Anthropologically Speaking, Let’s Eat!

Let's Eat 2Basically, the ability to obtain food can be seen through the lens of the conjugation of the verb “to eat”—I eat; you eat; we eat, let’s eat; or, heaven forbid, we are eaten.

The original rationale for marriage was the formalization of a contract in which a man and woman together provided meat and two veggies for the family.

While the marriage contract has recently been expanded, originally the women foraged while the men, usually in comradely groups, preferred to hunt and kill for food (and maybe, had a little fun too).

Supermarkets rendered this model obsolete.


Our earliest ancestors developed strategies for winning in much the same way that football players and the military still devise similar plans of action for winning. Even in evolutionary theory, there is a quarterback and a team, a captain and his troops, a Queen bee and her pack.

This is the way it was with the Eskimos: one man and his mates go out on a boat. They are hunting a whale.

While they are gone, they entrust the care of their families to the community. (This is an ancient form of social security.)

Whale Carcass Carving

Whale Carcass Carving by Eskimos

When the men return towing their trophy, a huge whale, there is a riotous celebration. Lamps are lit. Dances are danced, and songs are sung. There is one ritualistic song in which the hero (winner) is hoisted aloft, and it is revealed to all that it was his harpoon than felled the whale.

Thus a star is born.

The winner smiles and gives thanks, with varying degrees of modesty. Whales are very big. There is far too much meat for one man or one family to eat, so it is cut into small pieces. Each portion is allotted according to the hierarchy of the society. This theory amounts to something like, “those who give now will receive their reward later in life.” (This is an ancient form of the insurance business.)

In the meantime, the successful hunter is entitled to a leadership position in governance. He becomes the richest man, so he is also entitled to get the prettiest girl. (There is a long-held, though entirely wrong-headed theory that the most beautiful girl will produce the healthiest boy babies.)

I mention these things just so that we may remind ourselves of baseball Hall-of-Famer Yogi Berra’s observation, “It’s déjà vu all over again.” (In government and corporate and other enterprises.)

IS there a Food Job here?: Yes! Courses in food anthropology are offered in colleges throughout the nation, while masters and  PhD degrees in the subject will take you further. For there is a wide variety of food anthropology jobs out there, from teaching to exploring the effects of droughts and dropping global temperatures on propagation techniques.


3 thoughts on “Anthropologically Speaking, Let’s Eat!

  1. A useful reminder of how things used to be. An enjoyable article and useful links on the topic.

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