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They Eat Horses, Don't They? Hippophagy and Frenchness

kari weil
Gastronomica
Vol. 7, No. 2 (Spring 2007), pp. 44-51
DOI: 10.1525/gfc.2007.7.2.44
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/gfc.2007.7.2.44
Page Count: 8
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They Eat Horses, Don't They? Hippophagy and Frenchness
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Abstract

In the Nineteenth Century, France became a nation that ate horse. The introduction of horsemeat into French cuisine marks a rare occurrence in history of a change in attitude, if not taste, towards a once tabooed food. Whether or not to permit hippophagy was, indeed, a matter of great debate at the time, having to do not only with the status of French cuisine, but also with the status of the horse. While the legalization of horsemeat for human food in 1866 was justified primarily on socioeconomic grounds -- horsemeat was a ready and cheap source of protein for those in need -- the consumption of horse remained a controversial idea because of the complex and conflicting affections horses inspired. The debates around hippophagy reveal an increasingly ambivalent attitude toward the horse and its potential subjectivity, especially since horses, in turn, had the power to represent the questionable subjectivity of certain "breeds" of humans and their status within the nation.

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