In the United States, where hundreds of world cultures blend into one society, the concept of what foods are taboo and what are simply exotic can be difficult to qualify. Food taboos of the United States differ depending on a person’s cultural background, religion and location.
Eating in the United States: A Melting Pot of Food Taboos
In America, a great gray area exists between what foods are exotic and what foods are considered culturally taboo, due to the country’s history of immigration.
Some immigrants have brought their methods of cooking and eating, including usual ingredients, to the United States, creating a world of exotic cuisine outside of the mainstream culture.
However, what foods are deemed exotic rather than taboo is never universally clear, and individuals in the United States must make that distinction for themselves.
Native American Cuisine: Food Taboos of the United States’ First Residents
Once the only societies in the United States, Native Americans had unique cultures and culinary customs. Different tribes had various forbidden foods in their societies.
Many tribes wouldn’t eat any food that came in pairs as they were considered bad luck.
The Comanches avoided eating fish and poultry. In ancient Navajo traditions, burned foods, such as breads, and chicken was forbidden, although chicken is now a popular part of the Navajo diet.
Tribes who worshiped totemic animals were forbidden from eating those creatures. Many tribes, like the Iroquois Confederacy, also saw gluttony as taboo. Horses, mules and pack animals were deemed to be valuable in hunting and war, so many Native American tribes wouldn’t eat these animals unless during a famine.
Taboo Foods: What Most Americans Won’t Eat
While many styles of cuisine exist in the United States, a few foods are considered taboo by most of American culture, such as:
• Dogs and cats: Revered as domestic animals and important parts of many American families, these creatures are often consumed in parts of China, Korea and Southern Africa.
• Primates: While rural areas of Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia consume primates for their taste and believed medicinal properties, few Americans would consider eating these creatures.
• Rodents: These creatures are rarely consumed by Americans, while eating mice, rats, guinea pigs and other rodents is common in places like Southeast Asia, China, Western Africa and the Peru.
• Whales and Dolphins: Inuits in Alaska, and residents of Norway, Iceland and Japan believe whale meat is a delicacy.
Americans, however, widely consider this meat inhumane, with food taboos pertaining to dolphins particularly stringent.