No other fundamental aspect of our behavior as a species except sexuality is so encumbered by ideas as eating; the entanglements of food with religion, with both belief and sociality, are particularly striking.
Sidney W. Mintz (1996) 1
The previous chapter may have convinced you that much of what you do and don't like to eat has a strong genetic basis, but that's by no means the whole story. There's a great deal of variation in what people like to eat that clearly has no genetic basis. Take entomophagy (insect eating). Many insects are highly nutritious and are widely consumed. For example, caterpillars consist of 30-80% protein, and dozens of different species are eaten in Cameroon, Mexico, and Zaire. In the United States, the government officially approves of entomophagy: the Food and Drug Administration permits as many as 56 insect parts in every peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Nevertheless, in the United States most people, no matter where they immigrated from, think eating insects is disgusting. 2 Why are there such huge differences in food preferences? Do these differences in food preferences help us and other animals to survive?
Suppose you must live in the wild without any of the benefits of civilization, under the sort of conditions in which people evolved. Think about how many food choices you would have. There would be many different kinds of plants and animals that you could conceivably put into your mouth and swallow. Which ones will taste good to eat and which ones won't? Which ones will keep you healthy and which ones won't? Which combination of foods will give you all of the nutrients that you need? And if you move from,