Some Food For Thought

Folklorist Norine Dresser is the author of "Multicultural Manners" (Wiley, 1996)

A customer claims extreme suffering after eating in a fast food restaurant. He is seeking damages for emotional distress, medical expenses and lost wages.

What did it mean?

The customer is Hindu and according to his religion, he cannot eat beef because cows are sacred. He asserts that he carefully repeated his bean burrito order to ensure not receiving beef, but as soon as he bit into the burrito, he realized it was beef, a mistake he considered "devastating." Consequently, he says he must go to England for religious purification with Hindu masters and afterward travel to the Ganges River in India for further sanctification.

Food taboos are deeply ingrained and arouse strong emotions. While "other people's" food taboos sometimes seem strange to us, we too have strong notions about not eating certain foods that are enjoyed elsewhere, like horse or dog.

A newly arrived youngster from Mexico was invited to lunch with a California classmate. She enjoyed her new sandwich, but when her friend told her it was a hot dog, the child ran into the bathroom and threw up. She believed she had eaten dog meat.


Folklorist Norine Dresser is the author of "Multicultural Manners" (Wiley, 1996). E-mail:

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