The idle ramblings of a Jack of some trades, Master of none

Dec 17, 2010

Polynesian Dog

Joseph Banks, that great naturalist and doyen of the Royal Society, was one of the very first real ethnologists. In Tahiti, his investigations into the lives of the islanders were deep and immersive. In the superb The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science by Richard Holmes is a brief account of the lengths Banks went to understand his native friends:
Food remained a source of mutual interest, and one remarkable culinary event featured a dog, which the priest Tupia killed, dressed and roasted, while Banks carefully took down the recipe. Most of the sailors were repelled, but Banks declared the results to be delicious. 'A most excellent dish he made for us who were not much prejudicd against any species of food. I cannot however promise than an European dog would eat as well, as these scarce in their lives touch animal food, Cocoa nut kernel, Bread fruit, yams &c, being what their masters can best afford to give them and what indeed from custom I suppose they preferr to any kind of food.'


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