfast is a staple in many countries, though the name and flavorings vary.
  • Ice Cream with Jane Austen: One particularly evocative section of the exhibit showcases meals from three very different places and time periods:  ancient Rome, where diners ate while reclining on couches; the court of Kublai Khan, where influences from around Asia were combined in an early example of fusion dining; and early 19th century England, where Jane Austen wrote about enjoying ice cream – a luxury at the time, often served molded into decorative shapes.
  • Food Waste: A striking sculpture shows the amount of food wasted annually in the United States by a family of four – on average, 1,656 pounds.  And that’s just consumer waste, not including what’s lost between the field and the fridge.
  • rsz_img_0412Windowfarms:  The exhibit showcases an indoor, vertical, hydroponic garden – the creation of 2011 TEDxManhattan speaker Britta Riley (see her TEDxManhattan talk here).  There is also a larger Windowfarm display in the Museum’s Weston Pavilion – lit up with red, white and blue grow lamps, it’s a beautiful sight.
  • Cornucopia of Food Trivia: If you enjoy fun food facts, the exhibit is full of them.  Did you know France is Europe’s leading grower – and consumer – of oysters?  Or that popcorn was enjoyed by indigenous peoples of the Americas thousands of years ago?  Or that a 5,000-year-old corpse, preserved by snow and ice, has shown that the prehistoric diet included a type of bread as well as dried fruit?

There are many other elements of the exhibit, including a working kitchen where live cooking demos take place, with the results available for sampling.  (It’s sponsored by Whole Foods, also a sponsor of TEDxManhattan).  We also enjoyed the interactive cooking table, where videos take you step-by-step through the making of four dishes, each from a different country.

The exhibit runs through August 11 and is definitely worth a visit.  But be forewarned: you will leave hungry.

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