A museum that moves your appetite

The Chicago-style hot dog is an all-beef dog with a poppy seed bun topped with yellow mustard, white onions, green relish, a dill pickle, tomato slices and pickled peppers. (Ashley Altus/Medill)

By Ashley Altus

Foodseum’s mission is to excite Chicago’s passion for food.

Foodseum, a museum on the move, opened its first pop-up exhibit at Block 37 paying homage to the hot dog and encased meats of the world.

Ed Lesnak, 75, and his family have embraced this food theme for generations.  He’s been making sausage all his life. His father taught him how, he said. He taught his son John Lesnak, 46, who passed the practice on to his children.

They made the trip from Kenosha, Wisconsin, because of their love of sausage after finding out about Foodseum in a newspaper advertisement. Seeing the traditional tools on display made them feel a connection to their own sausage making.

“If I wanted to use the machines I’d be very familiar with it,” Ed Lesnak said. “My dad made sausage. I know what every one of them does and how it works so it’s interesting to see.”

Although they use electric grinders instead of hand grinders to make their delicious pork sausages, John Lesnak said he appreciated how all the tools needed to make sausage were present at the museum.

“If you went down to the supermarket and got us some pork right now he [Ed] and I could knock out some sausage,” John said.

Kyle Joseph, founder and executive director of Foodseum, discovered his passion for food as a child growing up part of his life in Europe.

“I got to grow up experiencing different cultures and one of my favorite things was to connect to a culture and learn about someone through food,” Joseph said.

From Mexican chorizo sausage made with chili peppers, garlic, oregano and cumin to French andouille sausage made with cayenne, thyme, paprika and sage, Joseph provides museum visitors the opportunity to learn about the ingredients used to make sausages from around the world. Tastings of sausage vary from day to day. Interactive exhibits that allow you to smell some of the spices stimulates the senses even further.

“The whole idea is for people to find their spark to say I want to learn more about the history or flavors or how things are made,” Joseph said.

Visitors have the chance to grind homemade playdough using authentic hand grinders to try out making their own sausage.

With an antique radio playing an advertisement from the 1940s for Chicago’s Armour and Company hot dogs on a loop, Foodseum lets Chicagoans learn about their roots in encased meats.

Depending on the day, the museum offers sausage tastings to allow visitors to taste what they’ve been learning about.

Joseph said one of the hopes for a permanent location would be to have a show kitchen.  He envisions a space that would allow for food events and festivals and would like to remain downtown in the Loop.

“Give them a center place to come together as a food community,” Joseph said.

Joseph estimates about 2,000 people have walked through the free  exhibit and hopes that 5,000 people will come in before the exhibit closes on December 20.

The next food adventure he’s planning as a pop-up will celebrate chocolate. Check out the soon to be set location and future exhibits at www.foodseum.org.

Photo at top:The Chicago-style hot dog is an all-beef dog with a poppy seed bun topped with yellow mustard, white onions, green relish, a dill pickle, tomato slices and pickled peppers. (Ashley Altus/Medill)
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