New York City Gets Its First Food Museum

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“It’s only the beginning, but it sure is a great one,” said Dave Arnold, founder of the Museum of Food and Drink, shortly before cutting the ribbon on MOFAD’s first brick-and-mortar location in Williamsburg today.

Located within a fork’s throw of McCarren Park, the MOFAD Lab is the product of many months of planning and sweat equity from Arnold, executive director Peter Kim, program director Emma Boast and a squad of dedicated staffers and volunteers.

Kim kicked off festivities with a sweeping mandate for the museum: an inclusive (“Not just foodies,” said Kim), fascinating and fun educational space. How food is made, why it matters, history, science, economics and a “hard look at contemporary food issues” — these grand and complex topics all fall under MOFAD’s purview.

The initial exhibit is called “Flavor: Making It and Faking It” (check out the Times review here), loaded with explorations of synthetic and natural flavorings. It was thoroughly compelling, even if not always pleasant — one little pellet of mushroom flavor continued to repulse my palate for at least a half hour.

One of the day’s speakers, State Senator Daniel Squadron, had a quirky trio of questions for the MOFAD team: 1) How good is MSG? 2) What are the best food crawls? 3) If you could take a pill to sustain you like food, would you? Squadron’s inquiries speak to the roving curiosity many of us have regarding what we eat. To quote restaurant titan Bill Telepan, another of the day’s speakers: “We think we know so much about food, but we really don’t know that much.”

“Food is rightfully becoming the new lingua franca,” added Jessica Harris, food historian and MOFAD advisory board member. “It’s simple. If we don’t eat, we die, so we should know a lot more about what we eat and how and why we’re eating it.”

MOFAD’s modest-size new space is just the beginning of our collective education — Arnold said their plan is to continue opening bigger and better venues in locations TBD. If the Lab is any indication, we have a lot to look forward to.

Photos courtesy of Museum of Food and Drink.

Jesse Hirsch

Formerly the print editor of Edible Brooklyn and Edible Manhattan, Jesse Hirsch now works as the New York editor for GOOD magazine.

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