The Chinese so famously eschew food taboos, it’s said they eat anything that flies but a kite, anything with four legs but a table. Yet everybody else has one thing or another they flatly refuse to eat. Islam says: "A man can not be truly pious until he has come to be pious in a way he approaches the dining room... .” The disparity in what to eat or not has made it difficult to understand why what’s sacred to one religion is vile to another. Determined to tackle the mystery, anthropologist Marvin Harris studied the varying taboos and detected a universal logic that seems to unite them. The ancients, it seems, were as environmentally and economically conscious as we are. Out of respect for the survival of the world and its humans, what they found neither efficient, effective nor sustainable, they codified as “thou shalt not eat.”
Sandra Garson is the author of Veggiyana, the Dharma of Cooking and How to Fix a Leek and Other Food From Your Farmers’ Market. As a longtime student of Tibetan Buddhism and well-known cook for Dharma centers from Maine to Mongolia, she became the first food historian to explore the Buddha’s influence on how the world now eats. This led to exploration of more religious beliefs about food.