The Museum of Food and Drink has been Emma Boast’s life for three and a half years. In that time, MOFAD went from a mobile puffing gun that made cereal for curious bystanders to its first permanent exhibit, which opened this week as the one-room MOFAD Lab in Williamsburg. But that cereal gun still exemplifies everything they’re out to do.
“It gave people a sort of sideshow lesson about the industry of cereal, why we eat this food anyway, how it’s made, the science behind it, some of the cultural history in terms of cereal’s relationship to marketing,” explained Boast, MOFAD’s program director. “It was a really hands-on and fun sensory experience for the audience, but also one that communicated these deeper ideas.”
That multisensory aspect is key to MOFAD Lab’s inaugural exhibit, “Flavor: Making It and Faking It,” which explores the $25 billion industry devoted to how our food and beverages taste. The exhibit is geared toward high schoolers and adults, but that doesn’t mean a roomful of glass cases: Turn the knob on a candy dispenser to sample tablets of plain citric acid; smelling stations challenge you to guess what’s real versus artificial; then play mad scientist on the SmellSynth, which lets you mix and match flavors like blueberries, popcorn and even vomit. (Thanks, J.K. Rowling.)
“It’s really important to have some sort of sensory experience, whether it’s taste or smell or both, because smell in particular is so tied to memory,” Boast said. “[MOFAD Lab] is really about drawing connections and teaching people to think, not just in the museum itself, about how food affects every part of their lives.”
The goal is not just to explore the farm-to-table route, but the cultural, historical and business aspects of what we eat.
“A lot of foods that we take for granted all have stories and processes behind them that we think are worth exploring,” Boast said. “In the case of this particular exhibition, the future and present are actually linked to the past pretty inextricably, and that is true of a lot of other stories we’ll be looking at as well.”
Flavor: Making It and Faking It
Through Feb. 28, 2016
MOFAD Lab, 62 Bayard St. $10 adults, kids under 5 free; advance ticket purchase is recommended