The Disgusting Food Museum Curates 80 of the World’s Most Repulsive Dishes: Maggot-Infested Cheese, Putrid Shark & More

Often we get to know each oth­er by talk­ing which foods we like. Per­haps even more often, we get to know each oth­er by talk­ing about which foods we hate. Enter­tain­ing dis­agree­ments tend to arise from such dis­cus­sions, usu­al­ly around tra­di­tion­al­ly divi­sive comestibles like anchovies, cilantro, brus­sel sprouts, or the Japan­ese dish of fer­ment­ed soy­beans known as nat­to. But how­ev­er many of us pre­fer to avoid them, these foods all look more or less con­ven­tion­al com­pared to the dish­es curat­ed by the Dis­gust­ing Food Muse­um, which the Wash­ing­ton Post’s Mau­ra Jud­kis describes as “the world’s first exhi­bi­tion devot­ed to foods that some would call revolt­ing.”

“The exhib­it has 80 of the world’s most dis­gust­ing foods,” says the muse­um’s offi­cial site. Adven­tur­ous vis­i­tors will appre­ci­ate the oppor­tu­ni­ty to smell and taste some of these noto­ri­ous foods. Do you dare smell the world’s stinki­est cheese? Or taste sweets made with met­al cleans­ing chem­i­cals?” Jud­kis notes that “the museum’s name and its con­tents are pret­ty con­tro­ver­sial — one culture’s dis­gust­ing is anoth­er culture’s del­i­ca­cy.

That goes for escamoles, the tree-ant lar­vae eat­en in Mex­i­co, or shi­rako, the cod sperm eat­en in Japan, or bird’s nest soup, a Chi­nese dish of nests made from bird sali­va.” It all goes to empha­size the Dis­gust­ing Food Muse­um’s stat­ed premis­es: “Dis­gust is one of the six fun­da­men­tal human emo­tions. While the emo­tion is uni­ver­sal, the foods that we find dis­gust­ing are not. What is deli­cious to one per­son can be revolt­ing to anoth­er.”

With inter­est in food seem­ing­ly at an all-time high — and not just food, but tra­di­tion­al food from all around the world — the cul­tur­al stud­ies wing of acad­e­mia has begun to get seri­ous mileage out of that propo­si­tion. But the Dis­gust­ing Food Muse­um has tak­en on a less intel­lec­tu­al and much more vis­cer­al mis­sion, plac­ing before its vis­i­tors duri­an fruit, banned from many a pub­lic space across Asia for its sheer stink­i­ness; casu marzu, which the muse­um’s site describes as “mag­got-infest­ed cheese from Sar­dinia”; and hákarl, which Jud­kis describes as “a putrid shark meat dish from Ice­land that the late Antho­ny Bour­dain said was one of the worst things he had ever tast­ed.”

You can learn more about these and the Dis­gust­ing Food Muse­um’s oth­er offer­ings from the Asso­ci­at­ed Press video at the top of the post, as well as at Smith­son­ian and the New York Times. If you’d like to see, smell, and even taste some of its exhibits for your­self, you’ll have to make the trek out to Malmö, Swe­den. The project comes from the mind of Samuel West, a Swede best known for cre­at­ing the Muse­um of Fail­ure (pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured here on Open Cul­ture), whose half-Amer­i­can parent­age has made him famil­iar with sev­er­al items of U.S. cui­sine that gross out non-Amer­i­cans, from Spam to Jell‑O pas­ta sal­ad (shades of James Lileks’ mid­cen­tu­ry mid­west-focused Gallery of Regret­table Food) to Rocky Moun­tain oys­ters. Despite being Amer­i­can myself, I’ve nev­er known any­one who likes that last, a dish made of bull tes­ti­cles, or at least no one has ever admit­ted to me that they like it. But if some­one did, I’d cer­tain­ly feel as if I’d learned some­thing about them.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Muse­um of Fail­ure: A Liv­ing Shrine to New Coke, the Ford Edsel, Google Glass & Oth­er Epic Cor­po­rate Fails

Sal­vador Dalí’s 1973 Cook­book Gets Reis­sued: Sur­re­al­ist Art Meets Haute Cui­sine

What Pris­on­ers Ate at Alca­traz in 1946: A Vin­tage Prison Menu

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

by | Permalink | Comments (0) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.