Culture basically refers to people way of live and is dependent on the norms, values, attitudes, beliefs and cognitive mapping held by people. Societies values and belief systems determines what is acceptable as food and what is not considered as food in the society. Consideration here denotes the quality of the food that is consumed. Additionally, these two facets of culture determine the quality of food and its importance in the society. For instance, the Maasai in East Africa do not consider chicken as food. According to them a chicken is an ordinary bird and it should be enjoyed only by children’s, while they are playing in the fields. Adults on the other hand do not consider chicken as food. Therefore serving a mature Masaai with chicken is equivalent to insults.
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Every item that is eaten by the people has a lot of cultural significance. Read (2003, pg. 55) while commenting on the same theme points out that ‘cultural patters of food habits and dietary practices are fundamental in the maintenance of health.’ If this is true then one cannot underscore the importance of honey in our society. Honey refers to a golden colored, sweet fluid that is produced by bees. Honey is derived from flower nectars. Today honey is taken with tea or is spread on the bread the same way we spread batter and cheese.
The society encourages use of honey because of its nutritional value. First of all honey forms a good source of calories if taken daily. It provides around 128 calories per day. Therefore those members who want to add weight are encouraged to include honey in their diet. In addition, honey contains different nutrients that are vital in our body such as vitamins B1, B5 and minerals which include potassium, magnesium and calcium among others. However, concentration of these nutrients depends on the quality of nectar. These nutrients are collected as the bee moves from one flower to the next. We have to keep in mind that flowers are from different tree species and this increases the medicinal value of honey.
The society also believes that honey acts as an antimicrobial agent and as an antioxidant. This is due to the fact that raw honey contains resin and other substances that do not tolerate growth of bacteria (“Honey”, 2009). Resin is important once consumed, because it reduces chances of bacteria growth in our body thus we rarely fall ill. In addition, research has shown that if honey is taken regular one can reduce development of colon cancer and tumors in the body. This is because honey contains caffeic acid methyl caffeate; a chemical that decreases chances of cancer cells growth in the body. Moreover, honey is generally used as a natural cough syrup.
Although honey is taken is due to its nutritional value its harvesting involves serious ecological and environmental considerations. Beekeepers harvest honey at specific period in the year. In most cases honey is harvested during the summer season. One explanation for this is that during this time flowers are in plenty enhancing the quality of honey that is produced. Additionally, if harvesting was to take place during winter season, this would result in death and migration of bees. Additionally, during a winter season bees are dormant and they feed from the stock they had collected during thus lowering the quality of honey that can be obtained at this period.
In conclusion, society members do not take food just for the sake of eating. The value of food that is eaten is scrutinized thoroughly in order to ensure that members benefits biologically and socially from it. Honey in my case is largely taken a natural sweetener as well as a natural medicine because it is very rich in nutrients.
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Read, M. Culture, Health and disease: Social and Cultural Influences. London: Routledge. 2003, pp 54-60.
Robbins, R. H. Cultural Anthropology: A Problem Based Approach. California: F.E. Peacock Publishers, 1993.