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Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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blood of all the component parts of an animal the one which is most apt to engender the kinds of emotion which underlie, or accompany, food taboos. Yet in many cultures it is highly esteemed as food and free of inhibitions.

In the past, and even to some extent in present times, blood has been a staple food of nomadic tribes (Berbers, Mongols, etc.), for whom it is a renewable resource; they draw it from living animals (horses, cattle, camels), then staunch the wound. In some instances the blood was drunk just as it came from the animals. In others it was mixed with milk before being drunk. In yet others, it was cooked before consumption. The Masai of E. Africa obtain blood from their cattle by firing an arrow into a vein in the neck of the live animal. The wound is plugged after the desired amount has been extracted. The bleeding of horses was also common practice in the days of the settlement of America. If the blood was not consumed in liquid form, it was preserved with salt and cut into squares. This enjoyment of blood was indeed common among pastoral societies. English observers noted ‘the cutting of cattle for blood to be eaten in jellified form or mixed with butter and salt and made into puddings’ as universal among the Irish of the 17th century, for example, while hunter-gatherers such as the Arrernte of C. Australia would drink the blood of the kangaroo before butchering the animal.