342 Christopher Street




The Museum of Sad Cuisine (the former Joost Hotel, located in the West Village), is almost the size of the Whitney or the Guggenheim. How is it possible that so few people have heard of it?

It might be because the Museum of Sad Cuisine has no elevator, and contains twelve floors of depressing food. It’s almost totally empty on a Saturday afternoon. Unlike Natural History or the Metropolitan Museum, the possibility of spending the night at the Museum of Sad Cuisine seems about as fun as being locked in a storage locker full of Lunchables.

After ascending the twelve floors, I found myself in a darkened room with a video projection of the museum's curator, Elsa Churess, whose librarian-at-the sock-hop appearance is ageless; she could be speaking to me from 1965 or last weekend in Williamsburg,* with her heavy glasses and beehive hairdo:

Welcome to the Museum of Sad Cuisine! Established in 1986, the Museum is the only one of its kind, a monument to how the human race has periodically failed to enrich itself.

She goes on to say that that there are three themes throughout the museum: The Failure of Innovation; Sad Cuisine Throughout History; and Sad Cuisine in Film. She adds, “I think you will find that there is one theme that unites them all: human dissatisfaction.” And then she smiles sympathetically, as if she’s about to give a puppy a rabies shot.

It’s a very slow descent into the world of Sad Cuisine and your visit may last all day. Walking through an entire hallway of abandoned kids’ cerela in the Failure of Innovation, I found myself mesmerized by the sight of E. T. Cereal, which anyone who grew up in the 1980s will remember as as cereal so chocolatey, it gave Count Chocula a moment of serious reflection.

“What am I doing with my life?” he said, probably while looking into a mirror that could not reflect his image, “This is a richer chocolate cereal than my namesake. I am a fraud!” There, there, my chocopire friend.

If you’ve ever thought the kid’s cereal mascot was a small community, wait until you meet Phil the Ferret, spokesferret for Tussles breakfast cereal; Duke Blimey, who represents the lime-flavoured breakast cereal Limies! (exclamation point not mine); and the lumbering Gus the Golem, who wanders the earth in search of Nosh-Ums, which are sort of like cholate-chip Cheerios, and is in a commercial so creepy, Count Chocula found personal vindcation through it. (“At least I am not that guy” he said, while munching a handful of his namesake.) How creepy is the Nosh-Ums commercial? Fade in on a small village, where children are fleeing the stomping giant Gus the Golem, trying to hide their Nosh-Ums. That's how it starts. By the commerical’s end, Gus’s hunger is satiated, and the village’s future is in doubt.

But the good news is that the Failure of Innovation is easily the most depressing of all the halls. Once you move past the photographs and dioramas of school lunches and TV dinners, as well as a lot of video footage of conveyer belts, you are in for a slightly less sad experience.

In Sad Cuisine Throughout History, there are various photographs, dioramas, and videos of deservedly forgotten foods (if you did not know that Brunswick Stew was originally made with squirell, well, here you go).

And then there is the diorama of Mitterand’s last meal, eating a small bird blindfolded with his colleagues and family. It’s like the Last Supper as imagined by the surrealists, and yet it's historically accurate. There is a receipt for the hamburger that Mitt Romney ordered after losing the presidential election, next to a reproduction of the McDonalds certificate that purchased said burger. There is a handwritten note, attributed to General Lafayette, claiming that Dolly Madison's vanilla ice cream, “SUCKS!” (clearly written in a moment of anger).

But the museum's last exhibition is Sad Cuisine Throughout Film, where you will see the porridge from Oliver, which looks uncannily like the porridge from The Matrix, as well as less known characters such as the Sorrowful Rice from God of Cookery, and the last meal that the mother in Tampopo cooks for her family.

Luke Skywalker's blue drink from Tattooine from Star Wars Episode IV is also included, which surprised me because as I always thought it looked like a cheerful beverage, but after some contemplation I realized that he never drinks it again after joining the Rebel Alliance. And a model of the Timpano pasta dome from Big Night is also included, notable because much like in the case of the last meal from Tampopo, it is one of the few sad foods that doesn’t taste awful. It’s so good that it makes all meals before it and after, sad.

But the saddest foods of the MSC are what are actually stocked in their mini-restaurant and gift shop, which is pointedly, awful. Anything made from orange dust and has a misspelling of “cheese” is available, and a variety of instant coffees are ready to complement. There are bleak, faux-wood tables with laminated menus, both covered in the same inexplicable water droplets that seem to be in every Applebees and truck-stop cafe.

Framed above the office K-cup coffee dispenser (still just fifty cents, heaven help us) is an old irish saying: As long as there is meat on the shin of the sparrow, we will eat.

Those shins have never seemed more sumptious.


*As it turns out, the recording was made in 1997. Well played, Churess.


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