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Adventures in Eating

Adventures in Eating: Anthropological Experiences in Dining from Around the World

Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 292
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  • Book Info
    Adventures in Eating
    Book Description:

    Anthropologists training to do fieldwork in far-off, unfamiliar places prepare for significant challenges with regard to language, customs, and other cultural differences. However, like other travelers to unknown places, they are often unprepared to deal with the most basic and necessary requirement: food. Although there are many books on the anthropology of food, Adventures in Eating is the first intended to prepare students for the uncomfortable dining situations they may encounter over the course of their careers.   Whether sago grubs, jungle rats, termites, or the pungent durian fruit are on the table, participating in the act of sharing food can establish relationships vital to anthropologists' research practices and knowledge of their host cultures. Using their own experiences with unfamiliar-and sometimes unappealing-food practices and customs, the contributors explore such eating moments and how these moments can produce new understandings of culture and the meaning of food beyond the immediate experience of eating it. They also address how personal eating experiences and culinary dilemmas can shape the data and methodologies of the discipline.   The main readership of Adventures in Eating will be students in anthropology and other scholars, but the explosion of food media gives the book additional appeal for fans of No Reservations and Bizarre Foods on the Travel Channel.

    eISBN: 978-1-60732-015-9
    Subjects: Sociology, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. List of Contributors
    (pp. xiii-xv)
  5. [Map]
    (pp. xvi-xvi)
  6. CHAPTER ONE The Importance of Food and Feasting around the World
    (pp. 1-18)
    Helen R. Haines and Clare A. Sammells

    When I (Haines) first got the idea for this book, I was part of an archaeological field project living in Mitla, a modest-sized town in the western part of the Tlacolula Valley in Oaxaca, Mexico. It was late in the afternoon on a hot Saturday and my colleagues and I had just finished visiting the ruins of Cuilapan in the Valley Grande and were on our way back to the Tlacolula Valley. We had been living in Mitla for almost three months and were wrapping up a somewhat long and arduous field season. Consequently, we decided to extend our day...


    • CHAPTER TWO Boiled Eggs with Chicks Inside, or What Commensality Means
      (pp. 21-42)
      Roger Ivar Lohmann

      Most everyone in my New Guinea village loves sago grubs. Steamed in leaves, “[t]hey taste just like hot buttered bread!” a friend enthused. To me they look like tubes of fat the size of breakfast sausages, ribbed for your pleasure, only with sharp jaws on one end for gnawing their way through the decaying logs in which they live (Figure 2.2). Enthralled though I was with the idea of submersing myself in another culture, studiously living, feeling, and thinking as the Asabano did, I drew the line at eating grubs.

      Unlike Helen Haines’s (this volume) avoidance of jungle rat in...

    • CHAPTER THREE A Rat by Any Other Name: Conflicting Definitions of “Dinner” in Belize, Central America
      (pp. 43-58)
      Helen R. Haines

      One of my first fond memories of Belize involves food: fresh bananas handed to me by a stranger after I had been stuck for hours on the side of the road, miles from any village, in a Ford Bronco with a flat tire; no spare, jack, or tire iron; and only a temperamental CB radio for company. My companions had left me to watch the truck while they trekked off in search of help. It was my first trip to Belize, and stuck there sans map, water, food, and emergency equipment on a road that even twenty years later had...

    • CHAPTER FOUR The Delicacy of Raising and Eating Guinea Pig
      (pp. 59-78)
      David John Goldstein

      There are three predictable questions that are asked of a foreigner by Peruvians upon arrival, departure, and any exchange with a taxi driver. First and foremost, “How do you like Peru?” Of course you say that you love it and can’t wait to come back. What else can you say? Second, and perhaps most important, “Have you been to Cuzco and Machu Picchu?” I generally smile and say I didn’t go this time but would be sure to go again someday. Critical to the topic of this book of collected essays is the third question, “How do you like the...

    • CHAPTER FIVE Termites Tell the Tale: Globalization of an Indigenous Food System among Abaluyia of Western Kenya
      (pp. 79-98)
      Maria G. Cattell

      One day my co-researcher, John Barasa “JB” Owiti, and I were walking through the Nangina Hospital’s grounds in rural western Kenya. As we approached the outpatient clinic, JB rushed to the side to a large hole in the ground. He squatted, then reached toward the hole, and put his hands to his mouth again and again. I squatted beside him. JB was catching little white-bodied insects as they flew from the hole—and he was indeed eating them! “Termites?” I asked. “Yes,” said he, throwing a few more into his mouth. I watched for some time, longing to try them...


    • CHAPTER SIX Ode to a Chuño: Learning to Love Freeze-Dried Potatoes in Highland Bolivia
      (pp. 101-126)
      Clare A. Sammells

      I like chuño.

      This statement sometimes surprises highland Bolivians but surprises Americans¹ who know the region even more. The former find it pleasant that I like Bolivian food. But some North Americans believe that this is clear evidence that I will eat “anything”—something I certainly aspire to but cannot claim to have fully achieved.² Meanwhile, those who have never been to the Andes usually have no reaction at all. Chuño? It’s just a potato, right?

      Chuño is a freeze-dried potato, but tastes nothing like a fresh potato.³ When cooked, it looks like a whole truffle: small, round and wrinkly,...

    • CHAPTER SEVEN Durian: The King of Fruits or an Acquired Taste?
      (pp. 127-144)
      Maxine E. McBrinn

      Taste is one of the many ways to experience a new place. Enthusiastic visitors, including myself, seek out new foods and new dishes as part of being somewhere new. In an ideal scenario, the intrepid traveler tries the local cuisines and is rewarded by delicious or intriguing tastes. In the real world, however, squeamish eaters and sometimes even accommodating diners will find foods that repel them for one reason or another. In this manner, taste can also be a visceral and immediate indication that, to borrow from the Wizard of Oz, “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore!”...

    • CHAPTER EIGHT MSG and Sugar: Dilemmas and Tribulations of a “Native” Ethnographer
      (pp. 145-164)
      Lidia Marte

      Even though I got initiated as an anthropologist by eating durian and spicy Mexican grasshoppers (my academic adviser offered these “exotic” foods to me in Austin, Texas, as we were discussing my future dissertation project), the most challenging eating events happened while doing fieldwork research on food, memory, and narratives of “home” among Dominican communities in New York City. My body is sensitive to MSG (monosodium glutamate, a potent food additive) and to refined sugars. When I eat MSG, my eyelids grow heavy, my eyes cross, and my muscles grow weak. I feel overwhelmingly sleepy, and I am completely unable...


    • CHAPTER NINE Eating Incorrectly in Japan
      (pp. 167-180)
      James J. Aimers

      In 1989 I finished my undergraduate degree in anthropology and was accepted to the Japan Exchange Teaching (JET) program, a cultural exchange program sponsored by the Japanese Ministry of Education that brought people under thirty-five years of age from eight countries to Japan to assist in language instruction in public schools. For a twenty-three year old with little experience outside of Canada and no teaching experience or knowledge of the Japanese language, this was the ultimate in cultural immersion. In August 1989 I found myself in the historic city of Kyoto, working as the only non-Japanese person in a large...

    • CHAPTER TEN No Heads, No Feet, No Monkeys, No Dogs: The Evolution of Personal Food Taboos
      (pp. 181-190)
      Miriam S. Chaiken

      Every fledgling anthropologist who is preparing to conduct first fieldwork is formally trained in research methods and informally prepared by the anecdotes shared by friends and mentors who have already successfully navigated the rite of passage that fieldwork represents in the discipline. My training was no different than this scenario. While a graduate student at University of California–Santa Barbara, I took research methods from the esteemed Paul Bohannan (then president of the American Anthropological Association) and classes on theory from other faculty. I delved into Southeast Asian cultures with Donald Brown (and previously as an undergraduate with James Eder...

    • CHAPTER ELEVEN Buona Forchetta: Overeating in Italy
      (pp. 191-202)
      Rachel Black

      Shortly after I first moved to Turin, Italy, I was invited to dinner to meet my fiancé’s family; this would be my first meal in an Italian household. I was nervous about meeting Alberto’s family, but I was also excited about having an authentic home-cooked meal. Back in North America, Italian cuisine had always been a favorite. I had even worked in an Italian restaurant. Going into this experience I felt I had a pretty good knowledge of Italian food; I was confident I could navigate my way around the table despite my shaky and rudimentary grasp on the Italian...

    • CHAPTER TWELVE “No Thanks, I Don’t Eat Meat”: Vegetarian Adventures in Beef-centric Argentina
      (pp. 203-222)
      Ariela Zycherman

      In the summer of 2006 I conducted my first independent research project in the province of Tucumán in northwest Argentina. The project goal was to conduct pre-dissertation research and explore the ways people perceive and relate to their diet. This research would be instrumental for understanding the larger social and political issues, and the economic hardships, that contribute to regional risks of hunger and malnutrition, which became visible during the aftereffects of Argentina’s 2001 economic collapse in the province of Tucumán. I set out to elucidate the typical Tucumán diet and to uncover the deep-rooted connections of people to their...

    • CHAPTER THIRTEEN Eating with the Blackfeet: Who’s Been Eating Whose Food?
      (pp. 223-240)
      Susan L. Johnston

      I felt a bit nervous as I knocked on the door of Bell’s¹ house in the main reservation town of Browning. Although I had spent some time driving around the reservation with her as she visited elderly and shut-in people in her role as a community health worker, her abrupt and somewhat gruff demeanor still had me a bit on edge. Added to that was the fact that I had never eaten with a Blackfeet family before, and I did not know what to expect. After we sat down, what I saw from my place of honor at the table...


    • CHAPTER FOURTEEN Drinking Ethiopia
      (pp. 243-262)
      Ronald Reminick

      Forty million years ago the earth in the Horn of Eastern Africa cleaved and allowed lava, steam, and bedrock to burst to the surface. The gradual process of lava and volcanic rock oozing to the surface built up the highlands, ranging in elevation from 6,000 to more than 15,000 feet (1,800 to 4,500 meters). When this process ceased, it left a rich wide-ranging plateau suitable for highly productive farming. Ethiopia today is about the size of Texas and New Mexico combined. In Ethiopia for millennia the ancestors of humanity have hunted game and gathered fruits, nuts, roots, and edible vegetation....

    • CHAPTER FIFTEEN You Are What You Drink in Honduras
      (pp. 263-274)
      Joel Palka

      In the field, anthropologists learn to cope with and even eventually appreciate unusual food and drink. But they also experience “out of the ordinary” consumption etiquettes, behaviors, and ethics in those host communities as well. In most societies what is put into the body and how, when, and where the consumption of food or drink occurs communicate crucial information about the individual and his or her culture. Personal identity, ethnicity, perceptions of self, and how others perceive you are determined in part by what and how one eats or drinks. Moreover, it is important for anthropologists to be accepted by...


    • EPILOGUE: Edibles and Ethnic Boundaries, Globalization and Guinea Pigs
      (pp. 277-280)
      Miriam S. Chaiken

      After seeing a title like Adventures in Eating, many casual browsers might imagine this book to be part of the growing genre of media aimed at shocking and disgusting the U.S. public. Television shows depict “ordinary” people engaging in mock battles, testing their mettle in unfamiliar settings, and ingesting revolting objects in a quest to titillate, horrify, and amuse viewers. Many shows that are billed as travel adventures actually focus on the weird and kinky behaviors and customs of the cultures they examine. In all of these cases they objectify the people they depict and trivialize the cultures they examine—...

  12. INDEX
    (pp. 281-292)