Exploring The Multi Geographic Implications Of Food Taboos Anthropology Essay

1276 words - 6 pages

Every culture has food taboos. Some, of course, have more than others. Asian countries such as China, Japan, and Thailand, for example, tend to have a more diverse cultural diet than do European countries. I conducted a survey to see how a country's food taboos correlate with the personal eating habits of those who have traveled there. I found that people who have traveled to Asian countries tend to have less food taboos than do those who have traveled to Europe. In fact, people who have traveled to Asia often could not cite one food that they refuse to eat. Everyone who has been to Europe on the other hand, could name at least one food that they personally consider to be inedible. I believe that the reason for this disparity can be found in the economic differences between the East and the West, and also, in the personal reasons people have for traveling to either Europe or Asia. Southeast Asians lack specific food types they refuse to eat. Besides the more conventional meats, i.e., beef, pork, poultry, they also eat dogs, cats, dingoes, and insects. An explanation for this can be traced to historical, ecological, and economical aspects of Southeast Asia. Marvin Harris, anthropologist and author of Good to Eat explores this specific field, and says the following about one of the unconventional meat-eating trends in Southeast Asia. "Dog-eating cultures generally lack an abundance of alternative sources of animal foods, and the services which dogs can render alive far outweigh the value of their flesh and carcass. In China, where perennial shortages of meat and the absence of dairying have produced a long-standing pattern of involuntary vegetarianism, dogflesh eating is the rule, not the exception." (Harris, 179). Basically, types of meat people in the West have stereotypes against are good to eat in other cultures depending on "how it fits within a culture's overall system for producing food and other goods and services." (Harris, 179) Because the benefits of eating dogflesh and other pet meat outweigh the costs, the inhabitants of Southeast Asia eat this type of meat. However, in regions like the United States, where beef and chicken are the ruling meat industries, one rarely goes to a supermarket to ask for dog meat. Insect eating can also be traced to economic factors. "Europeans never acquired a taste for locusts." (Harris, 171) By analyzing the costs and benefits of eating insects, it can be shown that although insects are abundant, "they are nonetheless inherently among the least efficient and least reliable sources of these nutrients [protein and fats] in the entire animal kingdom." (Harris, 165) Consequently, one must understand this cost benefit relationship (from a time and energy costs per-harvested unit standpoint) in order to fully comprehend why "insects are sometimes avoided and sometimes preferred…" (Harris, 165) On the other hand, "since locusts are responsible for devouring crops and natural pasture, they alter the availability...

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