Culinary Curation: Food Museums

It’s Museum Week over on Twitter (follow the #MuseumWeek hashtag) and naturally my thoughts flew to food museums. I know there’s a Pasta Museum in Rome (though I have never been) and the SPAM museum is undergoing renovations. I’m compiling a list over the next few days and highlighting a few each day here and on Twitter … Bon Appetit’s list is from 2013 but that was AGES ago.

From Bon Appetit’s List:

  • SPAM® Museum (on Twitter @SPAMbrand)
  • Frietmuseum in Bruges, Belgium
  • Ramen Museum in Yokohama, Japan
  • Kimchi Museum in Seoul, Korea
  • Currywurst Museum in Berlin, Germany
  • Dr. Pepper Museum and Free Enterprise Institute in Waco, TX (on Twitter @drpeppermuseum)
  • International Banana Club Museum – now defunct
  • Mariager Salt Center in Mariager, Denmark
  • The Jell-O Museum/Gallery in LeRoy, NY
  • Burnt Food Museum in Arlington, MA

Obviously an update (and frankly a massive expansion) is needed. And who better than Fabulous Foodie to tackle the job?

Fabulous Foodie #MuseumWeek picks for Monday:

  • Museum of Food & Drink (on Twitter @mofad)
  • Cup Noodles Museum in Osaka, Japan
  • Colman’s Mustard Museum (and shop) in Norwich, UK
  • Cocktail Museum (on Twitter @tMOTAC)
  • Dutch Cheese Museum in Alkmaar, Netherlands
  • Southern Food & Beverage Museum in New Orleans, LA (on Twitter @SouthernFood)


Huzzah for British Pie Week!

People, it’s British Pie Week and we at Fabulous Foodie want to make sure you enjoy as many pies and as many types of pies as possible. And so, a few helpful links to start you out. More Pie-tastic info during the week.

June: The Sunny Star of the Culinary Calendar

I don’t know about you but this time of year, I start building whole weekends around food – oh who am I kidding, I do that most weekends. But June is the perfect time to immerse oneself in the foodiness of it all. Days are longer (so grilling pineapple on the grill doesn’t require a flashlight) and warmer (so all those no bake ice box cakes can come out to play) and there are so many food-related days out to enjoy!

Observances-wise June is:

  • Candy Month – which in all honesty might be more appropriate somewhere in the holiday-heavy latter half of the year but no matter – candy is candy is candy.
  • Dairy Month – which makes a lot of sense if what you really want to say is MORE ICE CREAM PLEASE but you want to sound healthier.
  • Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Month – which makes TOTAL sense scheduling wise – far more than candy. And seriously, what is better on a hot summer day than a really juicy, “tart-sweet-and all tastes in between” fruit salad. And so many “pick you own” options that you could fill every June weekend with them.
  • Frozen Yogurt Month – as I said this time last year, it’s been ages since I had a first class frozen yogurt. And now it;s been even longer. Still searching.
  • Papaya Month – I would have thought this was covered under Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Month but possibly the papaya has a stronger lobby than I thought.

Maybe you’re looking to be hands-on with the culinary creativeness but also want to get out of the house and enjoy the summer weather – well, the season of food faires and food festivals is upon us and those are the events for you!

  • This weekend, for example, if you find yourself in NYC (as I sometimes do) and you’re feeling pecking (or starving) – head over to the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party (June 7 & 8 in Madison Square Park).
  • BBQ not your thing? The Egg Rolls & Egg Creams Festival is June 8 this year as well. One of the key events in the Museum at Eldridge Street Synagogue calendar, this really is a delicious result of everything that makes the Lower East Side/Chinatown such a weird and wonderful place to go. Egg rolls and egg creams? Come on, where else will those two things come together? With acrobats? Exactly.
  • The Food Truck Festival of New England is back again this year – apparently food trucks as a trend are here to stay so presumably they will stop being a ‘trend’ and will now be a ‘given.’ There are 6 festivals planned between June and October – so if you are in Somerville or Worcester, MA this month, keep an eye out.
  • South of the Mason-Dixon Line, there’s the 25th Annual Texas Blueberry Festival on June 14. Yes, it’s in Nacogdoches but no you don’t have to know how to pronounce Nacogdoches to attend. I couldn’t pronounce it as a child either and ended up calling it Nack-a-nowhere because not only could I not pronounce it, I could never find it on a map. The fact that I continued to call it that into adulthood is more habit than I desire to needle to good people of Nacogdoches. All 10 of them. No, no – I kid, I kid. Go, enjoy some blueberries and the rest of the awesome food that can be found at food fairs and festivals across the Great State.

  • If Texas in June sounds a bit too warm for your tastes (and having grown up there I can attest to the warmth’s WARMNESS), head up to Colorado and some cooler Rocky Mountain Air. Not chilly but more comfy. And no need to forgo foodie fun either because they’ve got the 26th Annual Pine Grove Rhubarb Festival on June 8th.  Frankly rhubarb isn’t ACTUALLY my thing, the ‘all you can eat Pancake Breakfast’ and the achingly beautiful surroundings are enough to make me want to go.
  • Also on June 7 but more East Coast time than Rocky Mountain time, is the Ashland Strawberry Faire is held in – you guessed it – Ashland, Virginia.

As usual, there are way too many food fairs and festivals for me to list here – but luckily for all of us, the folks at Food Reference have a) more time and b) actually do this sort of thing professionally so they are awfully good at staying on top of these things. Therefore – get yourself over to their June Food Festival round up to find food fun near you this month.

But what if you, potential food festival attendee (like the vast majority of people in the world), are not in the USA? What do you do?  No worries. Food festivals, as I have said before, speak the international language of YUM! In the UK? Check out:

  • In Cheltenham, there is the appropriately named Cheltenham Food & Drink Festival on June 13– 15
  • In London: Taste of London invandes Regent’s Park once more – this year on on June 18-22
  • Pembrokeshire Fish Week Festival June 28-July 60 – held every year since 1999
  • BBQ isn’t just found in the Carolinas, Kansas and all points South and West in the US. BBQ – pulled pork in particular I find these days – has crossed the Atlantic and entrenched itself as firmly as any carbonated beverage or cookie cutter coffee chain. One sure sign of this is Grillstock (or as they say, – in Bristol, June 7- 8 and in Manchester on June 28–29
  • Apparently June 16-22 is National Picnic Week here in Britain and while the weather doesn’t always say “picnic” to me, I’m more than willing to grab a basket and wade in – so to speak.
  • June 28-29 is the Newbury Food Festival Armed Forces Day Celebration
  • The BBC Good Food Show Summer is June 14 – again in Birmingham, so centrally located, you almost have no excuse not to go.

Maybe you are not so much hungry as thirsty? Have a free day June 29? Head off to Spain’s Festival of Wine Drenching  in Haro, capital of northern Spain’s Rioja-producing region. Yes, you read right – wine drenching. Just you, a white shirt, water pistol full of cheap red wine and 5000 other people with the same. Hijinks – as they say – will ensue. Lonely Planet covers this and many other festivals around the world for June. Not all food-related but food isn’t EVERYTHING.  … I can’t believe I just said that.

All this and I haven’t even touched on the daily June food observances – that’s another posts (or several) for another day. Some, of course, we have already touched upon. But for those who like to plan ahead – keep in mind that soon, the following days will be upon us:

  • June 6  Applesauce Cake Day
  • June 7  Chocolate Ice Cream Day
  • June 9  Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie Day
  • June 11  German Chocolate Cake Day
  • June 12  Peanut Butter Cookie Day
  • June 13  Klutzes of America Day
  • June 14  Strawberry Shortcake Day
  • June 16  Fudge Day
  • June 17  Apple Strudel Day
  • June 17  Cherry Tart Day
  • June 19 Martini Day
  • June 21  Peaches & Cream Day
  • June 22  Chocolate Eclair Day
  • June 23  Pecan Sandies Day
  • June 24  Pralines Day
  • June 25  Strawberry Parfait Day
  • June 26  Chocolate Pudding Day
  • June 29  Almond Buttercrunch Day


And The Food Movie Oscar Goes To……

It’s Oscar time! And as I was deciding what snacks to lay in for the graveyard shift that is watching the Oscars live here in the UK, I got to pondering over the food movies I really love. Which slice of epicurean cinema has left me feeling the most pleasantly sated and lingered on the palate of my imagination the longest? What film would win my personal Food Movie Oscar?

Before I get to my nominees and winner, let me first make clear what the term “food movie” means to me. I define it as a film wherein food-how it’s prepared, how it’s eaten, and/or  how it affects the characters- is a driving force in the film, both narratively and thematically. So that unfortunately excludes movies where food is featured heavily but rather tangentially really, hunger-inducing though they may be. Otherwise a lot of these movies would have made my list, movies like Woody Allen’s “Hannah And Her Sisters”, which features a series of delicious-looking Thanksgiving feasts, not to mention the efforts of the Stanislavski Catering Company. Or “The Big Chill”, which features the “throw it at a wall” method of testing the readiness of spaghetti alongside a lot more cooking and eating. Joan Crawford spends a lot of time in the kitchen in  the fabulous noir “Mildred Pierce”, but this is a mother-daughter thriller.  There are lots of delicious food moments in “Heartburn”, especially Carbonara in bed. I’m not always a fan of Martin Scorcese, but I do enjoy his evident appreciation for food in his films, most notably all the cooking that goes on throughout “Goodfellas”, from the hilariously delicious prison catering,to the absolutely yummy meal being prepared just as Ray Liotta is about to be get nabbed by the cops once and for all. Scorcese’s interminable “Ages And Ages Of Innocence”s is enlivened for me only by the incredibly elaborate banquets that pepper the film.

Now I realize that the definition of food movie that I’ve offered still leaves room for a very wide range of films, not least those involving cannibalism. After all, from “Soylent Green” to “Eating Raoul” and “The Cook, The Thief, His Wife And Her Lover”, man eating man has played quite a varied role in cinema. (It occurs to me as I mention “Soylent Green” that Charlton Heston spent a great deal of his career in the 60’s and 70’s receiving some nasty cultural shocks at the ends of his films.) But don’t get overly distressed; I have no intention of passing off either “Alive” or “C.H.U.D.” as food movies, whatever their relative merits.

So I suppose I’ve narrowed my definition a bit further: The five films that make my list of nominees, that truly moved me,  are all about characters who cook, who express themselves sometimes entirely through food, whether they are home cooks or professionals, man or beast. Food- and the perils and sacrifices of its preparation- is the heart not only of these characters, but also of these films. So regretfully “Julie & Julia” doesn’t make my list. However much food and cooking appears in the film, it’s essentially a story about the writing of a book and the writing of a blog; food is really more of a means than the end. “Chocolat”, however beautifully made, also fails to make the cut. because although most of the film’s characters are transformed by chocolate, it’s really a story about a witch of sorts facing up to her nomadic nature. Plus I must admit to something of a bias: I personally don’t really care for chocolate. I wanted to edge “Sweeney Todd” on to my list of nominees, but although I adore the treacle-black satire inherent  in the piece, that’s the gift of the far superior stage version. So no cannibalistic films make the cut. Likewise, I considered Morgan Spurlock’s fascinating documentary”Supersize Me”, but eventually rejected it. As scary and illuminating as his experiment with fast food was, I still think it was a fundamentally stupid thing to do.

So here, without further ado, are my nominees and personal winner for the Food Movie Oscar:

  • Big Night. (1996) Campbell Scott and Stanley Tucci’s sad and tangy tortellino of a film about two brothers trying to keep their restaurant afloat in 1950’s New Jersey. Cooking is their life and their ambition, and the cooking on display is simply spectacular. The timpano at the film’s climax is an astounding culinary feat that reflects the layers of hope and artistry and determination that resound throughout the film, and the simple little omelet the brothers share at the end is simply heartbreaking. (Plus Stanley Tucci is briefly nude, which is pretty scrummy too. )
  • Like Water For Chocolate. (1992) Food is sex and love and desire and grief in this Mexican feast of magical realism. Her thwarted love for a man causes family cook Tita to season chicken with rose petals, causing insatiable lust, and a wedding cake with her tears, driving an entire wedding party to ruin. Beautifully sensuous and odd, this is one delectable melodrama wherein food is both a gift and a weapon.
  • Eat Drink Man Woman. (1994) Food is the what keeps families together and the expression of paternal love in this beautiful early film from Ang Lee. The story of a widowed senior chef who is losing his sense of taste as ha and his three increasingly wayward daughters navigate life in a changing Taiwan is like a perfect Chinese broth: light and clear, but surprisingly and warmingly complex and just a touch spicy.
  • Ratatouille. (2007) Disney does food deliciously in this utterly charming tale of a rat who dreams of being a great chef. Not only does the film take the care to get the food details right and nail the hectic atmosphere of a busy restaurant kitchen, but that climactic dish of the titular ratatouille is surprisingly moving. The message that anyone can be a great cook is delivered sweetly enough to get kids into the kitchen themselves.

And drum roll please for the final nominee, and my personal Food Movie Oscar Winner:

  • Babette’s Feast. (1987) Far and away the best film about the transformative power of cookery ever made, this Danish film is the slightest but most nourishing of tales. Two elderly sisters living in a remote  and devoutly religious coastal community in 19th Century Denmark take in a Parisian refugee as their new housekeeper. She cooks for them for 14 quiet years, then one day learns she has won the french lottery. Instead of using her winnings to escape back to France, she uses the money to create an astounding feast for the sisters and their guests in thanks for them having taken her in so long ago. The resulting  meal, exquisitely portrayed in both its preparation and consumption, brings love and light and life back to everyone who eats it. Simply and truly divine.

So there are my picks for the Food movie Oscar. Agree? Disagree? Think I may have made some egregious omissions or errors? We at Fabulous Foodie would love to hear your views.


Jump Into Some June Food Fun

Normally I note the daily observances but the truth is – there are monthly observances as well. For example, June is:
fruit bowl

  • Candy Month – which I might have placed in October for convenience sake but no one asked me
  • Dairy Month – the timing of this seems to me like someone looked at the daily holidays and decided since all this ice cream was around, might as well throw the dairy doors open wider
  • Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Month – June makes complete sense for this to my mind. ALL that citrus-y goodness and weekends of “pick your own” – delicious
  • Frozen Yogurt Month – god, it’s been ages since I had a first class frozen yogurt
  • Papaya Month – I’m still very much on the fence about papayas. Maybe I’ve just not had really good ones.

Of course, we’ve examined some of the daily June observances in days gone by with monthly round ups, things like German Chocolate Cake Day and how German doesn’t mean German in the way you think. Or how we skated lightly over Peanut Butter Cookie Day (thanks to my personal distaste for all things peanut butter) and then made up for it by offering a plethora of choices for those interested in a Rockin’ Rocky Road Day.

But who wants to sit home all summer READING about all this food when you could be out and about among the food and other foodies. Food festivals are the answer and June is awash with Food and Drink Festivals across the United States:grilling

But what about if you are not in the USA (as – let’s face it – most of the world isn’t). No worries. Food festivals speak the international language of YUM! In the UK? Check out:

mangosLooking to wander a bit further afield? If all this talk of food making your thirsty, maybe you should think about the World Of Beer event in Montréal this weekend. Perhaps you’re someone who likes to play with your food. Go on! Mom isn’t watching. Head off to Spain’s Festival of Wine Drenching  in Haro, capital of northern Spain’s Rioja-producing region. Yes, you read right – wine drenching. Just you, a white shirt, water pistol full of cheap red wine and 5000 other people with the same. Hijinks – as they say – will ensue. Also on this month around the world?

  • International Mango Festival might be a good way to observe Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Month – all you have to do is be in New Delhi, India on June 30 to July 2, 2013. Apparently it is QUITE the long standing event, having been established in 1987 and offering an ABUNDANCE of pickles, jams and the like as well as mango-eating competitions, tastings, quizzes and a mango market.
  • The BC Shellfish Festival is a great reason to check out Vancouver Island in June
  • Taste of Amsterdam is the four day Amsterdam arm of the “Taste festivals” (the same gorup that does Taste of London) and this year it is being held from June 6-9

Coffee Conundrum, Caffeine Continuum

To do justice to food as the most wide-ranging and personal of subjects, I needed additional voices to chime in. Result? A series of fabulous foodie guest posters including dungeekin, who offers this surrealist and somehow scientific sounding examination of coffee physics. — Deb.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The Physics Of Coffee Mugs Explained

When you need it most it’s in the smallest mug….

So I noticed today that the lovely Gotham Girl was asking one of those deep philosophical questions that go to the very heart of our existence here in the Universe:

“Why are all coffee mugs so small?
or do they just feel that way when one hasn’t had enough coffee?”

Well, it’s been a long time since my PhD in Applied & Theoretical Caffeination, but I can still recall the basics and so, in the interest of Bringing Science To The Masses, permit me to explain the phenomenon.

It’s a noted scientific fact that the mug size decreases in inverse proportion to the need for coffee, due to quantum irregularities. The phenomenon was first noted by Isaac Newton, in fact, who was in dire need of a triple espresso after an unfortunate apple-related incident left him lying flat on his front for three weeks. However, while his work on mug size led directly to both his Laws of Bowel Motions and a severe case of caffeine withdrawal, he was unable to explain the reason for the events he observed.

Many people believe that the breakthrough in understanding the coffee/cup/need relationship was best postulated in Folger’s Caffeine Uncertainty Principle, which reputedly came to the great man after a heavy night on the Jack Daniels. The Principle states that because the act of needing coffee changes the quantum state of the coffee itself simply by being present, we can either know how much coffee is in the mug or how good it tastes – but not both. A purist would, of course, note the fundamental contradiction inherent within the Caffeine Uncertainty Principle, though lack of space prevents me explaining it here. However, many in the field now agree that Folger would have produced a better Principle had he not been hungover when he postulated all over the page.

However, some caffeticians believe that this Universal question can better be explained by the groundbreaking work of none other than Albert Einstein in his 1918 General Theory Of Javativity, which states that:

where c= cup size, N= need for a brew and e= The Eurgh Constant*, brought about by not having coffee and believed to be the largest ‘real number in existence**.

Now clearly, I don’t have to tell you that Einstein’s theory leaves significant gaps for the thinking caffetician. The theorem makes no allowance, for example, for the significant effects of spacetime on the surface area of a cappuccino, for example, which many believe was Einstein’s greatest error (after his choice of hairdresser).

That said, Einstein could not have been expected to predict the later work of Professor Maxwell House of Princeton, who proved that coffee exists in multiple quantum states, acting like both a wave, a particle and a good smack around the ears at the same time, and whose seminal work (thankfully just missing his mocha when he released it) on Latte Theory is still being studied for both insight and any sense at all.

So you can see from just this simple primer that the question has taxed some of the finest minds in history, and we still have much to learn about the physics of the coffee mug. However, mine is now empty so I shall refill it before it reduces to subatomic size. Join me next week, when we’ll be investigating the theological schisms caused by Marmite sandwiches through history.

* This footnote intentionally left blank.

** The Eurgh Constant is defined as the square of the cube of the likelihood of you getting a kick in the teeth if you don’t bring me a double espresso right now, multiplied by the Fine Structure Constant and divided by the number you first thought of. Plus 42, obviously. The equation is ç?2E2. You’re welcome.

Dun Geekin is Syphilitus Professor of Coffee Sciences at St Arbucks University. He holds a PhD in Pure and Applied Caffeinetics from Javard, a BArista in Theoretical Wiredness from Costa College, and a 10-yard swimming certificate.

Walking the Walk in London

My favorite walking tour company in London – London Walks – has been filming parts of their walks. I’ve been on – oh, about 15-20 of their tours and they are GREAT! Oddly enough, I’ve never gone on their foodie tour but now that I’ve seen this video, it’s on the top of my “next time in London” to do list.

Food Truck Find

I had this whole plan for writing an in-depth and amusing post yesterday. I was going to do it after a quick dash down to Macys. The dash down went fine. Got down there, found what I wanted and then I headed home. That’s where it all went horribly wrong. If you want to know what happened next and why I was no longer in the mood to write when I got back, head over to Greater Gotham and find out.

In the meantime, I thought I’d pass along a recent food related discovery I’ve made lately. Now, they may not be news to everyone – I’m often the last to know – but on the off chance you don’t know about The Big Gay Ice Cream Truck, here’s the deal. Gourmet magazine did a piece on New York street food (it’s always the topic of choice this time of year – it’s a Vendy thing) and one of the vendors they mentioned was The Big Gay Ice Cream Truck. A fabulous name, I am sure you will agree.

It would have ended there – with me noting that I need to visit them since they have dulce de leche flavored ice cream – only I saw that they had a Twitter feed. I went to check it out and lo! Best Tweet EVER.

“When lining a cone with nutella, swaddle the cone; cradle it gently. I imagine I am holding The Infant of Prague.”

And lordy, lordy – the description of the Monday Sundae ensures that I know what I am doing next Monday. Dulce de Leche and laughs. I love them and I’ve not even met them yet.

Musuem of Munchies?

I have thrown open the windows of the apartment and am enjoying the cool, relaxing temperatures of the morning. But that’s not what I am here to discuss today. Actually, it’s not so much a discussion as a drive by hot tip.

I have just discovered that there is a NY Food Museum. Now, you might think – hello? you have two blogs – this one on food and another about NYC. How could you not have known there was a NY Food Museum. Well, in my defense – um – well, look. It’s only 10 or so years old and has no permanent home. No? Not buying it. Never mind. I’m telling you now.

NY Food Museum. Great stuff. Their mission is to “To encourage people to think about the food they eat.” I love that mission. One of their upcoming events: 9th Annual NYC International Pickle Day (10/4/09). OK, I admit to not being a pickle fan but it sounds like a blast.

There is also a New York Museum of Water that can fill you in on what’s in that water you are drinking. Do I want to know? I mean – after years of drinking the water in Houston (where ice cubes periodically ended up smelling like sulfur), I’m finally able NOT to think about it too much.