Like architecture, dance, literature, and music, suicide food can be a great tool of the ethnographer.
Today's lesson brings us to the Italian countryside, to a charming village called Mede. Imagine good, simple folk living in much the same way as their fathers and their fathers' fathers.
There is a legend among the Mede folk: A farmer had a cow who—out of sheer willfulness, one supposes—would give no milk. Naturally, the farmer did what any of us would in such straits. He broiled his entire cow. (Put yourself in his shoes. Such insubordination cannot go unpunished.)
This delightful scenario is reenacted every year in the countryside around Mede, and the lucky cow is rechristened La Scottona, which means "She who scalds." That is to say, "The disappointing one."
Cultural anthropology has one central moral for us, which it reveals over and over again: strip away our different languages, our different modes of dress, our religions, and we are all… people. Not so very different from one other, all outward signs to the contrary.
And so we dare not be surprised to see that, even in the sun-kissed fields of Mede, suicidefoodism thrives! Look at La Scottona! She is thrilled to play her part, to fan the flames of her own pyre with great gusts of air from her prodigious bovine snout.
Understand that this cow, this disappointer, didn't even commit the sin of selfishness. She is a surrogate for that first Scottona, selected to play a role in Mede's yearly pageant. And even so! Even so, she is proud to die. Not to be punished, but merely to die for the sins of a legend.
(Thanks to Dr. Roberta for the referral, the images, and the history lesson.)