Food Freedom

Gluttony, Guilt, and Globalism

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The National Geographic Museum's new exhibit, Food: Our Global Kitchen, careens from celebration to scolding so rapidly that visitors risk getting sick to their stomachs.

The exhibit, which runs through February 22 in downtown D.C., is beautifully executed, with stations to smell spices, touchscreen cooking tutorials, and even a working in-house kitchen. But the show's mixed messages can be confusing for someone not steeped in locavorism. A diorama valorizing the plenty of a traditional Aztec market from 1519 sits awkwardly next to a finger-wagging note about the CO2 expended to create the plenty of your local Publix.

Tables set with lavish meals from many cultures are fascinating. But before anyone enjoys themselves too much, they're forced to stare dutifully at a tower of wasted food from a typical American kitchen. This excellent exhibit puts the modern American love-hate relationship with food on display, perhaps more than it intends.