Shaping the Illness of Hunger

This essay considers the relationship between eating and maintaining health or curing illness, as seen in Tibetan pre-modern texts. In particular, it focuses on selected “ritually” enhanced food practices that are aimed at treating illness and improving one’s psycho-physical health and power. It begins with a look at practices that model hunger as an illness for both humans and non-humans, observing a resulting blurring of boundaries between food and medicine. The essay proposes continuity along a range of “culinary” practices, focusing in particular on “ritual cake” (gtor ma) offerings and “nectar” (bdud rtsi) recipes involving creation of pills and healing foods. The essay posits a “culinary aesthetics” of healing and personal enhancement and introduces speculation about Tibetan understandings of food as medicine that may shape our understanding of the relationship between medical and religious thinking and practice in Tibet.

2010. Shaping the Illness of Hunger: A Culinary Aesthetics of Food and Healing in Tibet. In Asian Medicine 6 (1): 33-54.