What is food

A note for Lesson no. 6, "Brains Make More Than One Kind of Mind," in Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain by Lisa Feldman Barrett.
Some context from page 108‌‌ is:

Even the simple question of what is food and what is not food can be an adventure in a new culture.

The question of what is food and what is not varies from culture to culture. Bee larva, for example, is a Japanese delicacy called hachinoko. The dish of sheep’s head, smalahove, is savored in Norway. As for Twinkies, well, nobody is quite sure what they really are.

For adventures with the variety of stuff that other people enjoy as food, read Rachel Herz’s book, That’s Disgusting, which includes wonderfully entertaining examples to enliven any social gathering.[1] Try describing nattō, the popular Japanese breakfast food made of fermented soybeans that Westerners describe as stringy, chunky, slimy, and smelling like ammonia poured on burning rubber. Or Hakarl, the Icelandic delicacy of fermented Greenland shark that’s been buried in a pit of sand for several months so that the carcass rots, after which the meat is dried to develop a brown crust. Apparently it has a pungent, fishy odor that causes the uninitiated to vomit. (My husband has a similar reaction to walnuts.)


  1. Herz, Rachel. 2012. That’s Disgusting: Unraveling the Mysteries of Repulsion. New York: Norton.