Tech UPTechnologyThere is no one to eat this food

There is no one to eat this food

It is said that during a reception at the British ambassador’s residence in Beijing, the Chinese Foreign Minister expressed great admiration for the ambassador’s female spaniel. About to have puppies, the English ambassador told the Chinese minister that he would be very honored if he accepted one or two as a gift. When the two men met again several months later in an official act, the British ambassador asked him: “What did you think of the puppies?” To which the minister replied: “They were delicious.”

Many of us, and especially dog lovers, may find it disgusting to eat a dog. The reason, says anthropologist Marvin Harris, is not that they are our favorite pets, but fundamentally because they are an inefficient source of meat ; Westerners have a variety of alternative sources of animal food, and dogs provide services that are worth far more than their meat. However, in cultures such as China, where the sources of animal food are not very varied, the service of the dogs does not compensate for what they do if they are served cooked with a bowl of rice. And according to a disappeared Pekingese restaurant, it must be an exquisite dish: he used in the preparation of his dishes the order of 30 dogs a day .

Before the arrival of the Europeans, the Tahitians, the Hawaiians and the Maori of New Zealand had dogs that formed part of the typical gastronomy of the islands. The Polynesians housed some of their dogs in huts surrounded by a fence or under a tree. Most of them were left to forage for a living among the rubbish while a lucky few were fed vegetables and leftover fish. They were even force-fed by holding them on their backs. These vegetable-fed dogs were a delicatessen for the Polynesians , just as pigs fed only on acorns can be for us. The slaughter of the dog was very similar to that of our towns: they tied it by the snout and strangled it with their hands or with a stick. Then they disemboweled him, charred him to remove his hair, smeared him with his blood, and put him in the oven. It is possible that some dog lover may have been horrified to imagine that his beloved companion could end up on a plate surrounded by baked potatoes, but this shows us that the reason for our love is not, as Kant would say, a universal categorical.

From monkey fingers in Indonesia to insects cooked in myriad ways in both Asia and South America, many of us will be more than shy about such a dish. Of course, you don’t have to go far to find food that many consider repulsive. Thus, the Nordics are not very given to eating squid in its ink , for example, due to the black color of the sauce. How many of us would be able to try a piece of typical Sardinian cheese, casu marzu? It can be translated as rotten cheese and could not be a more evocative name: taken beyond fermentation, the artisans introduce larvae of the Piophila casei fly, which break down the fats in the cheese and begin to corrupt it. Soft in texture and somewhat watery, the larvae, translucent and 8 mm long, can jump up to 15 cm when frightened, which is why some recommend protecting their eyes. Would it eat it with the larvae swarming around? Nor should we forget Spanish gastronomy, and not only regarding Cabrales: we have potatoes with lamb’s blood, criadillas, brains… A whole menu that competes with the entomophagic delicacies of other latitudes, such as the Colombian ant or worms of the maguey of rural Mexico.

That we Westerners reject insects as sources of protein has more to do with our culture than with health. Different studies have shown that an insect such as the Acheta domesticus, the domestic cricket, if it is raised at 30º C and fed with the same care as other vertebrates, its conversion into food is 2 times more efficient than pigs and chickens , or 4 times more than sheep and lamb and 20 times more than veal.

A separate issue is the food taboos, mostly products of religion. For example, Jews are prohibited from eating pork and shellfish or mixing meat with milk. For centuries the rabbis have provided the most varied justifications, such as that of the 1st century BC. C. who said that “dietary laws are ethical in their purpose, since refraining from eating blood dominates the instinct that leads man to violence.” Many vegetarians today argue the same.

Many Jews believe that they were enacted as a public health measure to prevent trichinosis. But as the anthropologist Marvin Harris points out in his classic Good to Eat , it was enough that the Law warned against undercooking. In addition, beef frequently transmits tapeworms, and beef, sheep and goats transmit brucellosis and anthrax. For Harris, this prohibition is more related to the fact that Jews and Muslims are desert tribes and pigs are forest animals. In an environment of scarcity of nuts, vegetables and fruits, it would be crazy to feed an animal with what should be your own food. Better to make do with goats and sheep that subsist on the few plants they can find in the desert. Of course, this hypothesis of Harris does not explain everything: in the torrid sands of Judea and Palestine one can hardly go fishing for oysters and mussels, which are also prohibited.

For psychologist Steve Pinker, food taboos are ethnic markers. It follows that if I can’t eat with someone, then I can’t be their friend. Moreover, taking into account that if you eliminate a food from the diet it can become disgusting, the group protects itself from possible deserters: “Where am I going to go if those next door eat such disgusting things as grasshoppers and ants? ?”.

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