London is not short of museums, and yet, amazingly, there still isn’t one dedicated to that most popular of obsessions – food.
Enter Bompass and Parr and the British Museum of Food, which opened last week in Borough Market. Yes, the men responsible for rooms filled with gin and tonic mist have a serious side. The museum is designed to raise awareness of food security and production, and the duo’s ultimate aim is to eventually influence education and government policy.
But don’t worry, they aim to do it in their trademark whimsical, fun and somewhat silly manner.
One of the exhibits includes a ‘journey through the gut’ whereby visitors sit on massage chairs and watch video footage of a camera passing through the alimentary canal.
Seats are synced to the footage to vibrate at relevant points so that the viewer gets to experience the sensation of being slowly digested.
The Museum will also involve visitors in scientific experiments. First up is Choco-Phonica. Professor Charles Spence of Oxford University aims to discover how sound impacts taste by giving 10,000 volunteers free pieces of chocolate to eat in listening booths playing different soundtracks.
In order to raise awareness of pollination the museum also features an enchanting butterfly room. Heated to a hot and humid 30 degrees visitors can watch as butterflies up to half a foot long flutter around them. It’s quite beautiful.
Other exhibits include a roomful of menus. On paper, not the most interesting thing, until you take the time to read them. They offer a fascinating glimpse into the food culture of the past.
The current location inside a former banana warehouse is temporary. The plan is to move larger premises for a few years, before finding a permanent location. The pair are currently assembling a board of trustees and seeking charitable status.
What we think
Politics, technology, class – there is so much bound up in the history of food. It’s as evocative of how we live as art and design. The idea for a food museum is so obvious so as to make you wonder why it hasn’t been done before. In spite of the unprecedented interest in food, most of us still don’t really know what we shovel into our mouths. Anything that can make us more aware should be welcomed.