|You might not truly appreciate the breadth that canned
luncheon meat can achieve until you visit the Hormel
SPAM Museum in Austin, Minnesota
Whenever you travel anywhere, we’ve found a that museum is almost always a safe bet to spend a solid couple of hours or so. Perhaps the best thing we’ve found is that museums can cover the gamut of topics, from the serious and sophisticated (random examples from our travels include the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, the Denver Art Museum, and the Smithsonian Natural History Museum) to the quirky and fun (e.g. The Cartoon Art Museum of San Francisco, CA, The Mothman Museum in Point Pleasant, WV, and The National Funeral Museum in Houston, TX.)
With an eye to future travels, we thought we’d dive into the world of where food and museums intersect (my spouse and I have actually visited two on the list here, but would love to visit every other one mentioned) and give you a playlist based on that unique conjunction.
1) Butter Museum – Located in Shandon in County Cork, Ireland, this unique museum details the butter industry of Ireland, with the Butter Exchange of Cork being a vital hub in the 19th century. Perhaps the most well-known brand for the Irish butter industry resides in Kerrygold – representing them is the appropriately titled “Kerrygold” by Bill Clinton. No, not THAT Bill Clinton, the former United States President who actually has Irish Heritage, but rather Bill Clinton Kalonji, a Congolese singer who released this very danceable Soukous/Afrobeat tune and others throughout the mid 2010s.
2) SPAM Museum – The food everyone likes to make fun of, but often secretly love at the same time, Spam (originally created as a way to peddle off what was then an unprofitable cut of meat, the pork shoulder) grew in popularity and notoriety (both good and bad) during World War II, when it was fed to thousands of soldiers and civilians around the world. Now, this creation by Hormel has enough kitsch value to warrant its own temple of sorts, based in the corporation’s home in Austin, MN. We figured we couldn’t not use the Monty Python comedy troupe’s take on “Spam” to represent here, considering that the museum also dedicates a section of their space to the infamous skit.
3) Museo do Cafe (Coffee Museum) – Occupying a space of the historic Brazilian Coffee Stock Exchange, this museum Santos, Sao Paulo offers a detailed history of the country’s relation with coffee, with barista classes and coffee tastings available for visitors. We figured we ought to bring some music that will remind you of having a java at a local cafe, with “Cafezinho” by Dendê & Band the perfect choice.
4) La Cité du Vin – Unlike many museums which are regional in scope, this Bordeaux, France institution attempts to take a look at the history of wine throughout the world, combining it with a building sporting some of the more eye-catching modern architecture in the area. Accompanying our wine glass on this is “Bourdeaux” by the Durutti Column, whose unique jazz and classical sounds were something of a stark contrast to their fellow Factory label bandmates like Joy Division/New Order and A Certain Ratio.
5) Watermelon Museum – Nestled in Beijing, China, this monument to this familiar fruit details its history from the southern reaches of Africa to the world at large. The building itself is said to be very futuristic with plenty of fake melons and melon-shaped edifices, with placards catered toward the natives (if you cannot read Mandarin, you’re somewhat out of luck in that way), but real-life melons can be found growing outside the building. Musically, we couldn’t think of a better tune here than Herbie Hancock’s “Watermelon Man”, which he released in 1962 and is now considered a jazz standard.
6) Salt Museum – At one time, salt was said to be worth more than gold pound for pound. Even though that is not the case anymore, salt remains as vital as ever, and the museum at Messolonghi, Greece details everything related to this substance, from its traditional uses and origins to its impact across a number of realms from art to tourism to the economy and beyond. Hailing from Cincinnati, Ohio, The National shakes out some rhythm with “I Should Live In Salt” from their 2013 “Trouble Will Find Me” album.
7) Mustard Museum – Cheekily calling itself “The Condimental Divide”, this Middleton, Wisconsin attraction features nearly 6,000 containers of mustard from all fifty states and seventy countries as well as an assortment of mustard historical and advertising media. The John Lennon-penned “Mean Mr. Mustard”, included on the 1969 Beatles record “Abbey Road”, provides the musical spread here, though it has been reported that Lennon himself didn’t think too highly of the song.
8) Museo del Tequila y el Mezcal – Nestled in the heart of Mexico City, Mexico, this museum caters to the tourists crowd but does a fair job of detailing two of Mexico’s most popular exports in Tequila and Mezcal. Hailing from his 2020 “Man On The Moon III”, the Brooklyn-via-Cleveland, Ohio rapper Kid Cudi displays a bit of the more treacherous side of this distilled spirit with “Tequila Shots”, featuring lyrics such as “Hm, hear me now, hey/This time I’m ready for it/This fight, this war in me/This fight, this war in me, in me, in me.”
9) The Museum of Celebrity Leftovers – Residing in the Old Boatstore Cafe in Kingsand, England, this very succinct display gives you food that famous (Prince Charles) and not-so-famous (your level of fame may vary) people decided was not worth finishing, all displayed in neatly displayed glass domes. Musically, the Austin-based Vallejo provides the musical accompaniment, with the “Over You (Bump Mix)” hailing from their 2006 album “Leftovers.”
10) International Banana Museum – lying just north of the Salton Sea in the small town of Mecca, this one-room museum packs a lot of punch inside its exterior peel, with approximately 25,000 banana-related items and assorted tchotchkes available for viewing by the visitor. Perhaps appropriately, you need only travel three hours (depending on traffic) to get to the San Fernando Valley, home of The Dickies, whose cover of the “Banana Splits (The Tra La La Song)” is firmly in line with their pop-punk-with a sense of humor they have been pumping out since the late 1970s.
11) Shin-Yokohama Raumen Museum – If you haven’t guessed, this museum resides in Yokohama, Japan. What you might not have surmised by the name, however, is that this museum, despite plenty of opportunities for ramen education, touts itself also as an amusement park, with mimicked ramen shops and other retail stores dating back to the late 1950s inside. Based on the ongoing Dr. Stone manga series, our music comes from Hiroaki Tsutsumi’s “Foxtail Ramen”, which proves to be a miraculous creation to villagers in a post-apocalyptic world.
12) Canadian Potato Museum – This O’Leary, Canada seasonally-operated museum celebrates all things potato, but they are particularly fond of Prince Edward Island (PEI – the town’s province) variety and the equipment and implements used in harvesting these tubers. I’m guessing that many Canadians would consider themselves meat and potato men (and women, for that matter), and our song selection, country star Alan Jackson’s “Meat and Potato Man” is chosen just for them.
13) Wyandot Popcorn Museum – Our final stop on this playlist takes us back to the heart of the Buckeye State to Marion, Ohio, once a central hub for all things popcorn (Oroville Redenbacher and The Marion Popcorn Company) and where the Wyandot Popcorn Museum (housed in the old post office) sports all manner of popcorn-related memorabilia. The music here (“Sleeping Past Dawn” – Cicada Popcorn) reflects another sensation which is soon to hit Ohio and other Eastern/Midwest states – the hatching of the Brood X Cicadas, predicted to emerge from underground later this spring.