Maggot cheese and mouse wine are just some of the 80 foods on display. While many come for a shock, the museum's director tells DW he hopes visitors will realize that disgust is in the eye — or stomach — of the beholder.
A strong stomach and an open mind are a must for anyone looking to visit the "Disgusting Food Museum," which opened this week in the Swedish city of Malmo.
The exhibit, which will run until January 27 next year, features 80 foods from around the world, including fruit-bat soup, frog smoothies from Peru and Iceland's infamous fermented shark meat. Visitors can even smell or taste some of the pungent delicacies on display.
"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," museum director Andreas Ahrens tells DW.
That being said, there's one food in the museum that Ahrens won't be trying again anytime soon — Su Callu Sardu. It's a cheese from Sardinia that's made by slaughtering a baby goat with a belly full of its mother's milk. The stomach is then removed and hung up to make the cheese.
"It's horrible. It starts off just like a normal cheese taste, and then it has this incredibly strong aftertaste that is absolutely overpowering," Ahrens tells DW. "If you eat too much of it, it stays in your mouth for one or two days after you eat it."
Challenging the notion of 'disgust'
Visitors from Western countries might be surprised by some of the foods on display — including root beer from the United States, black licorice, Jell-O fruit salad and pork.
Ahrens said he was hesitant about including pork in particular, since the taste and smell aren't repulsive like many of the other foods.
"But when you look at other things, like the way that pigs are held in factory farms, when you look at the antibiotics — that is absolutely disgusting and could potentially be life-threatening for humans," he says.
As for root beer, Ahrens says that Americans may be surprised to find out that many Europeans think the popular soda has an "odd and disgusting" taste, similar to that of toothpaste.
"It all depends on what you grew up with, what your parents were eating and drinking," he adds.
'We can't continue to eat the way that we are doing now'
The museum's curator, Samuel West, came up with the idea after the success of his previous project, the Museum of Failure.
After seeing how the exhibit changed people's concept of failure, he wondered if another museum could alter the way society approaches disgust — and encourage people to seek out sustainable alternatives like eating insects and lab-grown meat.
Ahrens says that the museum doesn't have a specific agenda, but that he hopes that it will encourage people to reconsider how sustainable our current favorite foods are.
The message appears to be getting across. Many of the visitors who come to the museum are grossed out by the smells or tastes of some of the foods, while others are as much affected by the "moral" issues involved.
The museum has been particularly successful in putting people off foie gras, a French delicacy that is made from the liver of a duck or goose that's been force-fed a fattening diet through a feeding tube.
"We can't continue to eat the way that we are doing now. It's horrible to the planet, it's horrible to the animals that are being bred just to feed our lust for meat," Ahrens says. "We're really hoping that people will think about this."