A few years ago I watched a program on the National Geographic Channel that examined the lifestyle of a certain indigineous tribe in a remote part of the Amazon rain forest. The cultural anthropologists were following a group of village hunters through the jungle and closely watched the natives as they caught several dozen large Goliath bird-eading tarantulas. And when I say large, I mean gigantic – as least as far as spiders are concerned! And get this; not only do they eat birds as their name implies, but also lizards, small mammals and even snakes are on the menu.
I was incredulous as I watched the hunters, upon returning to their village, start a fire to heat a large pile of rocks, and then afterward place the spiders on the rocks, or better said – coals. Yes, they roasted the spiders as part of a village feast.
And if you watched the program, you would indeed conclude it was feast, as many of the villagers, young and old, ate tarantula for dinner. And other than the hair, which is used by the animal as a form of defense against other predators, the people consumed the entire spider. The favorite part for most of them was apparently the creamy content of the thorax, which had the consistency of toothpaste. They even used the animal’s fearsome one-inch fangs as……you guessed it, toothpicks!
I have three questions for you.
1. How do you think you would respond if you were in the presence of someone eating a spider or any other so-called creepy crawler, for that matter? Explain why.
2. Would your response be considered ethnocentric? Why or why not?
3. How can we use the sociological imagination to explain the practice of people eating things that other cultures see as abominable?