Why is the addictive betel nut not popular in the world?

  Like many addictive things, there are two worlds for betel nut lovers and those who don’t – for the former, it’s a must-have daily refreshment snack; for the latter, it’s impossible to understand the former.
  In 2019, I went to Hunan to interview the topic of betel nut, and I really entered the middle node of these two worlds. At that time, the Hunan Province Betel Nut Food Industry Association issued a notice, which caused discussion. The document mentioned that all enterprises will stop all domestic advertising from March 7.
  As a result, a lot of news about the cancer of betel nut was turned out again, and betel nut companies were the first to be blamed. On the one hand, the outside world has given betel nut so much notoriety, on the other hand, people in Xiangtan and other places are consuming a lot of betel nut food. In fact, it is difficult for the ban of industry associations to have a profound impact on the lives of ordinary people. There are always deep-rooted cultural and social customs reasons for deep-rooted living habits.
  This is what the book “Chewing Two Thousand Years” does. It does not praise or criticize blindly. Instead, it looks at the past and present life of Betel Nut from an academic perspective.
  One of the most interesting details at the beginning of the book is about the original “class” symbol of betel nut. On the island of Taiwan where the ancestors of the Austronesian language family lived, some ancient teeth with traces of chewing betel nut have been unearthed. The reason for such eating habits at that time was related to the ancestors’ preference for “black teeth”.
  There is an era of aesthetics in an era. Nowadays, the propaganda of teeth whitening is flying all over the sky. It is difficult for us to imagine that for a long time in history, the ancestors once needed to prove themselves with black teeth – even women used this to show their charm. According to the author’s research, Austronesian culture believes that black teeth are the basic difference between humans and animals, and black teeth are also a cultural symbol, that is, it is created by acquired behavior, while white teeth are natural, so betel nut has become a symbol of people’s “identity.” “Tool of.
  From this point of view, the bright eyes and bright teeth that people pursue today is actually a matter of identity. After all, only the wealthy have the money and time to clean and maintain their teeth.
  Nowadays, betel nut also has “class attributes”. In Hunan, most of the groups who often chew betel nut are the working class, and more specifically, manual laborers, such as taxi drivers, bus drivers, and roadside workers.
  The shell of betel nut is hard, but the more you chew it, the softer it becomes, a kind of tenacity similar to chewing gum. When I was on a business trip for an interview, every time I got in a taxi, I could smell the smell of betel nut. It was a unique aroma similar to mint. As long as someone was eating it, the people next to me could smell it.
  In Changsha, I had a conversation with a bus driver, Lao Peng Pan. He told me that there is now a rule that drivers cannot chew betel nut during work. But during the chat, he still secretly tore a small package and ate it.
  He chewed betel nut much more often when he was running a long-distance bus at his last job. At that time, he was mainly responsible for carrying passengers across provinces in batches. Zhongshan, Lufeng, and Chenghai were all destinations. Most of the trains are late, from the dark night of one place to the dark night of another place, the night is long and people are very sleepy. Other drivers smoked cigarettes and ate chili peppers for relief. He felt that only betel nut could refresh his mind.
  Before the sports car, he bought a pack or two and put them on the car to spend the night. In winter, the chew is the hardest. When it’s cold, “take a bite”, and the sweat will burst out instantly, which can make the clothes sweat. “It’s an exaggeration to say that if you haven’t bathed for a long time, the thick dead skin can be pulled out.”
  ”I keep chewing until my mouth is full of scum, and the taste is gone.” Here, he even bit half. The rotten betel nut was spit out of my mouth, showing me the process of chewing betel nut “vividly”.
  I haven’t been in contact with other manual workers, but I believe that betel nut has a similar effect on them – in boring days, time is the least valuable thing, and in modern society, betel nut does not exceed 10 yuan. You can get a pack, which is the food that ordinary people can choose to comfort their souls to the greatest extent.
  In recent years, with the deepening of health awareness, the most discussion about betel nut is the degree of harm to the body. Betel nut is a first-class carcinogen confirmed by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, which is determined to be carcinogenic to humans and the main cause of oral cancer in Chinese. At present, there are many kinds of additives in the betel nut sold in the market, including lime, etc. These raw materials to increase the flavor may increase the possibility of causing it.
  Some people have long believed that betel nut will not suffer from oral cancer as long as it does not have the above additives or is processed. In fact, betel nut itself contains betel nut and betel alkaloid. When chewing betel nut, the juice contacts the oral mucosa to produce carcinogens, which may lead to cancer in the oral cavity, pharynx and esophagus.
  The industry association’s advocacy ban, mentioned at the beginning, also stemmed to a certain extent from the health controversy. However, in the eyes of local people in Hunan, this cancer-causing statement is not so scary, because “smoke also causes cancer, alcohol also causes cancer, what is betel nut?”.
  There is some truth to this popular popular cognition, because betel nut is addictive, making it the last among the four major addictive substances in the contemporary world. According to the degree of flooding, the top three are nicotine, alcohol and caffeine. A very paradoxical phenomenon is that, as an addictive drug that has been popular for more than 1,000 years, it cannot be popularized on a large scale around the world.
  On this issue, scholars have made many speculations, such as transportation reasons, that is, the production area of ​​betel nut is limited, the traditional way of eating betel nut is difficult to expand beyond the planting area, and betel nut must be chewed with fresh betel leaves and lime. Betel will bring a lot of trouble to transportation; for example, most first-time chewers will experience chest tightness and dizziness, and are easily “dissuaded”; and the appearance is unsightly, and chewers often spit out red juice and dizziness. Residues that cause tooth discoloration and gum recession. These reasons seem to be more reasonable, but from a horizontal comparison, smoking, drinking and even drug use will have various problems, but they will not hinder their prevalence.
  In response to this phenomenon, the author Cao Yu put forward a unique point of view-because betel nut missed the period from the 16th century to the 20th century when it was accepted by European colonists and world traders.
  This historical period can be said to be a window period for addictive foods. If Portuguese, Dutch and British did not like this plant at that time, then it will forever lose its chance to become popular around the world. . “In order for an addictive plant to reach the level of widespread global cultivation and consumption, it must first be generally accepted by the Western European world and become a trade item for Western European merchants, otherwise it can only be a local epidemic, not like tobacco, coffee, etc. , Tea changes the resource allocation pattern of the entire world, and cannot have a profound impact on human society and the natural environment.”
  Even so, the addictive nature of betel nut should not be underestimated. Among those who can eat betel nut, there is a saying, “Betel nut plus smoke, the magic power is boundless”, which means that the superposition of two addictive substances brings infinite magic power. A person from Yiyang, Hunan told me that the betel nut in the past is not like it has been greatly improved now. At that time, it was very irritating, and it really felt like being drunk, which can be described as “drunk”. Once you eat too many times, you will start to become “addicted” unconsciously, “you always want to chew when your mouth has nothing to do”, or when you see other people eating, the addiction will come again.
  He said that people who smoke seldom don’t eat betel nut, and they smoke while chewing, which is more exciting; when drinking, put betel nut in wine, I heard that it can relieve alcoholism. “There are many ways to eat.” He said, this is the way of enjoyment for people in the arena.
  Today, merchants have also changed their face with the times, launched wolfberry betel nut, raisin betel nut, added corresponding food to the fruit, and began to expand the market with the concept of “health” and “no wound”. However, because they missed the “promotion” during the Great Voyage Period, betel nut is destined to be a relatively small-scale popularity.
  After going through the field visits and inspections in Hunan, and reading the book “One Chew Two Thousand Years”, I find it even more interesting. Most things in the world carry too many labels, stereotypes and stereotypes. The thing wrapped by Tuantuan filter is no longer itself. Therefore, journalists and anthropologists may do similar work—scratching the cocoons, looking at people and things themselves from the fog, without evaluating or trying to define anything.
  The historical and anthropological perspectives chosen in “One Chew Two Thousand Years” have broken the filter surrounding betel nut. Only from the perspectives of world history and economy, we can see this small plant at the changing point of the times. How to be disturbed by the times, selected by human beings, and how to be popular in foreign countries, and given various titles such as “noble feelings” and “Buddhist offerings”.
  ”Chewing for Two Thousand Years” explains various betel nut phenomena, and closely combines the seemingly “accidental” preferences with geography, economy, and politics, and outlines a changing picture of the world. This is the real value of this book.