I traveled to Madison, Wisconsin recently and discovered the National Mustard Museum. It is the brain child of a former Assistant Attorney General for the State of Wisconsin, who once argued a case before the U.S. Supreme Court with a jar of mustard in his pocket. Most interesting mustard fact: Pope John XXII loved the stuff and created the Vatican office of the Grand Moutardier du Pape, installing his nephew as the first one.
Madison is also the home of Oscar Mayer, now a subsidiary of Kraft. As you approach the Isthmus from the Dane County Regional Airport you pass the Oscar Mayer facility and you can see the Weiner Mobile in the parking lot. On National Mustard Day (first Saturday in August), the Weiner Mobile drives over to the Mustard Museum and they spend the day together.
The National Mustard Museum calls itself America’s Favorite Condiment Museum. Which is unfair because there is no ketchup, mayonnaise or pickle relish museum, though there is a Pickle Museum in Germany. Interesting pickle fact — Amerigo Vespucci was an Italian pickle peddler. There is also an online Condiment Package Museum — pages of purloined packets. Also online is something called The Extinct Beverage Museum. Or at least I think it’s still online. It’s like The Decoy Museum in Maryland. You can’t fool me! I’m going to wait for The Real Museum!
Some food museums have mottos. The Idaho Potato Museum in Blackfoot, Idaho has the best: “We give taters to Out-of-Staters.”
Food museums can be educational. You can learn how to butcher a pig at the Salami Museum in Ferrino, Italy. At the Dutch Cheese Museum you can learn that in days of yore, when the Dutch army ran out of ammunition, it used cheeseballs as cannonballs. You can finally learn what is in spam at the SPAM Museum in Austin, Minnesota (and you will also learn that the 7 billionth can of it was sold in 2007). You will learn at The Banana Museum in Auburn, Washington that bananas cause 300 accidents a year (mainly slip & falls). The Saffron Museum, located (oddly) in Switzerland, is philosophical; the Swiss tourism website ponders, “Why is rye also cultivated on the saffron fields? How is the ‘red gold’ harvested? What happens to the saffron after the harvest?”
Some food museums are exactly where you would expect them to be. There is a Ramen Museum in Japan and an Orange Museum in Valencia. The New Orleans Beverage Museum is in New Orleans. The Currywurst Museum is in Berlin. Currywurst — a hot pork sausage covered in a sauce made with ketchup and curry powder — is the second most popular staple in the German diet after bread. The Bread Museum is in the German cathedral town of Ulm.
Dairy products do well in the museum department. In addition to the Dutch Cheese Museum, there is a Butter Museum in County Cork, Ireland (the Irish preserved butter in peat bogs), a museum devoted to Dairy & Milk from the Dolomites, and a Milk Museum started by a retired milkman. It houses 10,000 milk bottles, the oldest dating back to 1890.
There are lots of other food museums, of course. In fact, of the 37,000 museums in the world, 131 of them are devoted to specialty foods and 70 are devoted to beverages.
The one I did not find anywhere was a Fish Museum. And then I remembered. They’re called “aquariums.”
Kim Egan is Partner in the firm DLA Piper LLP