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Does any culture have a native food that is objectively bad?

Does any culture have a native food that is objectively bad?

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This is more of an anthropology question. Lots of different cultures have many different cuisines based on the animals and plants available.

Is there any culture that developed anywhere and lasted many generations where the food was objectively non-nutritious or bad tasting, where even the natives don't find it appetizing?

You will not find an objectively non-nutritious cuisine, as people would die.

But I have an answer valid at least for part of the year.

The Iroquois / Huron in Canada did not have a comfortable way of cooking or heating their tents. The cold required them to have a fire, but they could not have good ventilation or smoke management, and the French Jesuits who went there had great difficulty adapting to the smoke: not just they had respiratory or eye illnesses due to the constant smoke, but all food would be tasteless as the sense of smell was compromised. And the food in winter was already very limited - dying from hunger was quite common among the Indians - they would eat whatever they could, even tasteless barely-edible frozen roots from plants or small animals which they would never even touch in summer.

The Jesuits were surprised that the Indians themselves were more resilient, of course, but not completely. In terms of health, serious respiratory issues were common, even causing early death. And in terms of food taste (and abundance), the Indians themselves quite preferred (as they sang, complained and dreamt about) the summer or larger villages with better accommodations where the smoke issue was not so important.

So, at the end we concluded that summer is easier than Canadian winter (duh!)… and when food is scarce you eat anything edible (duh!^2)… Probably you can find similar issues in primitive civilizations in colder or drier climates…

just to be more specific about food/hunger in winter, they depended on hunting herds of large animals (moose?), which migrated for winter, but could take different paths. When they missed the path of the herds, they knew that there would be not much food for months and some of them would die.

(this info is in a Jesuit book about the Canadian missions. I do not remember the name)

Human meat.

While it tastes good1, human meat has some severe disavantages. The most evident is that, since it is the same species any pathogens in the meat will be compatible with the people eating the meat, making it an incredibly risky.

Additionally, energy wise human meat is a nonsense: to "grow" human meat you need to feed the victim with food that the eater could have eaten directly; since any step in the trophic chain implies losses of energy (due to not all the energy being used to grow meat, and the fact that digesting the meat also takes energy) cannibalism is way too inefficient; that is one of the reason we do not grow carnivores for meat.

As a result of the above, "cultural" cannibalism has usually had two variants:

  • exocannibalism, where the victims do not belong to the group eating them (and thus the resources used to "grow" them where not lost to the group). But of course, you then risk introducing "foreign" diseases in your group.

  • religious oriented cannibalism, with it being a very minor part of the diet.

As for cultures that practiced cannibalism, the page I linked to mentions a few examples.

Other than that, "bad" must take into account the alternatives: no matter how bitter, salty or nauseating a food is; if it saves you from starvation then it is not completely bad. Let's remember that for most of human existence, an affirmative answer to "will I have something to eat tomorrow/this winter?" was not guaranted.

1I personally prefer it sous-vide; YMMV :-p.


  1. Demissie

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  2. Joosep

    Granted, that will have a good idea just by the way

  3. Nazil

    Has come on a forum and has seen this theme. Allow to help you?

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