Disgusting Food Museum

28 Pictures From Sweden’s Disgusting Food Museum That Will Make You Gag

Published November 29, 2020
Updated December 22, 2020

With tickets that double as barf bags, the Disgusting Food Museum in Sweden aims to inspire both nausea and curiosity about why certain foods are considered "disgusting."

The age-old axiom that things are merely a matter of taste is perhaps no truer than when it comes to food. The Disgusting Food Museum in Malmö, Sweden, aims to analyze exactly that by showing how dishes that are considered gross and inedible in some countries are viewed as delicacies in others.

For instance, is a hardboiled fertilized duck egg really disgusting — or is it just a matter of taste?

From turtle soup and maggot-infested cheese to fermented birds and well-aged shark, the Disgusting Food Museum tries to define what makes a food “disgusting” and invites adventurous eaters to taste and smell 80 of the world’s grossest delicacies. Explore 28 of those foods in the gallery below — if you think your stomach can take it.

China Century Egg
Cuscuz Paulista
Sheep Eyeball Juice
Menudo
28 Pictures From Sweden’s Disgusting Food Museum That Will Make You Gag
View Gallery

The Disgusting Food Museum Was Made To Explore Taste

The Disgusting Food Museum's director Andreas Ahrens grew curious about the subject of gross food after he found huge success with his previous project, the Museum of Failure.

Noting how an exhibit could change the way people reacted to their dashed hopes and dreams, Ahrens wondered if uncovering the psychology behind why we believe certain foods are disgusting could alter people's perspective on taste. Thus, the museum was born.

Chef Gordon Ramsey and journalist James May eat bull penis and rotten shark.

For lead curator Dr. Samuel West, a psychologist and longtime collaborator of Ahren's, it was the cultural hypocrisy of meat consumption that drew him in. He was interested in probing people to ponder why they salivate over pork but recoil at sustainable protein options like insects.

"I want people to question what they find disgusting," said West.

Dr. Samuel West and Andreas Ahrens talk to AP about creating the Disgusting Food Museum.

In order to determine which foods were considered most "disgusting" and deserving of a spot in the museum, West and Ahren formed a panel that combed through 250 foods based on four imperative criteria: taste, smell, texture, and background. The latter regards how an animal is typically treated in the making of the dish.

For instance, pork had high marks in terms of taste, texture, and smell, but failed miserably regarding background. The horrors of factory farming became an essential factor for Ahrens in selecting which foods to display in his Disgusting Food Museum. Of course, he himself was initially biased against choosing pork.

"I had the same reaction when we were talking about my favorites like pork and beef," said Ahrens. "My initial reaction was that we can't put this in here. When we talked about it, it was obvious that we had to have it in the museum because of the factory farming and the environmental impact."

Screens within the museum display revolting footage of geese being force-fed to make foie gras and cobra hearts being beaten in Vietnam. There are also videos of fish being served and munched into while still flopping in Japan.

However, when it comes to the essence of disgusting food, things are a little more nuanced than animal cruelty.

What Makes A Food Disgusting?

Disgusting Food Balut Egg In Broth

Wikimedia CommonsA fertilized balut egg in traditional broth.

"Disgust is the result of a combination of biological and cultural factors," said Hakan Jonsson, a food anthropologist at Sweden's Lund University.

"And when it comes to food, it is most often impossible to define what is biology and what is culture. You can say that something is disgusting — but only from the individual's point of view."

In that case, it's no wonder why balut, a Southeast Asian delicacy consisting of an unhatched baby duck swimming in its embryonic fluids, was chosen by the museum's curators. Bull penis, meanwhile, doesn't need any explanation as to why it's made it into the exhibit, although every single dish on display has its defenders.

"It's interesting to see how everyone comes to the defense of their own food," said Ahrens. "People can't believe that we take their favorite foods and put them in the museum."

While Thailand's pungent durian fruit shocks unfamiliar museum-goers and the cooked Andean guinea pig dish cuy makes others hurl, American fast food staples like Twinkies, Pop-Tarts, and root beer have also made the cut.

"We shouldn't be so quick to judge the foods of other cultures as disgusting because our foods are just as disgusting when seen through the lens of another culture," said Ahrens.

Deutsche Welle reporter Axel Primavesi giving some of the most disgusting food a try.

Indeed, while an American might gag at balut, West and Ahren assert that Western culture has little right to harp on the rest of the world's culinary tastes.

"Our current meat production is terribly environmentally unsustainable, and we urgently need to start considering alternatives," added West. "But many people are disgusted by the idea of eating insects and skeptical about lab-grown meat... If we can change our notions of what food is disgusting or not, it could potentially help us transition to more sustainable protein sources."


After learning about Sweden's Disgusting Food Museum in 28 revolting images, take a look at 15 gross Medieval foods that people actually ate. Then, learn about 18 more questionable foods from around the world.

Marco Margaritoff
Marco Margaritoff is a Staff Writer at All That's Interesting.