It is fair to say that Americans have an interesting love of food, but our relationship with it is a tumultuous one. We all hail from a variety of ethnic backgrounds and all have personal limitations on what we do and don't eat. We generally believe in stringent table manners at a formal dinner, and wouldn't consider eating anything that could be a domestic animal. The things we consider taboos can vary due to our melting pot roots, but around the world there are some rules that apply to etiquette and actual food consumption as a nation -- something we like to refer to as "food taboos."
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Taboos are technically defined as a practice "proscribed by society as improper or unacceptable." But what makes something taboo isn't as concrete. Whether social, religious or cultural, culinary customs are commonly associated with a multitude of nationally accepted "rules." For Brazilians, it is considered taboo for those who are ill to consume predatory fish. Jamaicans generally believe it is taboo for children to eat certain foods and feel it affects who they will be as an adult. Other cultures like Japanese and French have strict ideas about what makes dining etiquette taboo.
Whatever it is that makes something taboo, it's important to know the local customs if you happen to be traveling through any of these countries. So you can avoid making some of these food flubs, we compiled a list of some of the most interesting and prominent food don'ts around the world. Click through our slideshow to learn which taboos to watch out for.
Food taboos in India vary according to religion. For those that practice Hinduism, eating a cow in prohibited, as it is thought of as God’s useful gift to mankind since it provides dairy products and is the basis for other products. Many Islamic and Muslim families not only avoid pork for religious reasons, they feel that pigs are bred in absolutely revolting conditions and are not worthy of consumption.
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Whether you are from an Italian-American family or have been lucky enough to visit Italy yourself, you know that there is no shortage of food. Despite the fact that Italians will feed you until you are beyond full, it is considered rude to accept the first offering of food. Politely decline at first, but when offered a second time — which you likely will be — feel free to accept
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When it comes to child rearing, there are some definite food-related taboos Jamaican people believe in. It is believed that if children eat chicken before they learn to speak, they will never talk. Eating half an egg will make the child grow into a thief and drinking milk from a baby bottle will turn them into a drunkard.
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Much like the Jamaican taboos, many Nigerians’ taboos revolve around children. While they also believe children who eat eggs will turn into thieves, they also feel particularly strongly about coconut milk. Another widely held belief is that children who drink this type of milk will make them unintelligent.
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Dining in France is an experience. The taboos associated with French dining have more to do with manners than with cultural beliefs. It is considered rude to rush through a meal or hurry your order along. You also never want to ask for a doggy-bag or leave food on your plate, the implication being that you did not enjoy your meal.
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-Lauren Gordon, The Daily Meal
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