[Photos: Grav Weldon]
To understand The South, you must first understand its food. Where it comes from, why it's eaten, who cooks it. It's more than just calling it comfort food. More than biscuits and gravy. More than Texas barbecue or jambalaya. At the Southern Food and Beverage Museum in New Orleans, you'll see how this region's culinary roots and traditions represented.
The museum is about 8,000 square feet in the south end of the Riverwalk Marketplace, a long mall attached to the Ernest Morial New Orleans Convention Center. It's a cheap visit for tourists; a mere $10 ($5 for students and seniors) and a fascinating one at that. The exhibits are a bit jumbled, but they are widely varied and interesting.
Understandably as a newer museum and one located in Louisiana, there's an emphasis on Creole and Cajun foods. Just within the front atrium you'll find exhibits on the history of making boudin; what it takes to build a good muffeletta sandwich; historical food crops of the state; and the "Katrina Deli," a humorous reminder of food frustration after the 2005 hurricane.
More exhibits are found in connecting rooms: on fishing and wetlands, on barbecue and corn and a quite extensive one on sugar. Two exhibits cover alcohol. One includes the bar saved from Brunning's Restaurant after Hurricane Katrina and the other, The Museum of the American Cocktail, describes the history of the fancy drink, how Prohibition changed the cocktail, and what the fancy little drinks were served in.
And then there's a room exhibiting food from all Southern states, including commercial products you may know and love.
As extensive as the museum hopes to be, it's constrained by a relatively small space. But that's going to change in the next few years. SoFAB (the neat acronym the museum goes by) will be moving to the old Dryades Street Market in the spring of 2013. The 30,000 square foot facility in Central City will be host to a plethora of food exhibits. The redevelopment project for the market is part of a big effort by real estate developer Thoron, which also plans to invest in and redevelop more than 100,000 square feet of space in the area as mixed use residential and commercial. The project will bring SoFAB within walking distance of Leidenheimer Bakery, Brown's Dairy and Café Reconcile, which is the former home of Uglesich's Restaurant.
Southern Food and Beverage Museum
About the author: Kat Robinson is a writer and storyteller out of Little Rock, AR who writes the Arkansas Times' Eat Arkansas blog and who explores Arkansas and the American South looking for great stories, interesting people and the next great meal -- especially if it involves pie.