FOOD CHOICES: A HISTORY

Origins of food choices

Bone marrow soup and sautéed snails, delicacies in France, passions to many are absolutely disgusting to others. Horsemeat is popular in a large area of North Central Asia, but rigidly avoided by many people in Islamic countries. Sautéed snails eyes are delicacies in France; kidney pie is traditional in England. Dog is a popular food in Borneo, New Guinea, and the Philippines where snake is a delicacy in China. In some countries, People enjoying insects are fit only for animal feed in other cultures. And then there steamed clams and raw oysters, food passions for some, but absolutely disgusting to others. When did you first say Yuck! to the above list?

 A 12th century scholar, Maimonides included pigs on his taboo and declared them “unlean” list due to rapid spoilage of pork in in hot climates and in their despicable habit of rooting garbage. However other animals such as goats have the same habit. Pork attained its unique status  in 165 B.C as a taboo and enraged the Jews leading to war. As a result, they retook Jerusalem celebrating Hanukkah in the Roman world.  

The fledging Christians pointed instead of Roman rules, to the book of Matthew in the New Testament.;” It’s not what goes into the mouth that defiles a man, but that what comes out”, the good book says.

“Burger chomping” Americans express incomprehension over the sacred status cattle in India, where the 1947 Constitution spells out the right of cows. Yet those same Americans would never think of eating whale, monkey, dog, cat or parrot  that Americans consider companion animals. Many Americans would consider that the deepest food taboo of all.”

“However, hunger still overrides food aversions from any origin. When German armies laid siege to Paris in 1870, cutting off the cities from country farms and gardens, many bourgeois restaurants offered delicacies such as rat ragu and saddle of cat.  “Many simply say – “tastes just like chicken”

Sources: Judith E. Brown, Nutrition Now, 7th Edition

Harris, David Lyon, Sue McLaughlin. The Meaning of Food: The Companion to the PBS Television Series Hosted by Marcus, Samuelsson, 2005.

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