Skip to Content

Uncleanliness Is Next To Godliness

A pigeon selects from the culinary delights in an overflowing garbage can
Richard Bosomworth/SSPL/Getty Images

A good question to ask yourself from time to time is: Am I the type of person who will not be thwarted from my attempt to eat an apple by a measly adorable caterpillar, or am I denying myself the world in favor of a few stupid cleanliness norms created by boring people? A Food Disgust Test going around the internet today forces you to answer these questions. It's fun. The test pitches you various statements related to food and disgust—"I do not like to eat steak that is still bloody inside," or "I would not eat part of an apple that had a worm in another part of it," that kind of thing—and you respond along a five-point gradient from strong disagreement to strong agreement.

I don't think anybody will be surprised by their own results. Personally, I was not surprised in the least to see that I am, in approximate terms, as picky an eater as your average lactobacillus. Here, see for yourself:

A circular chart showing personalized levels of food disgust broken into categories for Animal Flesh, Hygiene, Human Contaminants, Mold, Fruit, Fish, Vegetables, and Insect Contaminants. My food disgust is very low (11.75%), all but nonexistent everywhere but the Hygiene category.
I will cop to finding filthy cutlery and dishware pretty unappealing.Screenshot

This is the Team Gross lifestyle, which I regard as akin to enlightenment.

What is surprising is comparing your results to those of your friends, coworkers, hated coworkers, hated friends, and loved ones, and learning that some of them are terrified of normal, edible foods! This will never stand on Team Gross!

Is it edible food, as determined by someone somewhere in the world? Then it is edible to me. I will eat the wormy apple! I will chomp the wilted leftover salad stored overnight in the fridge in a Ziploc bag. I will emerge from the stained, insect-infested restaurant restroom (having washed my hands, of course) and go straight to town on the possibly hairy soup prepared by an ungloved stranger who taste-tested it five times with the same spoon. Do I suspect that this chicken thigh might be slightly undercooked? That is fine. I will eat it.

I will pinch the patches of blue-green mold off of the bread, scrape the layer of mold off the top of the jam, and make and enjoy a PB&J with what's left. Give to me the smelly shrimp, the irregular meat, the raisiny old potatoes and the bendy cuke. Give me the browned apple slices, the black-spotted banana, the fish head. Give them to me with your filthy mitts! Offer me a drink from your used water glass to wash them down! I don't give a damn!

The point here is not just to disgust you with the revelation that my personal food standards would horrify a Nurgle cultist. (Though that is maybe a secondary objective.) A thing I am never less than half-serious about when I say it, or any of the 10,000 times I have written about it, is that finicky eating is a moral shortcoming, and an expansive palate is a moral imperative. Of all the various self-deceptions out there in the world, one of the ones I find the shabbiest and most objectionable is the idea that a fussy relationship to food equals heightened taste or discernment. Baloney! (Which is delicious, by the way.)

Denying yourself a delicious fish just because it was served to you with its head on is the food equivalent of refusing to watch any film with subtitles, or to travel anywhere except via Carnival Cruise: not high standards, but low curiosity. Oh no! A fuller and more rewarding communion with the world outside myself sits on the far side of one small step beyond what's familiar to me! Can I at least soak it in ketchup first?

So many of the world's great foods began with the attempt to transform initially suspect or unpalatable ingredients into nourishing sustenance; the classic dishes fusty chefs performatively deconstruct in sterile lab-like restaurants virtually without exception originated in the unsanitary open-air kitchens of ungloved yokels working with imperfectly fertilized or harvested or stored foodstuffs. People eat bugs, intentionally and not; they eat flabby lettuce handed to them by a stranger; they share food and pots and spoons; they are social creatures, communities, macrobiomes. That is what human cooking and human eating are like. Moreover it is what being a human is like, however wretchedly anyone may cling to bourgeois delusions of antibacterial cleanliness! At all times, however recently you autoclaved your fingers, you yourself are wholly a shit-germ-slathered mud native of a filthy and wriggling earth. Your insides teem with the same bacteria you're trying to scrub off of that apple; all you are doing is delaying their reunion. The call is coming from inside the house!

Come to Team Gross. Join us. Our door is open; delightful and ever-so-slightly alarming smells are wafting through it. Come on in and have a big gross germy hug and a bowl of mystery stew. I promise it will be OK, and probably delicious. Will it later turn your ass into a firehose? Maybe! But this is a small and affordable price to pay, for illumination.

Additional grossness by Kelsey McKinney

Already a user?Log in

Welcome to Defector!

Sign up to read another couple free blogs.

Or, click here to subscribe!

If you liked this blog, please share it! Your referrals help Defector reach new readers, and those new readers always get a few free blogs before encountering our paywall.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter