Monday, November 12, 2007

Cultural Meat Taboos, are you Squeamish?

It seems every culture has a different food taboo. One of the most interesting taboos to me has always been the consumption of what "other" cultures end up considering taboo meats. This may get a bit gross to some people, but quite honestly in India, the idea of eating a cow is disgusting so deal. I saved you all from the pictures I was going to post in fear that some of you would be offended, but realize I also write vegetarian articles, so again um suck it up and get rid of your cultural bias and learn something, so on I go.

This came about from some conversations I was having with people on Wikipedia about whether or not the consumption of dog meat was important enough to add to the Korean cuisine article. This goes to properly sourced citations. When a newspaper article cites that 1.8kg of dog meat are eaten per person each year it is an overly broad statement. What the article left out was the cultural aspects of eating dog and which segments of the population each dog meat. Dog meat is clearly not on every persons table, it is consumed by those on the lower economic scale when there is nothing else to eat. As dogs are scavengers other sources of meat are even more preferable to them but it is better to kill and eat the dog than it is to kill your cow which serves to pull your plow or gives fuel through its combustible excrement.

Interesting much of Japan's culture came by-way-of China through Korea in the Ancient era, specifically before the Heian period where the high-courts emulated the Chinese culture. However, Japan, whom at one time consumed dog meat outlawed it under to Buddhist and Shogun philosophies. Under the Shogunates eating any meat was punishable by death, and as such those who practiced in the trade of dismembering any animal were subjugated to their own caste and discrimination. Japan has its own love for whale meat today in certain realms as it is a seas animal and not subjugated to the same laws as other mammals. In addition horse sashimi can be found in certain regions of Japan. If you think that is odd, well check out this article talking about a report from the USDA in the 80's-90's.

Horse meat has been eaten in Europe for some time. It is not wide-spread as some would have you believe, or even the biased folks at Wikipedia would like to write about, but it exists. There are a number of "boucheries chevalines" in France that sell horse meat. What is more weird though, eating horse meat or eating the ovaries from a frog like they do in China in a soup known as Hasma.

An interesting one I have had was balut, which is a fertilized duck egg often eaten as a snack in Vietnam, Cambodia and Taiwan. Watch this video of Anthony Bourdain having a go at it.

Heck in our own country we eat "turkey fries" out west (I've had to cook them for a banquet once in California) which are ridiculously huge fired turkey testicles. Out in cow farming regions we find Rocky Mountain Oysters. Down south they eat "chitlins" which are boiled intestines from a pig and Boudin noir is a sausage made with pig's blood.

It is all about cultural influence. I could go on for the next year posting about this topic but I found someone else who already does so here. This guy has a special, special need for some Pepto Bismol I am guessing. There is also a show on the Travel Channel called Bizarre Foods where I've seen the guy eat bugs, odd meats and other things I won't even try, but it is fun to watch and obviously others agree because they show is quite popular. I can't say I am going to go run ot and order me some salted horse meat to put on my sandwich tomorrow, but we should all realize each culture has its own food preferences.

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