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Introduction: Everyday

/ BYJUDITH FRIEDLANDER

teaches us that there is nothing ordinary about the ordinary, that is, if by ordinary we mean "usual" or "normal." Still, members of every culture believe that their way of doing things is normal. If we look at the world from the viewpoint of people living in a particular society, we can easily point to the ordinary pleasures, rituals and taboos that the culture associates with its food. But ordinary does not only mean normal; it also means order or rule. In its nominal form, an "ordinary" refers to the same meal served from day to day, at the same price. Order and food are joined as well at the seder, or Passover meal, prepared by Jews to celebrate their escape from Egypt and liberation from slavery in the days of Moses. We might therefore consider "ordinary" in the tide of this section as the rules people use to orderor give order towhat and how they eat. There was a time in Anthropology when leading figures in the field tried to determine the rules of a culture by analyzing detailed sets of ethnographic data and making order out of them. For nearly two decades, for example, the French anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss studied what people ate and how different cultures prepared their food, through their myths, in order to identify the underlying structures of human thought. In every culture, he tells us in The Raw and the Cooked (1964), people put the food they eat into three broadly defined categories, two natural (raw and rotten), one mediated by cultural intervention
/\NTHROPOLOGY

SOCIAL RESEARCH, Vol. 66, No. 1 (Spring 1999)

SOCIAL RESEARCH (cooked). To help visualize the relationship, Levi-Strauss imagines a "culinary triangle": Raw / \ / \ Rotten Cooked According to Levi-Strauss people spend most of their time in almost every culture turning nature into culture, the raw into the cooked. But even when they value culture over nature, they frequently break their own rules, defying their own categories. Cultures may favor cooked food over raw and still prize delicacies that are uncooked. A French meal, for example, could easily begin with a half dozen raw oysters, followed by a boeuf bourguignon, which has stewed for hours, and end with a selection of (rotten) cheeses. Still cultures make choices: the French may eat slimy shellfish and stinky Camembert but refuse a serving of whale blubber crawling with maggots. In her highly acclaimed study of kashrut, Mary Douglas tried to make order out of the dietary practices of Jews, focusing, in particular, on two central concepts in Leviticus: tehvel and kadosh. Usually translated as perversion, tehvel actually means mixing things up and confusion. Kadosh, on the other hand, while translated as holy, means to set apart or give the physical expression of wholeness. Mary Douglas argued that Jews are horrified by what is out of place, by what does not fit into a proscribed category, or is incomplete. "Holiness requires that individuals shall conform to the class to which they belong. And holiness requires that different classes of things shall not be confused." For the Jews of ancient Israel who tended their herds, "clovenhoofed, cud-chewing ungulates are the model of the proper kind of food for a pastoralist" (Douglas, 1966, pp. 53 and 54). Biblical Jews may have written a set of logical dietary laws for peistoralists, but the Jews have spent long herdless years in exile. What passes for Jewish food today is a fascinating mixture of tastes

EVERYDAY LIFE and styles, reflecting the influences of many cultures and traditions. Technically, of course, the laws of kashrut still rule, but many Jews in the U.S. would challenge the prohibitions, offering examples of Jewish dishes cooked by their non-kosher forebears, by defiantly secular Jews who left East and Central Europe at the turn of the century, rebelling against their religion, but not their ethnic identity. And as these immigrant Jews made the U.S. their home, they began eating the food of their adopted country while introducing their own Diaspora favorites to so-called American cuisine, some of which, like the bagel, have become popular foods, among Jew and Gentile alike. Accounts describing this culinary exchange go back 100 years, to the last quarter of the nineteenth century and the large immigration of Central and East European Jews to the United States. Among the best sources for tracing this process are the early cookbooks, prepared at the turn of the century. In 1889, to give one example, there appeared a non-kosher cookbook for Jews, with the folksy tide. Aunt Babette's (cited in Nathan, 1979, p. 9). These recipes offered secular Jews a way to maintain ethnicties, while relaxing their commitment to Judaism. Aunt Babette wanted to reach Jews who were assimilating into American society. So did Mrs. Simon Kander. Publishing her enormously popular Settlement Cookbook in 1901, the book quickly became a favorite source of recipes, both for Shavuot (cheese blintzes) and New Year's Day (a Virginia baked ham). Immigrant Orthodox Jews had litde use for American-style recipes. As Leonore Fleischer recalls in The Chicken Soup Cookbook, the very concept of a recipe was still foreign. Raised by her grandmother in Manhattan in the 194O's, when she married, she turned away from Jewish cooking and "became Frenchified": One day I found myself longing for a golden plate of my grandmother's fat-laden chicken soup, and I wanted to make that plateful myself. I went to my grandmother and asked for her recipe. "How do you make chicken soup, grandma?"

SOCIAL RESEARCH "VoosT asked my grandmother. What? "How do you make your great chicken soup?"
"Nemt a chicken, nemt vasser, nemt zalts..." You take a

chicken, you take water, you take salt... "What else?"


" Zuppengrins..."

"Well, okay, how much water?" "A tupfuir A potful "How much salt?" "A bisseL" A litde. "How big a chicken?" "A chicken! Du vaist, a chicken." You know, a chicken! It was hopeless. Nobody had ever asked my grandmother for a recipe before and she hadn't the slightest idea that what she did every Friday night of her adult life was a recipe. Who has need for such a thing? Recipes, America (Fleischer, 1976, p. 12). On a more serious note, the ordinary pleasures of preparing food depends primarily on the availability of ingredients. In the Mexican Indian village where I did fieldwork nearly thirty years ago, there were no recipe books either. The basic task was to stretch the chicken or turkey as far as it would go. Served in a thin broth, one chicken easily fed 20 people. As for the vegetables {zuppengrins) they were less varied in Hueyapan than they were in the soup prepared by Lenore Fleisher's grandmother. But everybody agreed about the water. The quantity depended on how many mouths they had to feed (Friedlander, 1975). I would like to end these brief comments on the ordinary pleasures, rituals, and taboos by returning to the theme with which I began, one that fascinated structural anthropologists. Like LeviStrauss and Mary Douglas, Edmund Leach also uses food as a way to explore and analyze the organizing principles of cultures. In an article concerned with animal categories and verbal abuse. Leach notes that almost every culture divides people into cate-

EVERYDAY LIFE gories of those one can marry and those one cannot; and animals into categories of those one can eat and those one cannot. After reviewing the ethnographic literature. Leach obesrves that in virtually every society, humans are classified in the following way: 1. Those who are very close, like parents and siblings, who are not marriageable. Incestuous taboos prevent people in this category from engaging in sexual intercourse with one another. 2. Those who are kin, but not very close (first cousins in English society, clan siblings in many other societies). In general, marriage among members of this category is either prohibited or strongly disapproved. 3. Neighbors (friends), who are not kin and are either potential spouses or enemies. 4. Distant strangers, those who are known to exist, but with whom there is no kind of social relationship possible. Leach then goes on to describe how many cultures place animals in comparable categories, ranking their edibility. The English, for example, group animals in the following way: 1. Pets, which are very close and are always considered inedible. 2. Animals which are tame, but are not very close, like farm animals. They are mosdy edible, but usually only when they are immature or castrated. The English rarely eat mature, sexually intact farm animals. 3. Field animals or "game," with whom the English alternate having a friendly or hostile relationship. Game animals enjoy human protection, but are not tame. They are edible in sexually intact form, and are killed at certain seasons of the year, according to proscribed sets of hunting rituals. 4. Remote wild animals, which are not subject to human control and are, for the most part, inedible.

SOCIAL RESEARCH 5. Vermin, a category which cuts across the other four and is loaded with taboos. Although unwanted, most vermin live in close proximity to humans and are intrinsically inedible. I have sometimes wondered what Edmund Leach would have made out of contemporary habits of food and sex, were he still alive today. How would he explain, for example, the rising tendency of many in Britain and the U.S. to reject the meat of every kind of animal, while professing broad tolerance for sexual diversity? What would he make of a culture in which all animals are inedible and almost anyone qualities as a spouse? References
Douglas, Mary. Purity and Danger: An Analysis of the cConcepts of Pollution

and Taboo (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1966) Fleischer, Leonore. The Chicken Soup Cookbook (New York: Taplinger, 1976). Friedlander, Judith. Being Indian in Hueyapan (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1975). Kander, Mrs. Simon. The Settlement Cookbook (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1983 [1901]). Leach, Edmund, "Anthropological Aspects of Language: Animal Categories and Verbal Abuse," in New Directions in the Study of Languages,

Lenneberg, Eric, ed. (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1964). Levi.5tfauss, Claude, The Raw and the Cooked, Weighman, John and Weighman, Doreen, trans. (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1970 [1964]). Nathan, Joan, The Jewish Holiday Kitchen (New York: Schoken Books, 1979).