PAST: Enjoy your meal!

Gastronomic discoveries through the ages
Wed 16-05-2012 - Sun 16-09-2012

Under the 'Brusselicious' year of gastronomy, the Cinquantenaire Museum is collaborating with VisitBrussels to organise this exhibition.

Did you know that your plate serves up a slice of history ? What you eat and drink today is determined by the gastronomic discoveries of the past. The Cinquantenaire Museum invites you to take a culinary voyage down the ages.

The cultivation of cereals and rice transformed prehistoric hunters into settled farmers. That was quite a revolution! Grain became a life source, as is clearly seen in the Egyptian corn mummies. It would not be long before alcoholic drinks such as beer and wine arrived on the scene. On a Syrian bas-relief made of terracotta, two warriors empty a large crater of wine or beer with the aid of a straw. In ancient times, wine was often spiced and diluted. In northern Europe, beer was an everyday drink until the arrival of tea and coffee. Did you know that our small cups of coffee can be traced back to Yemen? After the first 'cafés' were opened in Istanbul, the beverage known as 'qahwa' became highly popular with rich Europeans, as seen in their precious cups and silverware coffee pots.

Part of the exhibition is also devoted to the history of salt and spices. Before the discovery of sterilisation techniques and the fridge, these condiments were the best way of preserving food. In ancient times, people often used garum, a sauce made of fish that is fermented, salted and spiced. A Vietnamese jug, dating back to the 12th or 13the century, contained a similar sauce. A variation of this is still used today in South-East Asian cuisine. Cakes and sweets are also covered in the exhibition. Visitors will love seeing the elegant trays of sweets made of crystal, by the beechwood moulds for the Dinant cakes, and by a genuine ice-cream cart featuring mirrors, paintings, sculptures and a mechanical piano made around 1895.

Fans of chocolate will be whisked across the Atlantic to see the Aztecs cooking cocoa in water and then adding agave syrup, corn flour, amaranth and sometimes chili peppers too. But America also gave rise to foodstuffs other than chocolate. The potatoes we use to make our famous chips also hail from that part of the world, not to mention tomatoes, pumpkins and corn.