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Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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Madagascar (Malagasy Republic), the fourth largest island in the world, could almost count as a continent, since, as one of the guide books points out, it ‘occupies its own tectonic plate’, so that the indigenous species, plant and animal, evolved separately from those in Africa. What humans choose to eat in Madagascar must take account of the threat which wholesale consumption would pose to species which exist only in this huge island.

The Malagasy, as the inhabitants of the island are known, are mainly descended from the Malay/Indonesian and Polynesian seafarers who were the first arrivals somewhere around 500 ad. It is on the west coast that people of African (Bantu) descent are found. Half the population count as Christians and almost the whole of the other half profess ‘traditional beliefs’. The virtual absence of Muslims and Hindus (although there are a few Indians and Chinese on the island) minimizes food taboos. French influence is noticeable, reflecting the period when the island was a French colony (1896–1960).