Food for Thought



The Southern Food and Beverage Museum, which opened recently and was the subject of my column in this week's Gambit, faces a unique twist on the dilemma of keeping visitors' hands off the exhibits.

The museum is focused on food and drink, of course, and that's something we're all accustomed to reaching out, touching and tasting.

"We know that the most important element in this museum is missing because you want to eat it," says Elizabeth Pearce, the museum's curator. "But instead what we've tried to do is give a sense of the time, place and history that goes into the food, so that when you do eat it you can think back to what you've learned here."

Right now, the heavy lifting on that job falls to the museum's central exhibit on the food of New Orleans and Louisiana. And even someone who is well-read on the lore and history of the subject will likely find new and interesting nuggets here.

For instance, there is a display about the days when cattle ruled rural Louisiana, photos from the French Market when a half-dozen crabs sold for a quarter of a dollar and an excerpt from the diary of Meriwether Lewis – of Lewis and Clark fame – recounting how a Canadian trapper prepared buffalo boudin in 1805.

"We want there to be excitement about the cuisine and going out to eat in New Orleans," says Liz Williams, the museum's president. "But we want people to know they can see the whole world through the lens of food, the economy, biology, history. It's such a fundamental part of life that it touches everything we do."

And food has been leading people to New Orleans from all across the world, it should be able to lead them down to the end of the Riverwalk Marketplace once they get here.

- Ian McNulty

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