Sweden's Disgusting Food Museum Challenges Culinary Preconceptions

cutting meat

Sometimes it's hard to escape the daily actions of your restaurant's operation. All things considered, your commercial grade restaurant equipment is cutting meat, grinding meat, processing vegetables, among other things, for a small sliver of people and space in the culinary universe.

In the United States, a report showed that 41% of consumers eat pizza at least once a week. We certainly know how to roll dough into millions of pizzas every week and it's pretty standard fare here, but what about standard fare 4,000 miles away? Even a couple states over? Human beings need food to survive and, all over our vast planet, world cuisine is as diverse as we are.

With that culinary diversity come preconceptions that we cast on each other, merely based on what we eat.

In Malmo, Sweden, the curators of the Disgusting Food Museum seeks to highlight these palate preconceptions and challenge people to think about why they call certain foods disgusting.

Entering the museum, your ticket isn't any stub, it's a vomit bag emblazoned with the museum's logo. Meant as a both serious and joking, the contents displayed are what people around the world consider disgusting. However, the museum's founder aims to purvey the message that disgust is a cultural construct.

“I want people to question what they find disgusting and realize that disgust is always in the eye of the beholder. We usually find things we’re not familiar with disgusting, versus things that we grow up with and are familiar with are not disgusting, regardless of what it is," said founder Samuel West.

While cutting meat from fermented shark might turn the stomachs of some, it's commonplace for others. His point is to illuminate the fact that calling certain foods other cultures and people eat disgusting is "othering and perpetuates the false notion that they don't deserve respect."

He adds that the disgust and revolt for certain things began as an evolutionary trait to keep us from consuming toxic foods. However, as human beings have modernized, disgust has been characterized by much more than avoiding food that might poison us. Instead, it becomes an internalized disgust that's applied to peoples and cultures more than cuisine.

The concept is understandably controversial, gaining ire from animal rights groups and the like. It remains, however, a thoughtful and visceral way to explore the reasoning behind foods we label gross and gaining a better understanding of the world around us. 

Oct 22nd 2018

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