A Microcosmology in a Millet Grain: Cooking Techniques and Eating Habits
In Tiréli, as in many places in the Dogon region and in Mali, Dogon alimentation relies primarily on millet.1 Rice dishes accompanied with an oily and salty sauce are perceived as prestigious; however, affording it on a daily basis remains too expensive for most families.2 Although they struggle to obtain food, Dogon families always insist on sharing it with foreigners, because for them hospitality is a tradition that is also a form of pride. In this chapter, I propose a reading of Dogon microcosmology as being objectified in a millet grain and with worldviews shared by people in one bowl. As shown by Douglas, in her essay ‘Deciphering a Meal’ (1972), the content and ritual of a mealtime scrutinised from a structuralist approach can reveal implicit meanings about a society’s beliefs, prohibitions, taboos, and taste. Douglas proposes that cultural meanings about a meal are found in a sequence of meals-that is, ‘in a system of repeated analogies. Each meal carries something of the meaning of the other meals; each meal is a structured social event which structures others in its own image’, (Douglas 1972, 69).