The archaeologist-chefIn order to become an archaeologist, I was an anthropology major in college. Anthropology is the study of the behavior and beliefs of cultures around the world. My own studies in anthropology or archaeology (the exploration of cultures through the artifacts left behind) did not include much about food, though I was always interested in the bits of information I came across. For example, the ancient Anasazi people in the desert of New Mexico would grind their grains using a small rounded stone against a large flat base. Not only was the corn ground, but the stone was ground into the meal as well. The fine grit in the food wore away the teeth of the people.
But it's not what I learned as an archaeologist that has influenced me as a cook. It's really my interest in history and other cultures that has made me curious about cuisines around the world.
I think the dining public is, for the most part, very sophisticated. The evidence can be seen in any good supermarket -- fresh edamame (soybeans), jicama, ostrich meat, fruits and vegetables from around the world all year round...People tend to be open-minded and interested in trying things they read about that sound appealing. But yes, there are cultural influences and prejudices. For example, in the United States we are not as fond as offal as in other countries. And even in the USA, regional tastes will influence what is popular and considered good to eat. So it makes sense for any food writer to consider the tastes of his or her audience.