Food connects us all, across continents, cultures, economies and generations. Our Global Kitchen at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History gives visitors an interactive, comprehensive and stimulating look at what we all have in common-an appetite!
Even before you step in to the exhibit, guests are treated to mouth-watering photos taken by Donna Turner Ruhlman, in Neo-Natural Behind our Local Kitchen. In her stunning images, food is depicted at it’s source “field, farm or forrest,” and showcases people working to promote sustainability, like Jeremy Umansky and Chef Jonathan Sawyer.
Make your way in to Kahn Hall and you’ll be ushered in to the experience with a movie detailing how, though various degrees of separation, we are all connected globally, through food. Then the origins of seeds and livestock are outlined, along with facts about developing these sources, like how breeding chickens for higher yield grew production of one chicken from about a dozen, to 200-300 eggs per year.
The portion detailing the ancient marketplace shows what ancient Aztecs grew, ate, and traded for. Did you know cacao beans were currency at one point?? Yep, you could get a turkey egg for 3, or a whole rabbit for 30! The exhibit also lays out which nations are the highest importers and exporters of various foods like wheat, beer, maize and soybeans.
Among the many interactive elements of Our Global Kitchen, was a touch screen that shows visitors how things like tuna, lamb and bananas are harvested, preserved and transported across the world. My daughter’s favorite thing were the “smelling stations” that allowed her to press a button and waft up a scent of something (cocoa, ginger, garlic, popcorn, lemon, etc)
The food waste display was something that certainly struck me, after all….I HATE wasting food. That’s the whole reason I started this blog. At this station, guests are shown a visual of what is wasted by a single family of four annually, more than 1,600 lbs of food.
To add to the engagement, visitors are encouraged to share food pics on social media with the hashtag #CelebrateFood, and are shown a slide show of such photos. And there’s a test kitchen that offers up demonstrations from local chefs, and scientific elements, like what your taste buds are and how they work.
For museum purists, there are displays of various peculiar looking utensils, and an eclectic collection of cookbooks that were influential. I’m proud to say I own a couple of these.
By far the most entertaining element for me was the virtual meal prep. Through a projector and a touchscreen, guests could see how to prepare tamales, a poached egg with hollandaise sauce, grilled salmon with peaches and a groundmeat soup. Click here to see my video of it.
The exhibit concluded with an adorable and elaborate kitchen play set from Step2. My daughter took to it like a food blogger’s daughter would. She made herself at home and made me ravioli. In all, a fulfilling afternoon at the museum learning about the thing that we all have in common-FOOD!