If you've ever wanted to pay $20 to sniff rotten shark, well, you're in luck.
On Oct. 31, what's being called the Disgusting Food Museum will open in Malmö, Sweden. It's the latest creation from psychologist Dr. Samuel West—who's also the curator of the Museum of Failure—and will feature what the website says are "80 of the world’s most disgusting foods." The roster will include cuy (roasted guinea pigs from Peru), casu marzu (cheese from Sardinia that contains live maggots), "stinky tofu" (pungent bean curd from China), and durian (fruit from Thailand), among other items.
The museum's thesis statement offers this postulation:
"Food is so much more than sustenance. Curious foods from exotic cultures have always fascinated us. Unfamiliar foods can be delicious, or they can be more of an acquired taste. While cultural differences often separate us and create boundaries, food can also connect us. Sharing a meal is the best way to turn strangers into friends.
"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. Could changing our ideas of disgust help us embrace the environmentally sustainable foods of the future?"
Dr. West said in an interview with Vox that it's not his intention to create a "culturally insensitive house of culinary horrors," as they put it. I certainly hope that's the case, and I look forward to seeing how the museum bears it out. But I do wonder if superficially labeling foods from "exotic cultures" as "disgusting" will hinder that process. It's a marketing approach, to be sure—one that seems crafted for maximum virality. Accordingly, I suspect that it'll reach more eyes and ears than museum visitors, and could have the potential effect of underscoring the notion that the unfamiliar, peculiar-smelling dish in your classmate's lunchbox is somehow weird, or warranting of negative attention.
The innate variability of food is, for me, one of its most powerful qualities, arguably second only to its ability to keep us alive. I hope that the Disgusting Food Museum properly celebrates these differences, rather than demeaning them.
What do you think about the Disgusting Food Museum? Would you visit? Let us know in the comments.
Ella Quittner is a contributing writer and the Absolute Best Tests columnist at Food52. She covers food, travel, wellness, lifestyle, home, novelty snacks, and internet-famous sandwiches. You can follow her on Instagram @equittner, or Twitter at @ellaquittner. She also develops recipes for Food52, and has a soft spot for all pasta, anything spicy, and salty chocolate things.