Fish Are Cold Even When They’re Cooked

Sunday, November 9, 2008

I got a quick primer today in traditional medical beliefs, something I will have to investigate further.

I had known that there is a belief that the cold is not good for you, or at the least, you have to be careful with it. So, even though the weather is quite warm here in the city and in Mexico City, people bundle up their small children. And once I was suffering from a sore throat here, and thought what better thing to have than a Popsicle? I had no idea it would be frowned upon until people saw me and wondered what on Earth could I be doing to my health.

Today though, I found out that the beliefs are more complex than I originally understood. Apparently, it is not merely whether something is cold or not, but what its essence is. So, everything is classified as being caliente ‘hot’ or frío/fresco ‘cold/fresh’ and one must know how these things interact. Hot things are good for certain things, cold things for others.

And things are classified according to their essence, rather than to the temperature they happen to be at the moment. So, I was complaining of a delicate stomach and commenting on some fish I ate. My sister-in-law said I shouldn’t have eaten the fish (I agreed, but for different reasons) because it was cold. But, I pointed out, the fish was cooked and warm when I ate it. No, she said, fish [béllá] is classified as being cold—that’s its essence—even if it happens to have been cooked. She then gave me a few more examples of how various foodstuffs, medicines, and even people can be classified.

It was very interesting and I will have to sit down with her again to make sure I have all the details and to find out how everything is classified.


One comment

  1. […] discovered that the Chinese likely have similar kinds of beliefs about hot and cold as Mesoamericans seem to have. In the episode–the Horsehair Crab Battle–Iron Chef Chen Kenichi prepares gyoza stuffed […]

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