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Cultural categorisation is, therefore, a priori legitimate and demanding of 'our'
appreciation, understanding and acceptance lest racism based on consumption
become manifest (Wolch and Emel 1995). During a discussion of Mayan practices
of eating iguanas, turtles and other animals uncommon in Western diets, Alice went
so far as to suggest that cannibalism could be legitimate if cultural or individual
survival is at stake. This led Susan to claim that food is entirely relative to culture
and situation:
ALICE: I don't want to offend any of my people by reminding them but in Africa
they used to [eat] human beings…and they ate their enemies. When they
killed their enemies they ate, they took great pleasure in eating their
SUSAN: Anything is edible. Everything, even you all. Everything [is] edible. We're
edible, animals are edible, everything is edible, huh? People will eat just
any old thing.
Gendered practices
One portion of the focus group discussion, about the existence of an urban poultry
market, illuminated the existence of gendered (as well as generational) animal
practices among the city's African-American community. Again, it was Vivian who
initiated this discussion:
VIVIAN: When I was growing up, we had what they called poultry markets. They
still have a few around…where we used to go…and buy a whole chicken/
CARLA: Kill it and skin it/
VIVIAN: …we would take it home and my grandmother would have a big…tub and
dip it in boiling water. First she would wring the neck.
These statements by Vivian (age 48) and Carla (age 50) exemplified the urban
persistence of a gendered cultural practice whose roots likely lay in a more rural
context, or in a time prior to large-scale urban supermarkets. From purchase to pot,
chickens appear to fall into the woman's work space. However, much like the
consumption of particular animals and organ meats, the following comments
indicate that this gendered/cultural institution may be on the decline among the
younger members of the urban African-American community:
SUSAN: [disgusted in response to the process of chicken decapitation] the head gone!?
Unh uhhh…I couldn't do all that.
IRENE: …well after all that, I've lost my appetite.
SUSAN: …you all can buy one for me and…cook it up for me and I'll come get it.
At first glance, it would appear as if the passing of time has been adequate to
separate the practice of poultry purchase and butchering from the daily routine of
the younger women, so that it is now perceived as an odd, even grotesque, practice.
The purchase of pre-butchered, pre-packaged chicken in grocery stores lessens the
need to participate in what appears to be an outdated, grisly and messy practice.
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