Anthropology and Food

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Why are certain foods preferred in a society? Is nutritional anthropology related?

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The answer to this question could be based on speculation and opinion  as much as it could be on specific analysis of cultural eating habits and patterns.

Historically speaking, food and culture tend to be most related in terms of geography and resources. Think about it. Historically, a given people group ate based on the resources available. Some people groups were migratory because the availability of food was always on the move. Other groups cultivated the land and lived off what it could provide. Likewise, people groups near the ocean were able to eat fish and ocean dwelling plants. Therefore, one suggestion could be that the preferred foods and flavors of a certain society are based on the edible resources that are most plentiful in a given region.

Very similar to the idea of geography playing a roll in food preferrence, food preparation could also play a roll. Many societies food preferences are based as much on how the food is prepared as what kind of foods and flavors are used.

Another food and cultural relationship is based on traditions. Consider that societies have specific food preparation traditions, celebratory traditions that are accompanied by food, dietary restrictions that were perhaps based on religious beliefs, and other food practices that have simply been passed down over time. Generations upon generations pass down these traditions, and modernly speaking, "comfort food" develops. This could be another reason for food preference within societies.

A final idea suggests that biology might play a roll as a result of the suggestions above. Consider that through geographical food and resource availability, in addition to food traditions, biologically, future generations of certain societies develop taste preferences that seem to come from within and are passed on to future generations. It has been suggested that babies are influenced by what the mother eats while the fetus is in utero, that babies are introduced to specific flavors and nutrients in their mother's breast-milk that they will come to crave later, and that taste pallets can develop at very young ages.

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