Consuming the Inedible: Neglected Dimensions of Food Choice


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One thousand and two hundred women of 54 castes and 55 tribal women in Tamilnad South India were interviewed during a period of six months on food avoidances during puberty and subsequent menstruation. Avoidances referred to different types of food, but the most significant were those of animal origin. This practice could be explained by the concept of purity and pollution.

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Avoidances during ordinary menstruation were much rarer than at puberty indicating a decreased concern with habituation. Harper E. Ritual Pollution as an Integrator of Caste and Religion. In Religion in South Asia. E Harper, ed. Current Anthropology Simon and Schuster. Laderman C. American Ethnologist Manderson L, Mathews M. Ecology of Food and Nutrition McDonald D.

Who, what, when, where and why?

Nair KN. In Food and Evolution.

M Harris, E Ross, eds. Temple University Press. Odebiyi A. Social Science and Medicine O'Laughlin B. In Women, Culture, and Society. M Rosaldo, L Lamphere, eds. Paque C. Infant Salt Taboos in Morocco. Pool R. Eastern Anthropologist 39 3 Reichel-Dolmatoff G. Journal of Latin American Folklore Ross E. Food Taboos in Amazon Cultural Ecology.

Current Anthropology 19 1 Rozin P. Psychobiology Perspectives on Food Preferences and Avoidances. Rozin P, Fallon AE. Appetite Sahlins M.

Culture as Protein and Profit. The New York Review of Books 25 18 Sakr AH. Dietary Regulations and Food Habits of Muslims. This article focuses on one of these: the ban on cow slaughter included in the Constitution of India, and the legal controversy that followed efforts to implement the ban. The conclusion is reached that to understand the problem one should not focus narrowly on the unquestioned economic utility of cattle in Indian life, that one must also consider religious belief as a force that in some respects has a detrimental impact on the ecology of food and nutrition.

Bioscience Human Ecology Ethnology Taylor D. American Anthropologist Trant H. Food Taboos in East Africa. Lancet Visser M. Grove Press. Wilson C. Fifty women selected randomly in a Malay fishing village were studied by participant observation. They reported that a varied normal diet continued through pregnancy but it altered abruptly at childbirth because of dietary restrictions. Solomon H. Gale Cengage, A food taboo is a prohibition against consuming certain foods. The word "taboo" also spelled "tabu" is Polynesian and means 'sacred' or 'forbidden'; it has a quasi-magical or religious overtone.

The term was introduced in the anthropological literature in the second half of the nineteenth century. In the field of food and nutrition, food taboos are not necessarily connected with magical-religious practices, and some nutritionists prefer to speak of "food avoidance. Food is a culturally specific concept. In general, anything can function as food if it is not immediately toxic.

But what is edible in one culture may not be in another. The concept of food is determined by three factors: biology, geography, and culture. Certain plants and animals are not consumed because they are indigestible.

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Geography also plays a role. For example, dairy products are not part of the food culture of the humid tropical regions since the geographical conditions for keeping cattle are unfavorable. Milk is often a taboo food in such cultures. Insects are not considered food in Europe and most of the United States despite attempts to introduce them in the late twentieth century.

This is because there are few edible insects in regions with temperate climates. In Mexico, by contrast, insects are packaged in plastic sachets, cans, or jars for sale.

Cultural reasons for food taboos often have a geographical basisnknown or exotic foods will be rejected as unfit for consumption. It is of interest to note that food avoidance most frequently relates to animal meat, since in most cultures human beings have an emotional relationship with animals they have to kill to eat. One of the few taboos of a food of vegetable origin is the prohibition against alcohol for Muslims and some Christian denominations.

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Consuming the Inedible: Neglected dimensions of food choice.

Food may establish a cultural identity of an ethnic group, religion, or nation. Food taboos in a society function also as a means to show differences between various groups and strengthen their cultural identity. Refraining from eating pork is not only a question of religious identity but is likewise an indication of whether or not one belongs to the Jewish or Muslim cultural community. In order to better understand the range of food taboos, it is useful to distinguish between permanent and temporary food taboos or food avoidances.

Foods that are permanent taboos or avoidances are always prohibited for a specific group. The classic example of a permanent food taboo is the prohibition against pork by Jews and Muslims. The Jewish prohibition against pork is found in Leviticus Some anthropologists point out that food taboos are based on the failure of these foods to fit into the usual systems of classification. Foods that do not fit into these classifications are unsuitable for consumption, or unclean.

Eating bugs: the search for new food frontiers in an era of population growth

In the case of both Jewish and Muslim food taboos, the foods themselves are considered unclean. A different concept of food avoidance is found in Hinduism.


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  5. Table of Contents for: Consuming the inedible : neglected dimen.

Hindus abstain from eating beef because cows are considered sacred. Various arguments have been used to explain the origins of such food taboos or food avoidance including religion, culture, and hygiene. Marvin Harris has rightly pointed out that when people reject certain foods, there must be a logical and economical reason for doing so. The pig is an animal of sedentary farmers and unfit for a pastoral way of life because pigs cannot be herded over long distances without suffering a high rate of mortality. Herdsmen generally despise the lifestyle of sedentary farming communities.

In Western society cats and dogs are not consumed because of the emotional relationships developed with these pets. Increasingly pets are being "humanized" in such a way that eating them is seen as an act of anthropophagy or cannibalism. The feeling of closeness to certain animals can also be found in the savannah regions of West Africa. Certain West African clans consider dogs clan animals, based on the fact that they have been beneficial to the clan in the past; as clan animals they are unfit for consumption.

Hippocrates B. This is still the case in the Mediterranean area and the Middle East.

Evidence for the consumption of the inedible

By contrast, dog meat is popular in China and the mountainous regions of the Philippines. From a nutritional point of view, dog meat is an excellent source of animal protein, and dogs do not require the grazing area demanded by cattle or other large ruminants. Some foods are avoided for certain periods of time.

Consuming the Inedible: Neglected Dimensions of Food Choice Consuming the Inedible: Neglected Dimensions of Food Choice
Consuming the Inedible: Neglected Dimensions of Food Choice Consuming the Inedible: Neglected Dimensions of Food Choice
Consuming the Inedible: Neglected Dimensions of Food Choice Consuming the Inedible: Neglected Dimensions of Food Choice
Consuming the Inedible: Neglected Dimensions of Food Choice Consuming the Inedible: Neglected Dimensions of Food Choice
Consuming the Inedible: Neglected Dimensions of Food Choice Consuming the Inedible: Neglected Dimensions of Food Choice
Consuming the Inedible: Neglected Dimensions of Food Choice Consuming the Inedible: Neglected Dimensions of Food Choice
Consuming the Inedible: Neglected Dimensions of Food Choice Consuming the Inedible: Neglected Dimensions of Food Choice
Consuming the Inedible: Neglected Dimensions of Food Choice Consuming the Inedible: Neglected Dimensions of Food Choice
Consuming the Inedible: Neglected Dimensions of Food Choice

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