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Sweden’s Disgusting Food Museum

Vegemite is an Australian food spread made from yeast extract. Flickr: tolomea.

Christina Zhou, Sweden’s Disgusting Food Museum to challenge perception of disgust with polarising dishes, ABC News, 1 November 2018

A museum showcasing some of the world’s most polarising foods will open in Sweden, and there are three staple Australian dishes that have been offered a place at the table.

The iconic Vegemite spread, nostalgia-filled musk sticks and witchetty grubs are among 80 items being put on display at the Disgusting Food Museum in Malmö.

While the Aussie foods seem easier to swallow compared with some other international cuisines being exhibited — such as century eggs, maggot-infested cheese and roasted guinea pigs — the museum’s co-curator and self-described “disgustologist” assured the ABC that some people thought the musk sticks in particular were “nasty”.

Samuel West, a psychologist and researcher who was also behind Sweden’s Museum of Failure, said they couldn’t have a Disgusting Food Museum without Vegemite.

“I love Vegemite so I’m kind of sad that it’s in the museum,” he laughed, adding that it would be a “traumatic food experience” for those who mistook it for Nutella.

The museum’s smorgasbord of curious foods are sourced from around the world — from Italy to France to Peru.

Many of the foods resulted from a preservation process, including hákarl from Iceland and surströmming from Sweden.

“These are things that people have found ways of preserving just for survival,” Dr West said.

“Fermented cabbage — such as sauerkraut or kimchi — are also ways to preserve food and it does get this funky aroma.”

But the museum is more than just about unusual foods. It also invites a conversation about why people feel repelled by some foods and not by others.

“Unfamiliar foods can be delicious, or they can be more of an acquired taste.”

The curators of the museum also hope to challenge people’s perception of disgust, which they said is influenced by culture and the foods they have grown up eating.

“Our current meat production is terribly environmentally unsustainable, and we urgently need to start considering alternatives,” Dr West said in a statement.

“If we can change our notions of what food is disgusting or not, it could potentially help us transition to more sustainable protein sources.”

Most of the 80 exhibits are real food. They are eaten today or they have historical significance, like Australia’s witchetty grubs, which are still eaten by some Indigenous people.

Other foods are replicas and a few are displayed as videos.

Here is a small sample of some of the bizarre cuisines on display:

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Council of Australasian Museum Directors, c/o Ms Daryl Karp, Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House PO Box 3934 Manuka, Australian Capital Territory 2603 Australia, © CAMD 2021
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