The Meat of the Matter by Liz Williams

We are experiencing an increase in our appreciation for delicious food in many forms. We are also becoming aware of the societal and environmental costs of precious eating. And as more and more people explore this thing - food and drink - that everyone needs to survive, the very study of it makes it change.

So it is no wonder that our public awareness of food as a social and cultural indicator has grown, that museums have reflected that awareness. The Southern Food & Beverage Museum in New Orleans has been open since 2008 and has been mounting pop-up exhibits since 2004. The relevance of the museum has not grown, because collecting the material culture of food and drink was already a neglected aspect of culture when the museum began. But the recognition of the museum's relevance has continued to grow. This may be partly because the reputation of SoFAB has grown. But the primary reason for the recognition of the museum's relevance is due to the increasing awareness and acceptance of food as a reflection of culture.

The museum's relevance can be seen in increasing numbers of visitors, increasing mentions in the press, increasing exhibits in all museums of food and drink related subjects, increase in the interest in creating food and beverage museums, and the amount of controversy over the actions of chefs, farmers and fishers, and eaters.

Becoming something so ordinary that people simply accept its cultural relevance without question means that being a food and drink museum or an exhibit about food and drink at a museum will soon be an expectation of the exploration of culture, as opposed to a curiosity. Food will not be a fetish, but a cultural marker. Industries like meat processing and tuna canning will want to see their cultural history preserved, not just the science and history of its technology. When that happens our fixation on food as a cutting edge medium for artistic exploration may cool, but the need to preserve food and drink history, culture and material may be normalized and expected. And only then will be have reintroduced food and drink to its true place in our culture.