Karen B. London
|Print |Text Size: |||
I used to have a roommate from New Zealand and we literally had to eat breakfast separately because my peanut butter-on-toast was as nauseating to him as his vegemite-on-toast was to me. We found each other’s response to what we viewed as such ordinary food a bit amusing.
Sometimes cultural differences about food can be more serious and cause real clashes. For example, a recent news article  reveals that the on-board menu for Chinese astronauts includes dog meat. Dogs are raised for their meat in Huajiang province, and many Chinese people consider this a healthy and savory meal. Some responses to the story of astronauts eating dog meat expressed the view that this is no big deal and just a matter of cultural differences and other expressed outrage at the idea of people eating dog meat.
I must say that in my cultural realm, dogs are companions only and not food, so I would not want to eat dog. The idea, for me personally, makes me very uncomfortable. However, I have eaten cow meat countless times with the full knowledge that for members of the Hindu religion, the cow is sacred and as such, is not used for meat. Furthermore, when I lived in Venezuela, I ate meat of unknown origin on several occasions when people invited me into their homes, so that I am pretty sure I’ve consumed both capybara and rat. It makes me a bit uneasy, but I went with a “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” model for my behavior in these situations, which I usually find to be the most polite course of action when I’m in another country.
Dogs mean different things to different cultures and what sounds appealing as food also varies culturally. How do you feel about Chinese astronauts eating dog? What have you eaten lately that you think someone from another culture might find revolting?