9 Bizarre Food Museums

Idaho Potato Museum via Facebook
Idaho Potato Museum via Facebook

What’s your favorite food? Chances are, there’s a museum dedicated to it somewhere. You might want to include one or more of these museums in your next vacation road trip.  

1. JELL-O GALLERY // LEROY, NEW YORK

Pearle Wait of LeRoy, New York, invented a fruit-flavored gelatin dessert in 1897 that he wife named Jell-O. Appropriately, the town is home to the Jell-O Gallery, a museum dedicated to the gelatin that took America by storm. Visitors will learn the history of Jell-O, see memorabilia and advertising from Jell-O history, and learn about cooking in the past century. The museums operated by the non-profit LeRoy Historical Society, and is not supported by Kraft/General Foods, which owns Jell-O. The museum is open seven days a week through December, and weekdays January through March.    

2. THE SPAM MUSEUM // AUSTIN, MINNESOTA

The Hormel company has its headquarters in Austin, Minnesota, a few miles south of Minneapolis. That’s also the home of the Spam Museum. Hormel opened a small company museum in the local mall in 1991, but quickly found that all their visitors cared about was Spam, so now that classic canned meat has its own building downtown. Exhibits include the history of Spam, cooking demonstrations, Spam memorabilia, and a soundtrack from Monty Python.

3. INTERNATIONAL BANANA MUSEUM // NORTH SHORE, CALIFORNIA

In 2005, the International Banana Club Museum was named by the Guinness Book of World Records as the “most items devoted to any one fruit in the world.” The IBC Museum was established by Ken Bannister and the club in 1975, and amassed its collection of 17,000 banana items from club members who gained “banana merits.” The collection was sold in 2010 and is now the International Banana Museum. It is open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.   

4. WYANDOT POPCORN MUSEUM // MARION, OHIO

Wyandot Popcorn Museum via Facebook

Marion, Ohio, is the self-proclaimed Popcorn Capital of the World, due to the existence of the Wyandot Popcorn Company, which was based in the area since the 1930s. The company now focuses on chips, but its legacy is enshrined in the Wyandot Popcorn Museum, which boasts an extensive collection of restored antique popcorn poppers. These commercial poppers range from movie theater models to snack wagons to factory poppers, some over 100 years old. The museum shares space with the Wyandot Historical Society in the town’s historic former post office building. The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday, 1 to 4 p.m. through October, and weekends only the rest of the year.  

5. NATIONAL DAIRY SHRINE MUSEUM // FORT ATKINSON, WISCONSIN

The National Dairy Shrine is a professional group formed in 1949 promote the milk industry. The National Dairy Shrine Museum is a place to learn about all facets of the dairy industry, from the history of midwest dairy farmers to the production of butter, ice cream, cheese, and other products. The Shrine also has educational programs, a Hall of Fame honoring leaders in the industry, scholarships and internships, and more. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

6. NATIONAL MUSTARD MUSEUM // MIDDLETON, WISCONSIN

Barry Levenson was once Wisconsin’s Assistant Attorney General, but his real passion is mustard. He’s been collecting different mustards since 1986, and eventually left his law career completely to devote his time to the Mount Horeb Mustard Museum he founded in 1992. In 2000, the growing museum moved to its permanent location in Middleton and became the National Mustard Museum. There you can see 5,624 different mustards and a collection of mustard memorabilia. The museum is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week. Admission is free, as the museum is supported by donations and mustard sales.   

7. INTERNATIONAL VINEGAR MUSEUM // ROSLYN, SOUTH DAKOTA

International Vinegar Museum via Facebook

The world’s only vinegar museum was founded by Lawrence "Vinegarman" Diggs to showcase the many  varieties of vinegar and its many uses. The International Vinegar Museum has 350 different varieties of vinegar, a test kitchen, and vinegar tastings for visitors. The museum is open during the summer only. If you plan to visit Roslyn, the best time would be in June during the International Vinegar Festival.  

8. THE IDAHO POTATO MUSEUM // BLACKFOOT, IDAHO

Idaho Potato Museum via Facebook

Idaho produces more potatoes than any other state, so it only makes sense that they would have a museum dedicated to the state’s crop. The Idaho Potato Museum is housed in the historic Oregon Short Line Railroad Depot in Blackfoot. You’ll learn about potato history, growing potatoes, and the importance of potatoes to Idaho’s economy. The newest addition to the museum is the Potato Station Cafe, which specialized in French fries, of course. The Idaho Potato Museum is open six days a week from April through September, and weekdays from October through March.  

9. HARLAND SANDERS CAFÉ AND MUSEUM // CORBIN, KENTUCKY

Harland Sanders fed travelers at his gas station on Corbin, Kentucky, during the Great Depression, and then opened a restaurant, where he developed his method of pressure-frying chicken, which he breaded with 11 herbs and spices. Kentucky Fried Chicken grew out of that restaurant, which for a time had a motel attached. Sanders set up a sample hotel room inside the restaurant so that travelers could see what the rooms looked like before making the decision to stay. The motel is gone, but that restaurant was restored as the Harland Sanders Cafe and Museum, with many of the original artifacts, including the sample motel room. There is a modern KFC outlet attached. Some of the museum’s artifacts are displayed at the fast food unit, and you can sit down and eat your chicken in the museum.

10 Creative Ways to Prepare a Turkey

A spatchcocked turkey on a grill.
A spatchcocked turkey on a grill.
iStock.com/pr2is

The typical method for preparing a turkey is to put the bird in a hot oven and wait until it's done—perfectly acceptable, if a little basic. Have a more adventurous Thanksgiving this year by trying one of these out-of-the-box recipes.

1. MOLE-ROASTED TURKEY

To create this delicious bird, Epicurious recommends marinating the turkey in mole overnight; at minimum, you'll need to coat the inside and the outside of the turkey with the sauce and let it sit in the fridge for an hour before cooking. The chocolate sauce makes for one moist turkey; serve with Masa stuffing and spicy chili gravy on the side.

2. BEER CAN TURKEY

Beer can turkey is a variation on beer can chicken, in which a chicken is propped up over an open can of beer that bastes the bird from the inside. For a turkey, you'll need to find two 24-ounce cans of beer—one for the interior basting, and one for the dripping pan and for basting the outside of the bird—and spices to season. Cooking can be done either in an oven or on the grill; either way, consider purchasing a special rack to help keep the bird upright while it's roasting. Step-by-step instructions can be found at The Chew.

3. SPATCHCOCKED TURKEY

J. Kenji Lopez-Alt at Serious Eats calls spatchcocking "a method for lazy folks with great taste," but it's also a great technique if you're short on time. The method—which allows a turkey to cook faster and more evenly—requires removing the bird's spine, turning it over, and pressing hard to splay it out flat before popping it in the oven. You can find step-by-step instructions here.

4. 100-PROOF TURKEY

If you're serious about adding alcohol to your turkey, you can emulate New York tavern PD O’Hurley’s by injecting your turkey with vodka. The recipe calls for the turkey to be marinated overnight in four flavors of vodka, and a vodka injection is done after cooking to retain the alcohol content.

5. BACON-WRAPPED TURKEY

There's an easy way to make every food better: Add bacon. A turkey is no exception; when placed on top of a turkey, the bacon grease melts and flavors the bird's skin. This recipe combines the flavors of bacon and maple syrup to create one delicious dish. To take the turkey to the next level, check out this recipe, which requires weaving a bacon jacket for your bird.

6. BRAISED TURKEY

To braise a turkey, you first cook it in the oven, let it rest, then slice it and remove the legs and wings, and cook the meat in broth. It won't look like a traditional Thanksgiving turkey for the presentation, but it will taste delicious. Bobby Flay has a recipe for herb-roasted and braised turkey.

7. SOUS-VIDE TURKEY

Sous-vide is a method for cooking meat that involves encasing meat in a plastic bag and placing it in hot water to cook over a long period of time. Serious Eats has step-by-step instructions for making sous-vide turkey (with crispy skin cooked separately). Before getting down to sous-videing, you'll need to remove the wings and legs from the bird, then cut the breast meat from the bone; next, place one half of the breast meat cut side up, and place the other half on top of it, cut side down, and tie into a cylinder, which is what you'll place into a plastic bag and immerse in a hot water bath for cooking.

8. PUMPKIN SPICE TURKEY

Pumpkin spice is the ultimate fall flavor—and by following this recipe, you can even have a pumpkin spice-flavored bird. Create one-quarter of a cup of rub with cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg, then add brown sugar, salt, and pepper. Coat the thawed bird with canola oil, then rub in the spice; allow it to sit in the fridge overnight, then cook as usual.

9. TURDUNKIN'

Sure, you could make a Turducken—a turkey stuffed with a duck that is stuffed with a chicken—but it's a complicated dish, since all the birds have to be deboned ahead of time. Those who love both Thanksgiving and Dunkin' Donuts should try the Turdunkin', which is "a turkey brined in Dunkin' Donuts coolattas, stuffed with munchkins and served with coffee gravy and mashed hash browns." Yes, it definitely sounds disgusting, but according to one of its creators, "The turDunkin’ was largely delicious" if "a bit too salty ... The coolatta only penetrated the outer reaches of the white meat, but it was delicious and subtle in those places. ... I was very happy with the turkey, the glaze and sprinkles, and the stuffing." You can find step-by-step instructions at Unwholesome Foods.

10. WHITE CASTLE-STUFFED TURKEY

Cook the turkey as you normally would, but replace the stuffing with White Castle sliders (sans pickles). You can find the recipe on White Castle's website, which notes that chefs should "allow 1 Slider for each pound of turkey, which will be equal to 3/4 cup of stuffing per pound."

This piece originally ran in 2016.

8 Surprising Uses for Peeps

iStock
iStock

You can eat marshmallow Peeps, and you can put them in someone's Easter basket. But that's just the beginning of what you can do with those small blobs of sugary goodness. Branch out and use your Peeps in new ways this year.

1. S'MORES

Peeps are marshmallows, and can be toasted over a campfire just like their plain, non-sugar-coated brothers—which means you can make classic S'mores out of them. Best of all: You don't even need a campfire to do it. Serious Eats has a recipe for them that they call S'meeps, which only requires that you pop them in the oven for a short time. If you're a Peeps purist, forget the graham crackers and chocolate and enjoy the unique taste of campfire-toasted Peeps all by themselves.

2. WREATHS

Vanessa Brady at Tried & True has made several Peeps wreaths that are sure to inspire you to do the same. (She even has a tutorial to get you started.)

3. PEEPS-KABOBS

If you want to trick a kid into eating a fruit salad, just serve it up on a stick—with a marshmallow Peep in the middle. Blogger Melodramatic Mom made these for an irresistible after-school snack for her kids.

4. ART SUPPLIES

With their consistent shape and size, and variety of bright colors, Peeps can be used as pixels for larger artworks. Ang Taylor made this Mario jumping a Piranha Plant out of marshmallow chicks and bunnies. To be honest, there are many ways Peeps can be used as an art medium, as we've seen many times before (like in this collection of Peeps dioramas).

5. CAKE TOPPERS

Peeps chicks and bunnies are ready-made decorations that will easily stick to cake frosting and make for desserts that are both seasonal and colorful. If you need a recipe, check out this one for a Marbled Cake with Peeps and M&Ms. See some more cake decorating tips here.

6. PEEPS POPS

There's no danger of misshapen cake pops or drippy lollipops when you start with a Peep on a stick. Michelle from Sugar Swings made these candy pops out of marshmallow Peeps, and using Peeps left her plenty of time to decorate them as Star Wars characters. Michelle has plenty of other Peeps pops ideas you can try out, too.

7. PEEPS KRISPIES TREATS

We've seen that Peeps can be substituted for marshmallows in recipes, but remember that Peeps come in a variety of colors and can be bought in small batches. That makes them really useful for coloring separate portions of your Rice Krispies treat recipe. Kristen at Yellowblissroad has a recipe for Layered Peeps Crispy Treats, and a video of the process at Facebook.

8. DIORAMAS

Using Peeps as characters in a diorama, where you can let your imagination run wild, has become somewhat of an Easter tradition. Kate Ramsayer, Helen Fields, and Joanna Church put their heads together to recreate the Broadway musical Hamilton in marshmallow with a diorama that featured the lyrics to the show's opening number.

While The Washington Post has suspended its annual Peeps Diorama Contest after 10 years, other newspapers—including the Twin Cities Pioneer Press and the Washington City Paper—plus local libraries across the country are carrying on the tradition and holding Peeps diorama contests. But you don't have to enter a contest to have fun making a scene with your family.

This piece originally ran in 2017.

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