Why some grannies had to die
We’re often told to watch what we eat. Rarely is it a case of life and death though, as it used to be for female aboriginal elders.
In September 2015 I decided to leave Australia.
It wasn’t an easy decision.
It’s a wonderful country after all. Clean, safe, good weather and agreeable people.
There was still one trip I was determined to do before I returned to the cold, unending grey of London.
I wanted to see the west coast. The part of the country with the melt in your mouth beaches and jaw dropping scenery. The part of the country that was the least densely populated.
So I booked myself on a bus tour.
Our guide was full of the confidence, optimism and can-do attitude that most young Australian men seem to embody.
He’d been raised in the bush and had an encyclopedic knowledge of the flora and fauna. He did a fantastic job of explaining the natural world around us and introduced us to the concept of ‘bush tucker’.
As soon as he’d mentioned it I felt I had to ask the question.
“How did the aborigines work out what was safe to eat, and what would end in the rather less ideal scenario of death?”
They developed a system.
The eldest woman of the tribe would be the guinea pig. She would be given the new ‘food’ to try. If she survived 24 hours and held it down, then it was given the ok.
If she died then the rest of the tribe made a mental note to avoid said foodstuff.
Why the eldest woman?
The answer to them was logical. No longer of childbearing age and physically weak they were held in very high regard but judged to be the most dispensable.