Everyone Eats: Understanding Food and Culture

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NYU Press, 2005 - Social Science - 295 pages

Everyone eats, but rarely do we ask why or 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 Eats examines the social and cultural reasons for our food choices and provides an explanation of the nutritional reasons for why humans eat, 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 as well as offers suggestions on how to end hunger, starvation, and malnutrition.
Everyone Eats feeds our need to understand human ecology by explaining the ways that cultures and political systems structure the edible environment.


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“Everyone eats rice
Yet no one knows why” - the book by EN Anderson starts with this poem which the author quotes from a book ‘Great fool’ by Ryokan a Zen mystic. Author intentionally placed this
poem at the beginning of the book as the book deals with the ‘foodways’ of people around the globe. The book talks about food and culture, why do we eat and what we eat is the basic question the author asks through this book. The author is so interested to explore the different ‘foodways’ which are determined by culture and biology. EN Anderson is a Nutritional Anthropologist and Professor of Anthropology at the University of California Riverside. The sound footing of the author in the discipline of Nutritional anthropology along with the ready wittedness and sense of humor makes the reading of ‘Every one eats’ a memorable one. Taste of each individual is different as their behaviors are; the book argues that the difference in human ‘foodways’ is the result of constant interaction of human nutritional needs, ecology and may be by an historical accident. The diverse dietary regimes which humans now have a story of evolution to tell i.e. the journey from less calorific and less nutritional to more nutrient rich and more calorific foods. The book pay obeisance to those unknown inventors of food that we eat today, and try to talk about the forgotten ‘real’ heroes of the History who combined different nutrients and proteins together to make a comprehensive diet to human society, it talks about the less told history of human kind through the trail of cuisine. Mainstream history augmented and lionized conquerors, conquistadors and generals who killed their people, the history of food unlike the history war and violence doesn’t carry the names of great inventors of food. The book is an attempt to locate food as the centre of human civilization; it takes a holistic view to understand human civilization and its foodways bearing in mind all the cultural differences, geographical oddities and economical diversities hence the book is a blend of different schools of thought such as ecological, political economy (Marxian), and cognitive structuralism (Levis Strauss).
The book details the food history of human beings from the prehistoric times, taking a Darwinian standpoint of evolution author begins with the most obvious ‘Gorilla- Chimpanzee’ lineage of human beings, the chimps preferred plant products to meat; As a very little amount of fat can increase their cholesterol level, humans now eat much more meat than their ancestors ate is the sign of adaptability of gut through the process of evolution, the design of jaws evolved to more muscular and strong when the dietary habits changed, in chimps the tiny front teeth was capable and enough for nipping the vegetables and the molar tooth found in Australopithecus was the result of meat consumption. The history human evolution is all about the evolution of brain, from small simple brain of chimps to big complex homo-erectus brain, the development of human brain is due to the consumption of meat, and it is validated by the study of tapeworm found in human guts. In fact the book argues that the evolution of human kind itself is a product of our eating habits! The entire human evolution is detailed in the book through the lens of food and foraging. The stone age men developed stone tools for hunting and butchering animals, the larger brain size of human beings was demanding more nutrients, the change of human being to omnivory happened thus, as the meat is less in calorie and hard to digest compelled them to rely on nutrient rich and simple to digest plant products which their ancestors used to eat, thus the food preference has a story of nutrition demand by the brain and the ecological availability of food, popular eating habits are evolved from these factors author quotes the Termite eating Habit in Africa as an example for this. The logical thinking of the ancestral beings helped them to find their food and produce their food in need, the author argues


Obligatory Omnivores
Human Nutritional Needs
More Needs Than One
The Senses
Food as Pleasure
Food Classification and Communication
Me Myself and the Others
Foods and Borders
Feeding the World
About the Author

Food and Traditional Medicine
Food and Religion

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About the author (2005)

E. N. Anderson is Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Riverside.

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