Recently a friend of mine made me aware of a web site that seeks to determine a person’s food threshold. The basic premise, for those of you too lazy to click on the link, is that there are different levels of adventurism or tolerance in our food choices. Someone who is a vegan may rate a score of four, while someone who eats shark fin soup will rate as high as an eighteen. While their post is nominally about how some food folks seek to push culinary boundaries while others seek to restrict themselves for ethical reasons, there was something about its idea that seemed a bit off.
Part of it was the Dungeons & Dragons rating system that seemed to make food choices into levels of culinary accomplishment. Part of me wondered that if I had chocolate covered ants, did that mean that I was now level 15, and able to purchase new feats and skills?
But the larger issue here is the use of a rating system to determine a person’s place on a food ethics scale. As food ethics are inherently an individual’s interpretation of what is and is not acceptable, a single, linear rating system, while laudable in theory, breaks down in application. I know of many people who have no problem with eating rabbit, but draw the line at veal. For others, insects are okay, but horses are right out.
The problem here is that a person’s food choices are a result of the culture in which they were raised. Growing up in Western Pennsylvania, where the opening day of deer season is a public holiday, eating game is no big deal. If you were to head to any area of the world where protein was difficult to find, you’ll find that eating insects becomes no big deal.
Additionally, affluence allows for a greater range of ethics when it comes to food decisions. The less financial resources one has, the more difficult it becomes to adhere to decisions based off of ethics or taste, such as “I won’t eat organ meat”.
That’s not to say that one can’t model a person’s food threshold. But perhaps a linear scale probably isn’t the way to go. There are too many variables that influence our food choices to make a scale mean anything substantial.
Meanwhile, I’m going to chow on this plate of Frog’s Legs.