When I arrived at my cousin’s house near Madison, Wisconsin this past summer, she informed me that she had been researching weird, off-the-wall places for us to visit during my stay there.
Because this is how my extended family thinks of me: as a complete and total weirdo.
THEY KNOW ME SO WELL.
Her Internet research had uncovered two possibilities.
The first was the National Mustard Museum in Middleton, home to the world’s largest collection of mustard.
This sounded promising.
I mean, mustard is probably my most favorite of all the condiments. It’s sophisticated and spicy yet versatile and tastes good on chicken fingers. Kind of like me. (Minus the chicken-finger-thing, that is.)
The second option was something called the Dead Pals of Sam Sanfillippo, which according to the Internet was the basement of a funeral home turned into a museum of taxidermied animals posed in tiny costumes acting out tiny scenes.
Now, this — THIS — sounded like every single one of my dreams in life come true.
And then my cousin informed me that the Dead Pals of Sam Sanfillippo had closed its doors some years back when the owner, Sam Sanfillippo, had died.
Of course, I did the most horrible thing ever and Google-searched it. Up on my computer screen flashed images so brilliant and awe-inspiring it was like staring at the sun. There were squirrels playing poker and riding in pink Barbie convertibles. There were chipmunks squealing on ferris wheels and dancing in hula skirts. And, of course, this being Wisconsin, there was a badger wearing a sweater, doing whatever badgers do.
It pained me to realize I would never be able to witness any of this stuffed animal wonderfulness in person.
I suddenly understood how people who have a near-death experience must feel afterwards. One minute they’re walking towards the light, looking forward to an afterlife of flitting around on angel wings and floating on clouds. And the next minute they’re yanked back down to earth, where there’s no flitting or floating, just lots of driving around in rush hour traffic.
So, alas, the National Mustard Museum it was.
Which I do have to admit was pretty amazing, even if there were no squirrels in Barbie cars.
There was, of course, a huge collection of mustard.
There were international mustards.
And old-timey mustards.
There were educational displays on the various uses and properties of mustard. Like, hey, did you know that mustard can not only act as a tasty snack dip but also as a cure for venomous snake bites?
There was a video about the history of mustard. Which was called “Mustard Piece Theatre.” Because of course it was.
There was even a fine collection of mustard art.
Because you can never have too much mustard art.
I have to admit I was impressed by the museum’s attention to detail. Or, attention to mustard, as the case may be. I mean, even the hand soap in the bathroom had been mustardized!
After touring the museum, we stopped in the gift shop, which sold every manner of mustard imaginable and, best of all, had free samples.
As I crammed my mouth full of pretzel sticks and sesame honey mustard dip (which OMG, you guys, SO GOOD!), I started to feel better about missing out on the Dead Pals of Sam Sanfillippo.
I mean, sure, there will always be chipmunk-in-a-hula-skirt-shaped hole in my heart. But, at the same time, The National Mustard Museum had free samples. And there isn’t anything I like much more than free samples — even Barbie-car-driving squirrels.
I highly doubt that a taxidermy museum in the basement of a funeral home would have free food samples. And, if they did, well, I’m not so sure I’d want to be a part of that.
What’s the weirdest, most off-the-wall museum you’ve ever been to?