You’ve probably never been to a museum dedicated to food and beverages before. In fact, it’s almost certain you haven’t, unless you’ve been to Southern Food and Beverage Museum at Riverwalk Marketplace . The Southern Food and Beverage Museum is the only museum dedicated to the history of food and beverages in the country. The many ethnicities that have settled in the city since its founding, as well as its physical location as a port on the Mississippi River, all came together to create an indigenous local culture, and of course, cuisine . Located in NOLA, intersecting at the crossroads of centuries of colonial rule followed by British-American dominance, SoFAB has a story to tell about how we have always lived life through what we eat. We love stories about food! In many ways, it defines who we are. Eating is, after all, a universal activity.
SoFAB, as it’s known, has been around since 2008 officially at Riverwalk Marketplace, on the third floor of the shopping mall. It’s ranked by Saveur Magazine as one of Five Great Museums Devoted to Food, and you can learn all about Southern food, not just our local food, through the exhibits and educational programs the museum puts on. It contains exhibits about New Orleans po-boys, snowballs, Cajun food, sugar, MRE’s and abandoned refrigerators in the immediate post-Katrina era, and our famous cocktail culture, showcasing the historic absinthe. It boasts the original 1859 bar from Bruning’s (originally the West End Hotel) on the lakefront, lovingly reassembled after it was damaged by Hurricane Georges in 1997. Museum personnel and craftsmen, using old photographs, put together the bar from 176 pieces that were carried by hand up the escalators of Riverwalk. Current exhibits include The Story of Coffee and Louisiana Bicentennial Foodways.
SoFAB has outgrown its space and is currently planning its 2013 move to the historic Dryades Market in Central City on Oretha Castle Hailey Blvd. It’s going to have much more space, a restaurant, and a stand-alone branch of the New Orleans Public Library down the street that will house its extensive collection of books about Southern food. You should stop by and see what’s going on at SoFAB now at Riverwalk Marketplace, even before the move. It’s a great place to educate yourself, and your kids, about our culture here in the South, and you’ll get hungry just walking through!