The American Museum of Natural History hosts a zealous banquet of a show, offering delicious tidbits about food agriculture, history, cooking, and how different cultures experience their foods and meals. The exhibition, “Our Global Kitchen”, takes the visitor on a journey through the past and future. You can explore what a typical dinner Livia Drusilla, wife of Emperor Augustus in ancient Rome, would have eaten, or visualize the future of urban farming which exists in a cylinder building with inclinations full of different crops. The showcase of cultural fares and food systems is too diverse to portray a particular message, but the educational experience about an event we partake in daily resonates deep.
The exhibit begins as you walk into a dark room with projectors lighting pictures of people throughout the world and what food means to us as a whole and as individuals. Words like “comfort” or “symbolic” flash on the screens to inform us of the role edibles and cuisines play in our lives. Then, it moves on to portray a look into agriculture of the past, present, and future. We become exposed to how the world was fed in the past, and how will we feed the expected 9 billion people of the future. Several displays along the wall show how agriculture effects our ecosystem and produces the fruits and vegetables we eat today.
In the third room we are exposed to the sustenance and food ways of the past. An elaborate mural of a fifteenth century Aztec market is at our display to observe. The show weaves through 5 rooms displaying living rooms and kitchens of Jane Austen, Empress Livia Drusilla, and Genghis Khan. Also, you learn what a 5,000-year-old mummified man, most likely a chief, ate as his last meal.
The exhibition hosts a working kitchen courtesy of Whole Foods, which includes local chefs demonstrating different edibles throughout the duration of the exhibit. A presentation on making fresh apple cider with an old fashioned cider press was curated the day I visited the museum and it delighted my hungry stomach, which started growling during my visit to the American Museum of National History.
Food plays a significant role in our daily lives. Whether it exists as a celebratory meal or just a quick grab and to-go snack, it shapes our existence and perception. Eating and our food choices affect our planet, our health, our culture, and our identity and should never be taken for granted because without it we are nothing.
“Our Global Kitchen” is on view through August 11th, 2013 at the American Museum of National History, Central Park West and 79th Street, 212.769.5100, www.amnh.org