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Home » Food and Shame: Reclaiming Vanishing Diets: Aparna Pallavi (Transcript)

Food and Shame: Reclaiming Vanishing Diets: Aparna Pallavi (Transcript)

Full text of food researcher Aparna Pallavi’s talk: Food and Shame: Reclaiming Vanishing Diets at TEDxCapeTownWomen conference. In this talk, she explores what foods our ancestors actually loved to eat and why they are vanishing from our plates.

TRANSCRIPT:

Aparna Pallavi – Food researcher

Last year, I was living with this indigenous family in India.

One afternoon, the young son was eating, and at the sight of me, he quickly hid his curry behind his back. It took a lot of persuasion to get him to show me what he was eating.

It turned out to be moth larvae, a traditional delicacy with the Madia indigenous people.

I cried, “Oh my God, you’re eating these! I hope there’s a little left for me!” I saw disbelief in the boy’s eyes.

“You … eat these?”

“I love these,” I replied.

I could see he did not trust me one bit. How could an urban, educated woman like the same food as him?

Later, I broached the subject with his father, and it turned out to be a mighty touchy affair. He said things like, “Oh, only this son of mine likes to eat it. We tell him, ‘Give it up. It’s bad.’ He doesn’t listen, you see. We gave up eating all this ages back.”

“Why?” I asked. “This is your traditional food. It is available in your environment, it is nutritious, and — I can vouch for it — delicious. Why is it wrong to eat it?”

The man fell silent.

I asked, “Have you been told that your food is bad, that to eat it is backward, not civilized?”

He nodded silently.

This was one of the many, many times in my work with indigenous people in India that I witnessed shame around food, shame that the food you love to eat, the food that has been eaten for generations, is somehow inferior, even subhuman.

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