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Everyone Eats

Everyone Eats: Understanding Food and Culture, Second Edition

E. N. Anderson
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 362
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  • Book Info
    Everyone Eats
    Book Description:

    Plenty of cultural insights and background history lend to a survey particularly recommended for college-level students of anthropology and social science. - The Midwest Book ReviewAnderson's book is a solid introduction to the anthropology of food for students and general readers. It is clear, well-written, spiced with interesting examples, and illustrated with many evocative photographs taken by the author. - Journal of the Royal Anthropological InstituteEveryone eats, but rarely do we investigate why we eat what we eat. Why do we love spices, sweets, coffee? How did rice become such a staple food throughout so much of eastern Asia?Everyone Eatsexamines the social and cultural reasons for our food choices and provides an explanation of the nutritional reasons for why humans eat what they do, resulting in a unique cultural and biological approach to the topic. E. N. Anderson explains the economics of food in the globalization era; food's relationship to religion, medicine, and ethnicity; and offers suggestions on how to end hunger, starvation, and malnutrition.This thoroughly updated Second Edition incorporates the latest food scholarship, most notably recognizing the impact of sustainable eating advocacy and the state of food security in the world today. Anderson also brings more insight than ever before into the historical and scientific underpinnings of our food customs, fleshing this out with fifteen new and original photographs from his own extensive fieldwork.A perennial classic in the anthropology of food,Everyone Eatsfeeds our need to understand human ecology by explaining the ways that cultures and political systems structure the edible environment.E. N. Andersonis Professor of Anthropology, Emeritus, at the University of California, Riverside.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-8576-8
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. INTRODUCTION: Everyone Eats
    (pp. 1-8)

    The eighteenth-century Zen poet Ryokan probes us on many levels. He is most concerned with the ultimate questions: What is life? Why live? Is there such a thing as life or existence? Indeed, if you ponder those, you will find much to laugh about. . . .

    But there are more immediate, if no less laughable, questions posed by this innocent-seeming verse. Why do we eat what we eat? How did “rice” become synonymous with “food” throughout so much of eastern Asia?

    We may further ask, How many of our foodways are determined by biology, how many by culture? Why...

    (pp. 9-12)

    When I finished the first edition of this book, in the early twenty-first century, I was cautiously hopeful. The world was producing enough food. Distribution was improving. Structural reforms had forced many people off needed supports and hurt food production in some areas, but they had also freed up food production in many other areas. Above all, governments were showing some awareness that they had to take action to save key natural resources and to make food widely available and affordable or else face mass disasters.

    The situation in the subsequent 10 years has been a disappointment, especially the economic...

    (pp. 13-45)

    The long and circumstantial story of human evolution explains why we need, and want, so much variety in our diets. It explains why we crave sugar and fat. It explains specific nutritional needs: vitamin C from our fruit-eating heritage, protein in quantity because of our large size, active life, and long history of eating not only meat but also high-nutrient plant foods like beans.

    It does not explain the specifics of human diets. In fact, it explains why thereareno such specifics. Humans have been selected for three key things:

    the ability to live on anything we can bite...

    (pp. 46-74)

    Human needs are far more than physical requirements. Dan Jantzen, the distinguished biologist, has said that human needs are “food, shelter, and sex” (Jantzen 1998). If only it were that simple. Shelter by itself is no adequate way to stay warm; one needs fire, clothing, and materials for repair, at the very least. Sex is only the beginning of reproduction. Among humans, 5 minutes of sex leads to 15 years or more of hard child-rearing work.

    Food, likewise, is complicated. (For this and what follows, I have relied on Kiple and Ornelas [2000] and, especially, Shils et al. [1999]; see...

    (pp. 75-84)

    Food may or may not be a source of more pleasure than sex, but it does have one advantage: it is easier to study. Observing people’s sex lives is Not Done, at least in societies known to me. Americans love to talk obsessively about their sex lives, but their honesty may lag well behind their talkativeness, and one is not allowed to check by observation.

    Food, by contrast, is normally a public matter. There are some societies, all very food-short ones, in which eating is a private or even secret matter. In the vast majority of societies, however, eating is...

  9. 4 THE SENSES: Taste, Smell, and the Adapted Mind
    (pp. 85-99)

    A walk with a dog can reveal much about scent preferences. While the human enjoys the scent of flowers, resins, and fresh foliage, the dog delights in seeking out garbage, carrion, and excrement. Indeed, the dog often perfumes itself with these substances, by rolling and rubbing its shoulders in them.

    The actual taste receptors on the tongue detect salt, sweet, bitter, and sour, as well as the taste of monosodium glutamate (a taste called “umami”), but not other taste characteristics. The receptors—only recently identified—are particular molecules in the taste buds on the tongue. It turns out that these...

  10. 5 BASICS: Environment and Economy
    (pp. 100-118)

    The most basic determinants of foodways are environment and economy.

    This is so obvious, and so generally realized, that it is often taken as the whole story (e.g., Harris 1974, 1985; Harris and Ross 1987). Much of the present book is devoted to qualifying such a simple view. However, no one can deny that environment and economy have been the main shapers of foodways for most people over most of history.

    In the short run, they can be almost totally determinative. Agriculture in less-than-affluent areas is basically a matter of producing a diet that people can afford. This means it...

    (pp. 119-136)

    One very important area for the meaning and significance of food is in medical use. Diet therapy is performed everywhere in the world. Food is so obviously related to health that no culture has missed it, and all seem to have some form of nutritional therapy. However, since vitamins and mineral nutrients are hard to discover without modern laboratories, cultural groups before 1900 had to do the best they could with observation and induction. This led to theories that were wonderfully creative and by no means always wrong. Some relationships, like the success of fresh foods in preventing scurvy, were...

    (pp. 137-153)

    We eat largely to stay alive. Most people in the world, most of the time, have to take whatever they can get—usually dull, inadequate, depressing fare. But almost everyone gets to celebrate occasionally, and good food is almost always at the core of good times. For the lucky 25% of the world’s citizens who can eat when and what they want or at least havesomebreadth of choice, daily fare can be diverse and tasty. Even among the other 75%, people often find ways to spice up their stodgy diets by using wild herbs, simple fermentation processes, varied...

    (pp. 154-170)

    We are all aware of the value of food as a mark or badge of ethnicity, religion, class, and other social groupings. The bald statement of this obvious fact is fairly banal. In fact, there is more to food talk.

    I did a small bit of fieldwork in Tahiti, decades ago. People would often greet me by wordlessly offering a piece of fruit or a sip of a drink. I learned that this substituted for a verbal greeting. One could say “ia orana” (“hello”), or one could offer a piece of food. I learned that constant exchanges of food, from...

  14. 9 ME, MYSELF, AND THE OTHERS: Food as Social Marker
    (pp. 171-187)

    Food as communication finds most of its applications in the process of defining one’s individuality and one’s place in society. Food communicates class, ethnic group, lifestyle affiliation, and other social positions. Eating is usually a social matter, and people eat every day. Thus, food is available for management as a way of showing the world many things about the eater. It may be second only to language as a social communication system.

    Elaborate social messages are carried in feast behavior. In Chinese formal hospitality, honor and respect are showed by the host using his own chopsticks to serve the guest,...

    (pp. 188-198)

    Any proper deity will, at the very least, feed his or her people. Prayers for rain and fertility, for sustenance and support, or for blessing the food at hand are universal or nearly so. Yet, dissatisfaction with what the deities provide seems as old as religion. The first recorded complaint about the food was not in the army, or at summer camp, or at the school cafeteria, but in the Sinai Desert, when Moses’ people got tired of manna: “We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the...

  16. 11 CHANGE
    (pp. 199-224)

    Leopold Bloom, in James Joyce’sUlysses(1961:55), expressed a fondness for organ meats, fish roe, and, in short, what we now sometimes call “variety meats.” He was especially fond of kidneys, with their “tang of faintly scented urine,” and was having them for breakfast on the day commemorated in the novel. The hundredth anniversary of the original publication of the work was recently celebrated in Dublin, and thousands of people ritually consumed grilled kidneys—cultural history in the making. Yet Bloom’s delights are no longer acceptable to most English-speaking eaters—a pity, for they are indeed very good.

    Foodways change....

  17. 12 FOODS AND BORDERS: Ethnicities, Cuisines, and Boundary Crossings
    (pp. 225-249)

    Foodways are created by dynamic processes. We usually think of them as “ethnic,” but ethnicity is not a God-given trait. It is politically defined. It changes constantly with shifting patterns of politics, conquest, and trade.

    We speak of “French food,” “Italian food,” and “American food,” but such labels are notoriously ambiguous. Does French food include Provençal? If not, where does French stop and Provençal start? Does Italian food include the Swiss-style food of the historically German-speaking valleys of the Alto Adige? American food is sometimes taken to mean all the food of the United States and Canada; sometimes to mean...

    (pp. 250-282)

    All this understanding of foodways would be unworthy of attention if it did not help us with the world food problem.

    At present, for the first time in the history of the world, there is food enough for all (Smil 2000). Yet over a billion people are undernourished. Hundreds of millions of people go to bed hungry most nights of their lives. Starvation is still one of the commonest causes of death.

    Ironically, an almost equal number is overnourished, suffering from obesity. The world food problem, today, is not one of absolute lack but of absurdly wrong distribution. The Green...

  19. APPENDIX: EXPLAINING IT ALL: Nutritional Anthropology and Food Scholarship
    (pp. 283-292)
  20. NOTES
    (pp. 293-304)
    (pp. 305-344)
  22. INDEX
    (pp. 345-352)
    (pp. 353-353)