Food – The essence of life
Virtual and sensory experiments, active search for information and guided and fun-filled learning make visitors aware of the complexity of food across the world and through the ages. Visiting the exhibition aims to bring a better understanding of every aspect of eating and the implications of an action which has become so mundane. Interactivity is the central element of the immersive scenography and is highlighted by a great game in each of the three sectors.
The Food Sector: Me and the outside world
Where does food come from and how is it produced? How can we transport it? How can we ensure we have food to eat out of season? What methods do we use to cook, prepare or present our food to make it tasty and appetising? In this first sector, visitors explore the world of food to answer the fundamental question “What do I eat?”
The first area immerses visitors in idyllic countryside. Surrounded by interactive screens, they witness accelerated images of food in the making, from its development to its packaging, through the growth of maize and hops, the rearing of pigs and sturgeon and the gushing of fresh spring water.
After discovering the infinite variety of our food, visitors move on to Production, focussing on the different food systems to be found across the world. Objects used for gathering food, hunting, rearing livestock or crop farming are put into context and can be viewed three-dimensionally on tactile terminals.
To discover the journeys food makes after it has been produced, visitors can interact with a video wall which lights up according to the path selected. What better fun-filled way to learn about the different methods used for distributing, transporting and tracing food?
Talking about how food is produced and transported is enough to whet the appetite, but before it reaches our table, food first needs to be processed. To help visitors understand how our food is manufactured, preserved and prepared and the traditional and industrial processes this entails, the next area showcases more exhibits, presents interactive terminals and projects personal stories on film. There is also a fun introduction to cooking thanks to a large tactile table with interactive games involving recipes and culinary techniques.
The Society Sector: Me and other people
Throughout the Society sector, visitors discover how food connects us to our own kind. The human diet is, above all, a social and cultural indicator, giving us clues to help us understand both ourselves and other people. We create links, display our social status, ritualise practices and perpetuate a tradition of conviviality whenever we share food. It is a subtle way of talking about oneself and of measuring oneself against others, whether we are the host or the guest. This sector favours the sharing of knowledge and experiences, and focuses on exchange, starting with the question: “How do I eat?” The three main recurring themes of the tour show that eating is not only a biological need, but also an act which fulfils an essential social function.
Visitors can enter a cocoon filled with photos and personal accounts from the private sphere and will realize the extent to which our education and our family circle shape our relationship with food. A community wall invites them to explore new social phenomena such as the term ‘food porn’ or the use of hashtags. From New York to Seoul, #pizza, #burger or #bulgogi reflect our cosmopolitan culinary discoveries and cravings. However, the silence from certain parts of the world reveals other realities and food boundaries...
This wall may inspire visitors to leave their childhood memories, tips and ‘food selfies’ in a special terminal which will be used to expand the Alimentarium ‘Proust’s madeleine’, a sort of memory bank created for and by visitors. Everyone can add their favourite recipe which, who knows, may well be recreated by the Alimentarium chefs!
Continuing the tour, visitors will realise how their choices and habits are also determined by much wider cultural and social spheres, converging from a rich array of influences. Every society, every culture, defines what it deems as authorised food, its taboos and its rituals. In addition to religious taboos, our era has witnessed the emergence of new alimentary precepts (less salt, less sugar, etc.). A collection of large-scale photos highlights the diversity of eating habits across the globe and over the centuries. What are the consequences of our food choices on our health, the environment and on other people’s lives? Why do we crave for more?
The way the table is laid has marked history and is important in many countries. An interactive table presents several games on tableware and table manners in different cultures, inviting visitors to learn about some of these fundamental values. To end the tour, visitors find themselves confronted by a large wall of lively and colourful images, along with a range of objects from the Museum’s collection. This area evokes the richness of different rituals, festivals and places where we eat across the globe.
The Body Sector: Me and my body
The last part of the visit, the Body sector, invites visitors to reflect on three fundamental questions: “What do I think about what I eat? Why do I eat? What impact do my choices have on my health?
In the first area, visitors wander through the pathways of the brain dotted with giant neurons to discover how our five senses work. This fun trail reveals that we can exercise and improve our grey matter at any age! Some hands-on and tasty experiments show that sometimes our senses may be misled or misleading and that our education and our geographical, family and social environment have a major influence on our food choices and preferences.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to travel through the organs of the alimentary canal to discover the secrets of how it works? For a few minutes, visitors can ‘become’ an apple. Mashed, mixed and broken down by enzymes, they discover the essential role played by the food we eat in the construction, functioning and protection of our bodies. In other words, how making sensible food choices is the best way to protect your health.
To round off the tour, younger visitors are invited to play while putting into practice what they have learned during their visit. The GameRoom, designed as a point of exchange between the virtual educational platform and the physical Museum, is an augmented reality, multiplayer gaming area. This immersive space invites visitors to move around and experiment with notions picked up during their visit. In the Digestix game, visitors explore the mechanical and chemical functions of the organs of the alimentary canal. Meanwhile, Nutrix enables them to unravel the mysteries of the composition of food.