Tasty things can be overrated. Everyone knows what to expect from an amazing burger or an exceptional slice of pizza. Surely it’s much more exciting to try something that could just as likely be completely horrible as totally delicious? For diners who aren’t averse to taking a foodie risk or two, there is a new destination that could be right up your street.
Appropriately opening its doors on Halloween this year, the all new “Disgusting Food Museum” in Stockholm promises visitors a food experience they are unlikely to forget in a hurry. From the twisted mind of psychologist Dr Samuel West, the museum will feature a collection of “80 of the world’s most disgusting foods”, according to a disclaimer on its website.
Foods featured as part of the exhibition will include “Surstömming” – Swedish fermented herring, “Cuy” – Peruvian roasted guinea pig, and “Casu Marzu” - Sardinian maggot cheese. Even for adventurous eaters, the museum promises to push buttons.
According to the museum website, the exhibition offers an exploration of and a meditation on the nature of disgust. As the blurb explains, “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. Disgusting Food Museum invites visitors to explore the world of food and challenge their notions of what is and what isn’t edible.”
The central question at the heart of the exhibition is, “Could changing our ideas of disgust help us embrace the environmentally sustainable foods of the future?” The museum plans to do this by giving visitors the “opportunity to smell and taste some of these notorious foods”. This is not a family day out for the faint of heart.
Some have pointed out that marketing the museum as a kind of culinary freakshow might have the opposite effect to what was intended. Labelling other cultures as “disgusting” or “exotic” has been identified by several critics as potentially problematic. Dr West addressed these concerns in a recent interview with Vox, stating that since “disgust is something we can all relate to”, it is one of the easiest ways to engage people in meaningful conversation.
In many ways, the current exhibition is a follow-up to Dr West’s previous venture, “The Museum of Failure”. Featuring the world’s largest collection of failed products and inventions, it offers an exploration of the thousands of ill-spent hours and ideas that must pass before someone comes up with something new and successful. Both exhibitions allow the public the chance to reappraise what they think they know about different industries and areas of life - what it is that makes something disgusting or successful. In many ways, each are equal parts entertainment and education.
It remains to be seen whether the Disgusting Food Museum will enjoy the same success as “The Museum of Failure”. It is certainly a more focused subject area than the previous opening, which could work either for or against it moving forward. Whatever happens when it opens its doors, the museum promises to deliver an interesting take on the food that many of us find inherently horrible.