Tuesday, July 15, 2008

On Yuck

This morning someone who goes by the -I assume- iconic name of Abulafia, posted the following comment to my post about a paper by Jane Lane titled Young Children and Racism. The comment was so well-rendered that I decided to re-present it on its own legs.
Since Mr./Ms. Abulafia's email address is unknown to me, I was not able to secure permission to publish it in this form and will remove it if asked to do so. Finally, while I have made a few corrections of misspellings and errors of case, the post is essentially the same as it appears in the original, eminently readable, form.
-Bob del Grosso

On Yuck
by Abulafia

The yuck reaction is kinda interesting. We use it for all sorts of situations.

For food we intensely dislike in terms of taste.

For ideas and experiences we find unpalatable, or disgusting.

We use pretty much exactly the same disgust reaction to express our disgust at rotten food, at human waste, or, if we are racist, to express our distaste at other cultures.

I'm thinking of the things we make that disgust face for. The link I'd hazard she is tracing is the one between food disgust, and taboo disgust.

And the reaction is the same one. We make the same face for Durian fruit, as we do for dog faeces on the soles of our feet, as we do for ideas we consider so unacceptable as to be disgusting. Incest for instance. It's the taboo reaction.

And, no doubt, there are occasions where one thing gets mixed up with the other.(eg"How can you eat that shit?"or"How can you eat that foreign muck")

A child who is taught that spicy food is representative of a repugnant idea, foreigness and otherness, may take that association to heart. And that disgust reaction can be a taboo taste reaction.

That said, stacks of racists love curry, tikka masala, hot spicy food. A quick trip down to the wrong Indian, or Chinese restaurant on a Friday night this side of the water will demonstrate the point nicely.

And stacks of kids just have weird, and bizarre food likes and dislikes. I'm Irish, I had, and retain, a pathological hatred of cabbage. Served every Sunday in my house. Some parents are neurotic without being racist. Some are just macrobiotic. Some kitchens just lack imagination. Some kitchens are so staunchly traditional that certain tastes never make it to the kid's palette. Again, I brought the first pepper into my house, age 14. A happy day for all concerned.

There's certainly a possible relationship. Some children will have inherited a palette that is indicative of, or characterizes, an attitude to food determined by racism. They may well bring the same set of determining taboos to the sports they like and play, the tv programmes they watch etc. etc.

But the correlation is far from 100 percent. There are far too many other variables at work.

As barometers go, it's not reliable.

Conversely, we often hold up, as an image to ourselves, our liking for diverse foods and cuisines, and knowledge of them, as a working example of our curiosity and open-mindedness, don't we?


Abulafia said...

Wow. Really. Thanks. Sheesh.

Did I say thanks? Cool.

Cameron S. said...

I will always remember the home computer nicknamed Abulafia by the character, Belbo, in the amazing book "Foucault's Pendulum"


Tags said...

So apropos, especially for Americans as lobbyists gather fuel for the disgust engines of voters in the upcoming presidential elections.