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UNIT 16: Food, Demographics, and Culture

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PERSPECTIVES ON THE PAST

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Transcript of Audio Clip

Candice Goucher, Washington State University, Vancouver

Voice of Jean Jacques Rousseau:
"If I wanted to taste a dish from the end of the earth, I would rather seek it out there than have it brought to me. For the most exquisite dishes always lack a seasoning that cannot be brought with them and that no cook can give them: the air of the climate that produced them. It is only at great expense that some rich man in Paris succeeds in having bad vegetables and bad fruits on his table the whole year round."

French philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau expressed his fear of consuming foods from other lands, back in the a 18th century.

We tend to think of adulterated foods as a recent phenomenon. In fact in the time of Rousseau foods in France were undergoing tremendous changes. French cuisine went through a phase in which the new Asian spices from global trade (like saffron, ginger, passion fruit seeds) were rejected in favor of popular local native herbs — tarragon, basil thyme. Rousseau wanted foods that had passed through the fewest hands as possible before reaching his table.

Rousseau observed that human beings had disrupted the very order of nature, and that taking food out of its natural environment was something to be feared.

Feeding the world's growing populations has meant the genetic alteration of plants and animals — ever since the invention of agriculture: domestication of plants and animals.

The path towards genetically modified foods started more than 10,000 years ago on every continent. The tension between forces of globalization and local cultural tastes continues to shape what we eat and how we feel about what we consume — the meanings of food that both bind us together as a human species and express the diversity of our global past.



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