Appears in

Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

By Darra Goldstein

Published 2015

  • About

pica is the scientific term for the craving and subsequent consumption of nonfood items. It is not an acronym, or an abbreviation, or a famous physician’s last name. Pica pica is, in fact, the genus and species of the common magpie. Because of their attraction to shiny objects, magpies were thought to be birds with an indiscriminate appetite. (As it turns out, they don’t swallow these items; they build their nests with them.) By analogy, the human condition of desiring nonfood items was given the name “pica” in the sixth century by a Byzantine physician, Aetius of Amida.