A barf bag is issued to every visitor to the Museum of Disgusting Food, a new pop-up in Downtown’s Arts District. The bag may seem like nothing more than a cute gimmick, but you may find it handy when you hit the tasting bar.
The Museum of Disgusting Food first opened in Malmö, Sweden, while this new iteration is located within the A+D Architecture and Design Museum. A concept of Dr. Samuel West, the man behind the recent Museum of Failure, the Museum of Disgusting Food examines culinary revulsion in cultures around the world.
On display are dozens of gag-inducing comestibles, including rotten shark, a malodorous Icelandic dish of fermented shark; casu marzu, a wheel of Sardinian cheese riddled with wriggling maggots; mouse-infused Chinese rice wine; bull penis; and frog smoothies from Peru.
Sheep eyeball juice, bull testicles, roasted guinea pig, garum (a sauce made of fermented fish guts that was prized by the ancient Greeks and Romans), eggs marinated in the urine of young virgin boys, an East African cake made of flies, and sheep’s head soup are just a few of the other dishes on display.
You’ll observe that ideas of disgust vary by culture. Some of the dishes on display are very familiar to the American palate yet considered revolting by other cultures, including root beer, Jell-O salad, Twinkies, Spam, and pork shot up with antibiotics.
Try to keep your gag reflex in check at the tasting bar, where you’re welcome to taste a few disgust-provoking foods. Varying from day to day, samples may include a horrifyingly pungent cheese from Denmark, durian (notorious as the world’s smelliest fruit), century egg, Swedish salted licorice, grasshoppers, crickets, and mealworms.
Museum Director Andreas Ahren encouraged me to try the rotten shark. Gagging at the smell, I realized that the barf bags were not a bad idea. Ahren concurred, “11 people vomited in our Swedish museum. Maybe you’ll be number 12.”
It’s a thought-provoking experience to visit this museum and ponder how custom and necessity influence what different cultures eat while giving consideration to our own ideas of normalcy.
Samples are included in the price of admission. This experiential pop-up is open through February 17, 2018. TICKETS
All images by Anja Barte Telin, courtesy of the Museum of Disgusting Food.