I recently received a query from a national TV show about the “Burnt Food Museum” of which I am the founder and primary contributor. They asked me some great questions, so here they are, with my answers:
Curator & Founder’s Background:
Q: A bit of background on you personally.
A: I’m a Grammy-nominated composer/performer; I perform one-woman shows and play the electric strap-on harp, an instrument that was invented for me. My most recent project (“Invention & Alchemy”), with symphony orchestra, aired on PBS as a music special. I often become so focused on my work that I lose track of the mundane — which is how the Burnt Food Museum was (accidentally) created.
Curator’s Top 5 Exhibits:
Q: Can you tell me what your Top 5 favorite burnt items in your collection are and why – what are the stories behind them? When did you get them? From who?
A: FIRST, A BIT OF BACKGROUND: All Museum exhibits are accidental – in fact, that’s a submission requirement. Although I’m the museum creator, it turns out that many people, worldwide have a deep and undiscovered talent for burning food — and we regularly receive exhibits, photos, testimonials and offers from far and wide. I discourage contributors from sending their originals, so most exhibit the works in their own kitchens, (or “Burnt Food Museum Franchises” as we call them) — and proudly display their “Burnt Food Museum Official Contributor” certificates.
We generally ask contributors to answer the following:
- Who is the artist/creator of the work
- Who submitted the work (interestingly, it’s often a family member)
- The “Original Intention”
- The “Unintended Result”
- An “Artist Comment.”
That document then becomes part of the exhibit.
We also accept “Testimonials” — or Burnt Food stories — since, sadly, many people realize far too late the profound artistic value of a meal they think they just destroyed, and by then the garbage has been taken out.
Of course we also have a Museum Gift Shop & Boutique, which includes “Burnt Food Museum” aprons, magnets, T-Shirts, mugs and tote-bags. What self-respecting Museum Gift Shop wouldn’t include these items?
1. FREE-STANDING HOT APPLE CIDER: A chilly night, a pot of cider brewing slowly on the stove, an unexpected phone call, a two-hour conversation — and the Burnt Food Museum was born. When the curtain of thick, black smoke finally cleared in the kitchen, I discovered an amazing gem, the Free-Standing Hot Apple Cider — an impressive structure of burnt cider-foam — inside a completely blackened pot. I took the cider out and put it on a shelf as a memento.
A year later, the cider it was still in remarkable condition, so, naturally, I put it under glass and labeled it. And thus began my fascination with the beauty of burnt food and the stories behind each piece. Over two decades later, the “Cider” is still the all-time favorite exhibit, and the Museum’s mascot. (http://www.burntfoodmuseum.com/exhibits_bfm/cider1_exhibit.html )
2. A STUDY IN PIZZA TOAST: My former boyfriend claimed this exhibit — a 6-part multi-color pastiche with a hint of Warhol — was a Freudian expression of hostility when I offered to make him a tasty snack and ended up incinerating it. I still have the pizza-toast, under glass. The relationship, however, went up in smoke.
3. HONEY, I FOUND IT: “Honey, I found it” is an unusually colorful exhibit and only available online. It’s not food, exactly. It is, in the words of the contributor, an attempt to find some “safe, long-term storage” for rarely used plastic utensils … in the drawer beneath the broiler. Submitted by the artist’s husband, he commented proudly, “A masterpiece… You can’t make this stuff up!”
4. A LABOR OF TURKEY: One of my favorite Testimonials is from the woman who put a turkey in the oven for Thanksgiving and promptly went into early labor. Six days later she returned to find, “a perfect (though blackened) paper-maiche’ model of a roast turkey, still cooking away.” Sadly, there’s no photo of this, but her moving written account makes up for that.
5. THIS GYOZA’S TOO FAR: “This Gyoza’s Too Far” is a favorite, in part because of the stunning Asian setting of the petrified gyoza, including ebony chopsticks, enameled plate and colorful fan. This is also one of our rarer Micro-wave submissions. It was also the first time one of our kids (Ben Wyner, then 9) created an original exhibit. Honestly, it warmed my heart when he proudly showed me his first Opus.
Seriously … part of my motivation in creating the museum and displaying it on line is that perfectionism is debilitating. People judge themselves too quickly. When we think we’ve ruined something, it’s important to stop for a moment and look at what it truly IS, and at what unintended beauty it might reveal – rather than simply focusing on it as a failure. Had any one of the exhibits in the museum been a “successful” meal, it would have been eaten and forgotten. The Burnt Food Museum is my way of celebrating the failures that make life beautiful and funny … which is what makes it worth living.
ONE OF MY FAVORITE QUOTES FROM A BFM FAN LETTER: “Growing up, my mom burnt everything. I had no idea how cool that was until tonight. You have healed my soul, thank you.” (K.C. 10/1/02)
Link to EXHIBITS page: http://www.burntfoodmuseum.com/exhibits_bfm.html
Link to TESTIMONIALS page: http://www.burntfoodmuseum.com/testimonials_bfm.html
Museum Media Appearances
Q: Have you ever showcased your collection on television? On what show and when?
- FOOD NETWORK: My favorite TV showcase was on the Food Network’s “Warped” (or was it “Unwrapped”?) in the late 90’s.
- ABC’S “THE VIEW”: In 2004 I made a brief personal appearance on “The View” with several items from the BFM.
- UNIVISION: A few years ago we created a gala public exhibition for Univision – and though we don’t know whether that show ever aired, the host contributed her own exhibit to the collection (the lovely “Chorizo de Verdad”).
- RADIO: The museum’s also been featured on several radio shows including Scott Simon’s “Weekend Edition” and American Public Radio’s “The Splendid Table.”
- PRINT: The museum originally debuted in the pages of the “Annals of Improbable Research” a satirical scientific journal. I think the Canadian equivalent of the Food & Drug Administration also recently featured it in their year-end report (but I might have that wrong). The Boston Globe recently featured the BFM in an article that hit #1 in “Most Emailed Stories” Chart.
Link to BFM press page: http://www.burntfoodmuseum.com/press_bfm.html
Museum Visits, Salon Events & Public Exhibitions
Q: Do people visit the museum?
A: Rarely. The most recent visitors were a reporter and photographer from the Boston Globe did a wonderful set of articles (print & video) that made it to Number One of the Boston Globe’s “most emailed stories.” Occasionally we have exclusive Invitation-Only Burnt Food Museum “Salon Events,” and even more rarely we travel with one or more of the exhibits.
Useful BFM Links
Link to Curator/Founder/Artist Home page: www.HipHarp.com
Link to BFM Home-page
Link to BFM Exhibits
Link to BFM Testimonials
Link to BFM Gift Shop
Link to BFM Facebook Fan Page
Link to recent Article about BFM in The Boston Globe (Boston.com)
Do you have your own Burnt Food stories? Leave them in the comments on this blog and I’ll try to get them onto the pages of the official Museum as soon as I can!
Burningly yours …
Curator (and primary contributor) – BurntFoodMuseum.com