Sheep eyes, snake wine and tarantula soup are some of the over 90 unusual dishes and drinks from around the world on display at the DFM (or Disgusting Food Museum) in Berlin with the aim of showing that if something is a “delicacy” or a “disgusting” it is a matter of culture and custom. This peculiar exhibition has just opened its doors in the heart of the city, in the Mitte district. As an entrance ticket, the museum visitor receives a bag similar to the one made available on airplanes for those who get seasick.
What makes their mouths water will make the next person nauseous, caused by the look of a dish, the smell, the taste, or just its shape. What is disgusting is in the eyes and nose of the viewer, and they are trapped in their culture. This is the argument of the museum. In some regions of China or Japan, for example, they adore snake or mouse wine, while in European culture it seems impossible to consume an alcoholic beverage that is also used to preserve a python. In Mongolia they have a curious version of the famous “Bloody Mary” cocktail: they mix tomato juice with sheep’s eyes and it becomes a well-known remedy for hangovers in the Asian country, according to the Berlin museum. The “stinky cheese altar” allows the visitor to smell five different cheeses. Among them, the “Stinking Bishop” (UK) who is described as emitting the same smell as “a rugby team locker room after a match”. The bull’s penis (China) and the pig’s brain (this ingredient is present all over the world) are also other bases of dishes displayed in the peculiar Berlin museum.
Many of the exhibits – frog smoothie, turtle or tarantula soup, grasshopper, mite cheese – may seem completely foreign to the taste buds of European citizens. “There are foods that sometimes smell horrible, taste horrible or look horrible. And others that do not, that what sucks is knowing how they are produced, such as jelly beans “, explains the director of the museum, Martin Völker. This delicious and colorful candy is made from gelatin, which is made by boiling the waste generated during the slaughter and processing of animals. Boiling pork and cattle skins and bones breaks down the collagen tissue creating gelatin. According to the Swedish Board of Agriculture, Swedes consume approximately 15 kilos of these candies per person per year.
The food in the exhibition is not ordered by continents but by product groups, as if it were a supermarket: at the entrance there are drinks, then eggs, cheese, animals, seafood, insects (such as “food of the future”), vegetables , vegan products and finally desserts and sweets. True to the present day, the exhibit also contains a “Covid menu” consisting of bat soup and pangolin stew – both animals supposedly linked to the possible origin of the covid- accompanied by an alcoholic drink that was used in Germany against cholera (1831), Tinctura Amara Mampei.
The first DFM museum opened in Malmö (Sweden) in 2018 and this remains the only permanent museum. On a temporary basis, the disgusting food museum has also been exhibited in Nantes (France) and Los Angeles (California) and this year it opened stores in Berlin and Bordeaux (France). This franchise museum was created to get people talking about the concept of disgust and in Berlin there is a similar focus on visitor reactions. “We can learn and unlearn disgust, discover other cultures and tastes, expand small culinary horizons,” adds Völker. The exhibit also attempts to demonstrate that dislike ideas can change over time. Two hundred years ago, lobster was so undesirable that only prisoners and slaves ate it, and today it is considered a delicacy. Raise visitor awareness of how animals are treated in the food production chain It is another objective of the museum, and that is why next to most of the dishes there is a television screen that shows videos, for example, of how a duck is overfed to get foie gras in France.
Visitors to the museum can even buy some of the food or taste it at the entrance bar, which offers a different menu every day and where they keep track of the days they have been “vomiting-free” on a blackboard. “We want people to entertain themselves talking about food so that they discover new tastes and foods that they did not want to eat or drink before,” summarizes Völker.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.