The Power of Culture in Shaping Human Foodways with Dr. John Speth

John Speth, Emeritus Professor of Anthropology, University of Michigan

The impact of culture on our food choices is remarkable, to the point that we are likely to gag (or worse) at the sight or smell of fermented foods that are unfamiliar to us. The power of the human disgust response is so strong and so pervasive that it even invades the halls of science, where the prevailing view is that the reaction is hardwired, driven by natural selection to prevent babies from putting toxic substances in their mouth.

We would all suspect, and most scientists would agree, that many a fermented food would be laced with toxins, with botulism high on the list. Yet botulism was almost unheard of among Inuit (Eskimos) until the 1970s when Westerners introduced them to sterilized containers so that they could preserve their meat and fish in a "more sanitary" fashion. The result was disastrous. Why?

Join Dr. John Speth, Emeritus Professor of Anthropology at the University of Michigan, to discover the fascinating role that fermented foods played in the successful colonization of the northern hemisphere.

A light, delicious meal will be served (it won't make you gag - promise), so you'll leave with a full belly and a full mind!


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