Food - the mystery of giving

18 Marino Niola

Food - the mystery of giving

€ 3.00
Sunday 27 May 2012 5:30 pm
piazza dello Spirito Santo 1

According to the myths and legends of various peoples, mankind stems from a gift—the fire that Prometheus stole from the gods, the leavening that the Virgin Mary took from the Sybil. In all cases the acquisition is vital for civilization, it is a nourishment coming from the outside. Food and exchange are intertwined since the onset of Indo-European civilization, and reciprocity regulates the flow of social relations just as a floodgate would regulate the water flow. Between the two extremes of hospitality and hostility, the sharing of bread is what distinguishes companion (Latin cum-pane) from adversary, the Latin hostis in the sense of host from hostis in the sense of enemy. Even in our age, many forms of belonging revolve around food: food can symbolize identity as well as opposition, in a constant alternation of contact and contagion, gift and poison, measuring society’s health.


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Marino Niola is a professor of the Anthropology of Symbols at the SOB University of Naples, where he teaches contemporary Food and Wine Mythology. He is also co-director of MedEatResearch and writes regularly for the newspapers la Repubblica, il Venerdì, D-la Repubblica and Nouvel Observateur. His publications include Si fa presto a dire cotto. Un antropologo in cucina (2009), Non tutto fa brodo (2012); Homo dieteticus. Viaggio nelle tribù alimentari (2015) published by Il Mulino and Il presente in poche parole (Bompiani, 2016).

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