Chupar frutas in Salvador da Bahia: a case of practice specific alterities

In this article we interfere with the naturalisation of ‘eating’ by comparing two modes of engaging with fruits in Salvador, Bahia. One of these is comer, in translation ‘to eat’. The other is chupar, ‘to suck’, but the English do not ‘suck’ their fruit. In comer a piece of fruit crosses distinct bodily boundaries and gets swallowed; in chupar juices spill over hands, while stones or fibres that have made it into a mouth are taken out again. Some fruits, like apples, compel a person to comer; others, like mangos, invite chupar. But fruits do not decide all alone how they will be handled: at a dinner table, in public, or in places that need to stay clean, comer is advisable; chupar fits backyards and more intimate company. And then there are gratifications: comer may come with the pride of being educated; chupar offers such pleasures as overflowing juices and childhood memories. All in all, our comparison reveals that ‘eating’ is not a given precedent, but that comer and chupar evoke different worlds, populated by different entities (bodies, fruits) and coloured by different pleasures. One might say that the ontologies involved are different, but that is not quite strong enough, as the relevant alterities also include activities and normativities; while the boundaries between the worlds of comer and chupar are markedly fluid and shot through with partial connections.

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