Food Preferences and Taboos: an Anthropological Perspective

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Food Preferences and Taboos: An Anthropological Perspective
Across the world, there is an extensive range of animals and plants of which humans have at their disposal for consumption. Despite this though, many cultures and societies engage in preferences and taboos of which restrict their dietary range. The term “food taboo” has been used to describe the practice of where people deliberately avoid consuming a food, which is otherwise perfectly okay to eat (Lien, 2004). The question of what makes a whale or dog off limits in one culture but edible meat in another is one that has been tended to by Anthropologists and still continues to be as these taboos are both nurtured in small scale societies and spread across continents with the ever increasing globalization of the world (Lien, 2004). Many Anthropological perspectives exist today and those have shaped my own perception on the edibility of plants and animals on this earth according to culture.

The anthropological community has been studying food habits since the nineteenth century and it has become a core feature in the ethnographic study of culture (Mintz & Bois, 2002). At the bare minimum, food is essential for human existence on this earth. It also fulfills psychological and social needs in society, from maintaining relationships (such as talking over dinner) to being used as a coping mechanism. However what humans choose to eat and not eat is molded by cultural values, attitudes and principles. These are in turn founded upon years of some (but not all) factors such as religious practices, traditions, society norms, environmental standings and contact with others (Onuorah & Ayo, 2003). Because of this, ranges of interpretations from all corners of the anthropological field have been accumulated to what now stands as a large theoretical field.

The Cultural Materialism (functionalist) perspective states that food taboos serve as a function in society on a needs basis and are formed in relation...
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