Society for the Anthropology of Food and Nutrition
Society for Medical Anthropology
Cosponsored - Oral Presentation Session
Dendê is complex since it is a sacred foodstuff, a cornerstone of northeastern Brazil’s regional cuisine, an alleged super food, and albatross for cardiovascular health and rainforest deforestation. As a key African Diaspora transfer food its legacy should precede it. Yet while Crosby’s Columbian Exchange introduced the theory of intercultural exchange of foodstuffs/domestic animals, ideas, and disease between the Americas, Africa and Europe he did not interrogate the cultural importance of the transfer foods; particularly, palm oil. The cultural application of some of these materials becomes obscured when mass production takes precedence. Thus superseding its socio-cultural/religious values, codification as a marker of identity formation, a locus of indigenous knowledge, and culinary cultural protocols. This essay engages palm oil to explore its use, value, and history in light of the threat to palm oil’s use as an interlocutor to the divine when solely viewed as a threat to deforestation and cholesterol.