The raw deal: Paleo and primitive ritual

As a method of “clean eating” the paleo diet follows through on the movement’s re-evaluation of the term “clean” as a metaphorical state, as we can imagine the foods eaten by primitive man would not have fitted conventional notions of hygiene. Instead, the prioritisation of certain foods over others is done based on a social agenda.

The paleo diet’s prioritisation of raw food over cooked food is shared by the primitive tribes of Douglas’s account. Citing an un named review of Indian Sociology, Douglas argues for some tribes, the digestion of food begins at the moment of its cooking, the point at which absorption of food by the body actually begins (Purity and Danger 127).

Food preparation involves a collective pre digesting of food by the maker, and as a result the food itself is seen to absorb the nature of the maker. So one cannot eat food prepared by someone else without absorbing the latter’s qualities which manifest in food at the moment it is cooked. If the maker’s nature is sinister, this is the point at which the pollution of food occurs.

Note here it is a moral, not hygienic instance of pollution.

In the case of the paleo diet, which rejects clinical notions that “raw” foods are often seen to be pathologically harmful (ie. Salmonella poisoning), there appears to be a similar anxiety over food becoming manifestly “unclean” at the moment of cooking. Raw foods are symbolic beacons of health and well being, where cooked foods, though in no way condemned, fail to dominate the clean eating hashtag’s visual representation as extensively.


Work Cited

Douglas, Mary. Purity and Danger : An Analysis of Concepts of Pollution and Taboo. Routledge Classics ed. New York: Routledge, 2002. Print.

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