We find it hard to believe that the common carrot , so well known and familiar in our culinary culture, was for some time considered a “cursed” plant with magical and hidden properties.
But that was the case during much of the Middle Ages , as with the eggplants , the purple color of the original carrots, motivated the inclusion in a “blacklist” of prohibited foods because they were considered of malignant origin.
FOOD PROHIBITIONS: A CULTURAL QUESTION
There are many motivations, mainly cultural and religious for which food has been and some continue to be currently banned .
Most of the investigations coincide in the omnivorous nature of man , therefore at the nutritional level there are no reasons that justify these taboos , except for certain “foods” considered logically harmful to health.
However, this has not prevented the existence of prohibitions or taboos of some foods, apparently without a motivation against health that justifies such exclusion .
In fact, there are nutritionally “food” suitable for human consumption that are banned for religious reasons. For example, the ban on the Hindu religion in India to feed on cows or their derivatives is known. A religious belief that considers the cow the divine representation of Prithivi Mata (Mother Earth).
Mainly these restrictions refer to meat consumption . In Judaism , as in the Muslim religion and in other Adventist Christians , pork is prohibited as the consumption of blood . This prohibition is explicit in its sacred reference scripts, the Torah, the Koran and the Old Testament Levitical . They specify that those animals are considered unclean by nature, and in what way meat should be treated and be considered pure (halal) or impure (haram) , and therefore legitimate or illegitimate.
There are other types of “food” considered taboo for reasons other than religious , for example, horsemeat, of dog and insects . In these cases it is evident that the acceptance or rejection of the consumption of this type of meat by a society has been acquired exclusively through culture .
It is precisely this culturally or religiously acquired social perception that determines whether certain foods are suitable for consumption or not, and not an objective nutritional assessment .
For this reason there are many food prohibitions, as well as many contrasts between cultures and religious traditions in this regard. There is therefore no objective common motivation that explains the obligation of the existence of such censures . In some parts of the world eating dog meat is normal, but for other mentalities it is an abominable socially rejected act.
Obviously the complexity of our society has determined (both in antiquity and nowadays) as valid also certain criteria outside the mere nutritional value .
VEGETABLE FOODS WITH “MAGIC” PROPERTIES
Most of the prohibitions refer to meat foods and very few to plant foods . Today there are still some popular traditions concerning beliefs about the properties of some plants or vegetables, but they are still mere popular curiosities and not real restrictions legally accepted in the contemporary social context. They have become rooted in our traditions in the form of sayings, culinary uses and generally festive traditions as reminiscent of a superstitious past.
In fact, today there are few ethnic groups in which there are still real food taboos governed by legal and concrete social norms. Anne Meigs ethnologist has studied the tribes of Hua in New Guinea , one of the few civilizations in which there are still vegetable food taboos.
Curiously, in their study, the list of plant foods is banned exclusively to men because they are associated with female sexuality , specifically menstruation .
They are bright red vegetables and fruits . Also on the list are some mushrooms and two types of Dioscoreáceas .
The fact that certain vegetable taboos are associated with female sexuality is not entirely unknown.
It is known that in ancient times, the idea that certain vegetables had magical powers related to sexuality was widespread , so that their consumption was prohibited mainly to men. However, in many other cultural contexts such foods were simply considered aphrodisiacs .