NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - Different regions of the South lay claim to having great southern cooking and you can learn all about them at one museum in New Orleans.
From cooking lessons to expansive displays, the Southern Food and Beverage Museum is a food-lovers dream. Liz Williams is the president of SOFAB and a knowledgeable chef. On one day, Williams taught visitors the delicate art of creole cooking. Later in the week, her lesson would focus on Cajun cooking.
It’s an interactive and tasty part of the museum, which boasts exhibits focusing on much more than New Orleans cooking. From southern fried to barbecue, visitors get to see regional favorites from 15 southern states.
“South Carolina for example, the Gullah Geechee culture there. These are people who were runaway slaves, or who were slaves that were kept in this island. So they make things with shrimp and crabs and all sorts of things that are very similar to what we do here, like a gumbo,” Williams said.
Looking around the museum, it’s hard not to wonder where all Williams’ artifacts come from, how she was able to collect all of them.
“People started to give us things because they had found a place where they would be valued,” Williams explained. “We have a wonderful gadget section where we encourage people to play with old gadgets and try to guess what they are. Someone brought us a McKenzie’s Pastry Shop sheet pan. And people of course brought their chicory separate from the coffee. It’s a recent invention to have it all come combined together.”
You can see the African influence in how food is cooked, the Native American influence in the ingredients.
“All of our spices and our interest in spices come from the Spanish,” Williams said.
And, there’s a section on cocktails, including the story of absinthe in New Orleans.
“Everybody has their own propriety formula, but it’s more or less licoricey,” Williams said.
At this museum, you are likely to learn things you didn’t know about some of your favorite meals.
“Food is one of the most important cultural indicators, and it’s also the most fun cultural indicators, because everybody eats and it’s something that joins us all together,” Williams said.
And SOFAB helps make those food connections, from the present to the past and across America’s southern states.
The Southern Food and Beverage Museum is open six days a week and is closed on Tuesdays. You can check out their cooking demonstration schedule and more at their website: https://natfab.org/southern-food-and-beverage