On wanting to be a diner not a dish

P.N. Furbank

  • The Rituals of Dinner by Margaret Visser
    Viking, 432 pp, £17.99, September 1992, ISBN 0 670 84701 1

If I were offered one wish by a benevolent Providence, mine would be not to be squeamish – a miserable affliction which locks one out from so much within the walls of disgust and shame. It occurs to one how enormously this matter must figure for an anthropologist. There is a story told by Lévi-Strauss of some Brazilian tribe with whom he was staying, who spoke with the greatest scorn and a disgust of a certain species of maggot, which was found in abundance in their neighbourhood. It had even been rumoured, they said, that certain depraved persons stooped so far as to eat it. One day, however, on entering his lodgings, he found his hosts with their back turned, engaged in some mysterious activity. The game was up. With blushes they admitted that they were eating maggots; and, asking permission to taste one too, he found it delicious.

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