11 fascinating food facts from the American Museum of Natural History


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You can always count on New York City's American Museum of Natural History for the most innovative, geektastic exhibits. Its latest food exhibition — "Our Global Kitchen: Food, Nature, Culture" — was no different.

Through Aug. 11, visitors can learn about traditional meals of various cultures and time periods, from the ancient Aztecs to today's celebrations of Chinese New Year. The exhibit covers old cooking techniques, as well as the ways in which we're changing the way we grow and eat our food today.

Interactive features include smell stations where visitors can get a whiff of certain foods; cooking videos projected onto a table with buttons allowing visitors to watch at their own pace; food and/or drink samples that vary based on what company is sponsoring the exhibit that day; and an interactive screen that lets visitors view food photos posted on Instagram with the hashtag #CelebrateFood.

Even the most pretentious foodies will find themselves amazed by the countless eye-opening facts about agriculture, food history, food culture and the latest food science. Here are 10 of our favorites.


1. What if watermelon came in cubes? In Japan, some do — not because of selective breeding but because of a technique in which farmers grow them in glass boxes that mold them into cubes as they grow.


2. While more than 40 million children are overweight, 100 million children are underweight.


3. Sheep tails are a popular food in areas of Asia and the Middle East. The sheep are bred for the largest possible tails, which sometimes become so big that a cart is attached to the sheep to drag the tail around.


4. The apples you get at the grocery are about seven times less bitter, and half as sour, as wild apples.


5. Traditional Mexican cuisine wouldn't be what it is today if it weren't for international trade and cultural exchange — cheese, beef, onion and chicken didn't originate in the Americas.


6. Chinese chopsticks are not the same as Japanese chopsticks. Chinese chopsticks are long and often rectangular in cross-section, while Japanese chopsticks are shorter and sharper, and often colorfully decorated.


7. What if chocolate was our currency? The ancient Aztecs actually used cacao beans as money. Thirty cacao beans could buy you one rabbit.


8. In just one year, the average American family of four throws away 1,656 pounds of food — the amount in this sculpture.


9. The oldest known collection of cooking recipes can be found on a Babylonian clay tablet dating from about 1750 BC.


10. The average person has 15 to 30 papillae — the bumps on your tongue that hold your taste buds — per 1/4 inch, while super-tasters have more than 30 papillae per 1/4 inch.


11. This is a typical breakfast for Michael Phelps:


Watch the video below for more on the exhibit: