Why People Love Tasting Gross Food

Who would think this could taste bad?

It’s happened to everyone at some point. You’re at the new Thai restaurant when the adventurer of the group tries to shows off and orders Thai black glutinous rice for dessert. To everyone else this is clearly a terrible mistake. The dish is presented to the table and looks unfortunately like a dark puddle of goo.

Silence. Stares are exchanged around the table between each other and the bowl of black slime. The daredevil laughs it off and goes in for a bite, strings of goo stretching from the spoon. Still chuckling confidently, she puts the spoon in her mouth. Suddenly, her face goes completely blank. Her stomach drops and cuddles with her bowels. Her face crumples in horror at the substance she’s ingested. Just like everyone thought and as the name itself suggests, the Thai black glutinous rice is disgusting. With everyone watching, the sad victim swallows bravely, gasps for air, and then says, “This. is. foul. Do you guys want a bite?” Everyone says yes.

Why do the others want to taste this obviously disgusting dessert? Haven’t they learned from their friend’s experience? This same phenomenon also occurs in cases of particularly nasty stenches or weird things you can do to your body to make it hurt.

In my capacity as a rational being, I understand that one should not want to eat unpleasant food, smell something that will makes one salivate yet also wish for death, or inflict harm upon one’s body, and yet I go for the bait each time.

The thing is, even though I know something tastes bad, I will never know how bad it is unless I experience it myself. Is it sawdust wafer cookie bad or partially raw meatloaf bad? Is it stale pop tart bad or putrefying chicken bad? How disgusting is it? Will I want to vomit or just laugh it off? Will a drink of water be enough or will I claw at my tongue with my fingernails? Will my eyes water and my nose run? Will I perspire from the hands? The armpits? To what extent will my gag reflex be activated? To what ring of hell will I descend? I have to know!

And I’m not the only one. I know others out there seek to understand just how repulsive life can be. That’s why these bizarre cultural things exist.

How will you fully understand everything a hamburger can be if you don’t eat a fancy $20 dollar one from a restaurant, and a sixty cent one that is inexplicably slimy from Peaches Cafeteria in West Virginia? Can you truly appreciate the sweetest of perfumes without stumbling upon a pile of gym laundry that has remained damp for 6 months in the corner of a male locker room? What does a feather pillow mean to you if you haven’t been afraid your entire nose is going to crust up and fall off because of the severity of an oozing sunburn?

Yes, these things are disgusting, but they are a part of life, and I embrace them. In some way or another, we all do. These dances with repulsion build solidarity where we experience everything life can be. I believe they even add to life’s beauty.

On that note, do you want a bite of this gas station hot dog?

P.S. My apologies to anyone who likes Thai black glutinous rice.

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46 thoughts on “Why People Love Tasting Gross Food

  1. This reminds me of an experience I had that is forever imprinted on my brain. I was at a lovely Southern California beach going for a leisurely walk when a friend of mine casually snapped off a piece of aloe vera from a nearby plant and put it in his mouth. Half an hour later he was still complaining about how gross it was. And so, naturally, I was like, “how can something be that gross?” I had to find out. I snapped a piece off and took a taste. Half an hour later I was angry at him for not stopping me. The putrid taste refused to leave my tongue… and is now forever imprinted in my memory. So now, sometimes, I hold back from tasting the gross 😉

    • edrevets says:

      Ah, the legendary tipping point. I’m sorry you had to reach it. I, for one, have not reached it yet. Here’s to tasting many more gross things!

  2. Susan Shay says:

    Really? Everyone said yes? LOL! That’s too funny. I’m afraid I’d have stormed to the kitchen and forced the chef eat it in retaliation. Or at least smacked him.
    But then, a place that serves something that rank probably has armed guards on said kitchen. 🙂
    Thanks for the grins. Great description of the dessert, btw.

    • edrevets says:

      Glad you enjoyed it! There have been times where I offered people a sniff of something disgusting and the pull of the mutual experience is simply too great for them to say no.

  3. Patti Kuche says:

    There is nothing attractive about this dish, not even the name – not helped with reading this excellent piece of research on an empty stomach, first thing in the morning!

  4. Ryan says:

    I loved this post and can certainly relate to the puzzling affliction. Curiosity often overpowers my natural inclination to avoid things obviously disgusting or painful. Upon finding in my fridge a bottle of dubiously fresh milk, I will consider its bouquet, contorting my face in disgust before raising the bottle slowly again to my nose for another sniff. I never considered why I continue to torment myself until I read this. Distasteful things are often more interesting than those pleasant or delicious.

  5. Gary Lum says:

    When we go to a Thai restaurant we skip dessert and go to a dedicated dessert place for that portion of the meal.

  6. alanschuyler says:

    Sadly that dish looks like the result when I try to cook regular rice. Thanks for stopping by my blog. I’m enjoying your blog!

  7. Roly says:

    LOL It sounds and looks gross but I would try it 🙂

  8. denise says:

    You speak such truth. I have clipped pegs to my face, eaten raw chilis and offered myself as a BB gun target, just to see how bad it was. Maybe I have yet to experience something so horrible that I am too afraid to do such things. Maybe there’s a critical point. When you reach it you become one of those people who’s just not in smelling the proverbial glove.

    • edrevets says:

      I hope to never reach that point—-a. there would have to be something truly disgusting, b. no more fun for me, c. no more fun for other people watching me make a fool out of myself.

  9. Hala J. says:

    Your friends remind me a bit of my dad. He’s the most adventurous eater of the family, although I don’t think he’d go so far as to try black glutinous rice. That was just horrifying, and my own stomach did a sympathy cuddle with my bowels just reading that.

    In 2007, a friend of mine consumed two gulps of a concoction of every condiment and then some on a restaurant table. (But it was an American resto, so nothing super weird. He was dared to do it). But I was not tempted to consume any of it, as the look on his face that said he was far from impressed with the taste was enough for me. Others couldn’t help but try it though…something I was not going to pretend to understand. (One idiot chugged quite a bit of it then threw up later in the parking lot. He wasn’t known for being too intelligent, needless to say).

    But if it were me, I’d just live vicariously through the torturing of my friends’ taste buds, and will, more likely than not, spare my own.

    • edrevets says:

      It’s incredible what humans can do with food when their reputation is at stake.

      That reminds me of a game called sugar sugar salt. When you’re out with your friends at a restaurant, you enough packets of sugar for everyone, open all of them, and then replace the contents of one with salt. Then everyone eats it at the same time and someone gets a mouthful of pure sodium chloride.

      Comedy at its purest.

  10. jertzylan says:

    A bag of potatoes, left neglected in the shadows of my pantry for months and months–I knew it had to be the source of the terrible smell that had been creeping to life in my kitchen for days. I dug into the overstuffed pantry, found the bag of potatoes (which had by then turned into a lumpy sack of black/brown liquid), and, even though everything inside me told me not to, I gave a quick sniff to verify my theory. Damn, the smell burned a hole through my brain, and I had no one to blame but myself. But sometimes you have to know…

  11. Archon's Den says:

    Shouldn’t the word have been, “masochists”? Just hit a British post which mentioned Saveloy. Google that. I Googled Peaches Cafeteria and noticed a reference to a 69 cent Peaches Cafeteria somewhere in PA, but, as I refined the search terms, it disappeared, and now I can’t get it back. I thought I had another in Beckley, but it was just a cafeteria that served peaches. Where was yours located?

    • edrevets says:

      Definitely masochists. Good call. I remember thinking the word masochists in my head but sometimes it’s not the thought that counts.

      And the peaches cafeteria was indeed in PA, not WV. The biggest draw was that it was dirt cheap. My family and I drove hours to get there for the worst burgers we’d ever had.

  12. Funny, I love gas station hot dogs, but one of the worst things I ever tasted was a Thai hot dog. You should have been there.

  13. If it came down to you and me, you’d be the only one. I have whacked my curiosity back to a nubbin and hope it falls off with duct tape.

  14. blitzpillager says:

    LOL, I am only offended because that picture of the dish reminds me of what poo poo stew would look like if there was a dish called poo poo stew:)

  15. Your friends are more adventurous than mine. My friends would laugh at me and say hell no I’m not trying that crap.

  16. I can honestly say, I have no desire to try it. Thank you!!!

  17. Archon's Den says:

    I don’t see poi as yucky. Industrial-strength bland perhaps. I’m old enough to remember un-prepasted wall paper. Think wall-paper paste. Dull and uninteresting, to the point of dozing off, as you reach to get some. Nothing a little Thai hot-sauce wouldn’t fix. Try to preserve, and bring home, both your insanity and your stomach. Gotta go look up Peaches Cafeteria.

    • edrevets says:

      I’m not sure if Peaches Cafeteria is the actual name. I went there roughly 16 years ago, so it’s been a hot second, but I remember the burgers tasting more than ambiguous.

      The worst part is that we went there on someone’s recommendation.

      Now wallpaper paste is sounding tasty with all this talk of hot sauce.

  18. madjamison says:

    I’m with Chris up there. I’ll take your word for how gross something is.And if my nose tells me something is revolting–that’s as much as I need to know. But I do agree that people have that morbid curiosity going on. Just not me. 🙂

  19. The Waiting says:

    It was simply because of my fascination with the repulsive that I watched Troll 2, which is understood to be the worst movie ever made. I just like to know what I can take. Similarly, I occasionally order the most disgusting thing on the menu. You know, just to see.

    • edrevets says:

      You have to try it! You know that good food will taste delicious, but you don’t know how bad the bad can be.

      Just looked up Troll 2 and I’m already impressed by the movie cover. Now I might be tempted to see how far down the rabbit hole goes.

  20. Rich Crete says:

    Great post! That guy Biily Shakespeare only dreamed of painting a picture with words as accurately as “Her stomach drops and cuddles with her bowels.” I can hear the whimpering even though it was merely implied. Bravo!

    The group dynamic is so true. I once witnessed 6 grown-ass men in 3 piece suits reduced to tears and writhing agony because they all had to try a big dose of some tongue curdling hot sauce they were dared to consume. (yes, by me) They were caught up in those questions you so perfectly laid out and couldn’t be satisfied gaining the answer from watching their co-workers suffer.

    • edrevets says:

      Hahaha—-the insanity is what makes us human.

      Thanks for the kind words!

      I’ve also watched a grown man eat roughly a tablespoon of pure wasabi even though he was not dared…..my did the tears run.

  21. Addie says:


    My work on this is done.

  22. LOL – No apologies necessary! I haven’t tried it and now I don’t need to, because I’ve already had the disgustingly vicarious experience via your very well written and luridly descriptive post here. Thanks! Sometimes virtual sharing of an experience is almost as good (or in this case, as bad) as the real thing. 🙂

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