Don't Eat the Pictures

The Bullock Texas State History Museum Puts Food on Display in Austin

"Our Global Kitchen" exhibit is thought-provoking and mouthwatering.

By Joanna O'Leary May 6, 2016

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The Bullock State History Museum in all its glory.

Did you know that China is the world’s largest producer and consumer of potatoes? Or that every French citizen eats an average of four pounds of oysters a year? And that in many parts of Asia and Africa sheep are prized for their tail meat? This reporter, who takes some pride in knowing more than the average bear about food, certainly didn’t, and for that and other reasons thoroughly enjoyed “Our Global Kitchen: Food, Nature, Culture.” 

Designed and curated by the American Museum of Natural History, “Our Global Kitchen” is a traveling exhibition in residence now through July 24th at the Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin. It’s definitely worth a trip to our state capital even if you aren’t a “foodie”; however, those interested in culinary politics, agricultural science, and food history will find the exhibit particularly illuminating.

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A trip to the Aztec marketplace.

“Our Global Kitchen” begins with an introductory video, which I suggest be viewed while sitting on one of the chairs shaped like fruit. From there, guests make their ways through various interactive, multimedia and multi-sensory displays (don’t forget to stop and smell the lavender!), including but not limited to: an Aztec marketplace diorama, a library of antiquarian cookbooks, a collection of different culinary utensils, as well as features on different countries’ indigenous crops and culinary traditions. Kids will love the “virtual cooking” table and history buffs are likely to wig out at the incredibly detailed reproductions of dining rooms of historic figures such as Jane Austen and Kublai Khan.

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Cookbooks are history at "Our Global Kitchen."

What I found perhaps most impressive about “Our Global Kitchen” was that its pedagogy wasn’t preachy. The information presented with regards to consumption patterns, international trade and the environment was accessible, balanced and often entertaining. One leaves better educated, and of course, hungry.

The “Our Global Kitchen” exhibition will be at the Bullock State History Museum from March 12–July 24.

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