Indiana Daily Student

Bizarre Foods Fair broadens horizons

Smells of squid jerky, duck liver, marmite, durian, head cheese and other foods filled the Mathers Museum of World Cultures while students prepared for the annual Bizarre Foods Fair.

The fair, which took place Saturday, was an opportunity for students taking ANTH-A 200, a class about bizarre foods, to present research presentations on topics discussed in class, as well as a chance for people in the community to taste a variety of bizarre foods.

“This is the product of the bizarre foods class in which we explore culture and food through the lens of anthropology,” graduate student Sheena Ketchum, the instructor of ANTH-A 200, said. “We’ve been exploring the realm of food and why this is bizarre. Is this bizarre?”

The Bizarre Foods Fair posed the question of why some foods are considered bizarre and others are not. For the first time, visitors were allowed to sample various foods at the fair.

The Department of Anthropology, IU Food Studies, IU Student Association, Anthropology Graduate Student Association and the Mathers Museum sponsored the event, which enabled students to purchase the food for the event.

People visited various booths focused on topics including cannibalism, seal consumption, guinea pig consumption and aphrodisiacs. Each station had different types of food that visitors could sample.

“As people come to our tables, they get to sample food but also learn about their cultural perceptions,” freshman Audrey Webster said.

Webster and her group presented their research project “Tempeh and other fermented soy products.”

Another group presented on aphrodisiacs — including almonds, strawberries, honey and chocolate — that promote fertility and vitality. Sophomore Robin Briskey said the word aphrodisiac comes from the Greek goddess Aphrodite, the goddess of love.
“Seafood is also considered an aphrodisiac because Aphrodite rose from the sea,” Briskey said.

Senior Justin Albers and junior Joe Lao presented on cuy, more commonly known as guinea pig. Lao said since cuy are domesticated in the United States, there are many ethical questions about cooking and eating cuy.

“It is a traditional dish with a lot of culture behind it,” Lao said. “Economically, cooking cuy would be very practical.”

Cuy was one of many foods available for visitors to try during the fair.

“It tasted like greasy chicken,” master’s student Chris Wells said. “I didn’t enjoy it too much because I knew it was guinea pig, but if I hadn’t seen it on the bone I probably would have thought it was chicken.”

While many booths had samples of the foods they researched, the booth researching cannibalism had to find substitutes for their presentations. People coming to this booth could instead sample squid jerky, duck liver and head cheese.

“Cannibalism shows the dark side of us, the fact that we’re capable of eating each other,” senior Paige Geer said. “It’s in fairy tales and stories. It’s taboo, but it’s something that we talk about. It’s ingrained in our DNA.”

Another booth which did not have samples of their food focused on seal consumption.

“Hunting seal is illegal in the U.S. mostly because of the controversy,” senior Regina Steiner said. “It’s a cultural concept. Why is seal weird and cows aren’t? A lot of people think it’s weird because the seal is thought of as the cute animal. With cow there is a disconnect between the animal and beef.”


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