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The raw and the cooked: Grilling cucumbers in the summertime

June 11, 2014

How do we decide which foods should be cooked and which ones should be eaten raw? For some raw tuna is a delicacy and for others it’s unfathomable to eat raw fish. I have always eaten cucumbers raw, usually in a salad. While at Edisto beach recently, my friend Jonathan Sharpe, a foodie and photographer, introduced me to grilled cucumbers. I don’t know why I hadn’t tried this before.

ImageClaude Lévi-Strauss wrote about the “raw” and the “cooked” in his seminal work in 1964. The raw and the cooked signify what is found in nature (the raw) and what is a product of human culture (the cooked). Lévi-Strauss believed that this dichotomy exists in all human societies and that part of what makes us human is our need to reconcile those opposites, or to find a balance between the raw and the cooked. Although anthropologists have critiqued Lévi-Strauss’ structuralist theory as ahistorical and that it doesn’t address the dynamic aspects of culture, what is considered edible varies from one society or religious group to another. But all have binary structures that separate the raw and the cooked, the fresh and the rotten, the moist and the dry or burned.

So as you cultivate those cucumbers this summer maybe you will reconsider yours. Slice the cucumbers at a bias, add a little salt and pepper, brush them lightly with olive oil and white balsamic vinegar, and put them on the grill!

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Jamie Chad Brandon's Home on the Web... an anthropologist living, researching and teaching in Arkansas

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