A museum to visit on an empty stomach

November 5, 2018

When your entry ticket to a museum is actually a vomit bag—similar to the one you would use on an airplane—you might be just a little daunted, even before you see the displays. And no, it’s not a gag—although several visitors at the pop-up exhibition already have gagged.

The Disgusting Food Museum in Malmo, Sweden, knows some of its guests may be queasy when they are confronted with carefully curated sheep eyeball juice, bull testicles, maggot-infested cheese, a dead mouse in Chinese wine, Icelandic fermented shark—and yes, American root beer and Jello salad. Worse yet, most of the food items on display can easily be smelled or tasted.

The museum opened on October 31 and Chief Disgustologist Samuel West told The New York Times that he hopes visitors will be entertained—and also will be disposed to try some of the more sustainable food products that are available, such as insects and lab-grown meat.

West believes that what we now consider to be appetizing or repulsive represents a preference acquired through our own culture; and that such beliefs can change. “Disgust is one of the six fundamental human emotions, and the evolutionary function of disgust is to help us to avoid foods that might dangerous, that are contaminated, toxic, gone off,” he told the Times. “Disgust is hardwired as an emotion, but what we find disgusting is culturally learned.”

He has tried most of the exhibits, himself. He describes eating the Icelandic fermented shark to be “like chewing on a urine-infested mattress,” adding, “It’s a fermented sort of rotten Icelandic shark,” he says. “Anthony Bourdain, the late TV personality, called it the single most disgusting thing he’d ever eaten, and I totally agree with him.”

Australian visitor Nichole Courtney said she was surprised to come across Vegemite, her homeland’s sandwich spread of concentrated yeast extract which is known to divide opinion.

“Things like Vegemite which we find really normal at home, like we’d eat that every day for breakfast, are next to things like the shark that I couldn’t imagine tasting and I think it is revolting so it’s quite funny for us.”

The museum will be open through January 27. Admission is about $20 for adults and free for children.

Research contact: @DisgustingFood

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