Eating Cornstarch, Chalk, and Clay
An item that could have been included in Mondo Cane
by Andrew Hamilton
IT RECENTLY came to my attention that a number of young Black women have unusual eating habits.
The first weird “food” item I came across was cornstarch. (When cornstarch absorbs moisture from the atmosphere it forms chunks; some prefer to eat it that way.) They eat this with a spoon, or by hand when in chunk form, right out of the box.
Cornstarch looks much like flour or powdered sugar. I wondered if there was something desirable about its taste, akin to eating raw cookie dough, for example. Was it sweet?
I tasted some. Flat, flavorless, and unappetizing. Plus, it is extremely dry. I don’t know how they eat as much as they do without drinking water to wash it down with.
Cornstarch is a thickener used in cooking. It is not advisable to eat large quantities of it raw. Nevertheless, many Black women do just that — at home, at work, while visiting a friend at the hospital.
One such young woman, while eating raw Hodgson Mill cornstarch, explicitly stated she did not like the taste. She only ate it, she said, because she had bought the box and didn’t want to throw it away, even though it hadn’t cost much money. She added that she’d probably try different brands in the future!
Some Black women call eating cornstarch “addicting.” Others express a strong penchant for kaolin clay, chalk, drywall, or “small powdery rocks.”
The reason they consume these items has little to do with taste, but is primarily physiological.
One Black female wrote, “It’s a condition known as pica. My mother craved chalk, dry dirt, cornstarch, and even baby powder. It’s crazy . . .”
According to my medical dictionary pica is “the compulsive eating of nonnutritive substances, such as ice, dirt, gravel, flaking paint or plaster [recall the many propaganda stories years ago about Black children eating peeling lead paint, a phenomenon the controlled media blamed on poverty caused by Whites], clay, hair, or laundry starch. It also occurs in some patients with iron or zinc deficiencies.”
You can gain firsthand insight into this strange phenomenon by watching a 13-minute self-made cellphone video by a Black woman who is (or was) addicted to eating schoolboard chalk that she buys at the dollar store. The woman is unusually articulate and self-aware compared to the other Blacks I’ve seen. She is also a lesbian.
She repeatedly refers to what she is doing (she ingests four sticks of chalk on camera) as “ridiculous,” “embarrassing,” and “disgusting.” She conceals her practice from others. She shot the video surreptitiously in her bathroom — and then posted it on the Internet.
She says eating chalk is not a necessity, nor an addiction (though at the beginning of the video she calls it a “true addiction” and titles her piece “Chalk addiction”), but a craving. She takes an iron supplement and identifies a probable relationship between that fact and her craving for chalk.
The woman likes its smell — “cheap” — and especially chalk’s “hard, crunchy surface.”
So: craving, texture, and the tentative identification of a suspected underlying physiological cause for her desire.
Unlike the girl I mentioned previously, taste is also a factor. She calls chalk “delicious,” saying it tastes like a “medium rare steak” or “a glass of chardonnay.”
As with the cornstarch eaters, she chews through four sticks of chalk without drinking any water to wash it down with. This habit of eating large quantities of bizarre dry materials without any liquid is quite striking. You’d think swallowing would be difficult, or that they might choke. But this does not appear to be the case.
A Black female commenter wrote of this woman:
The issue is not mental. Her body physically craves these things. Ppl like us with this problem can not help our compulsion to eat things we should not. I refrain, but am still compelled to want to eat flour. What she is doing is hard to watch because it makes me want to bite off a piece of chalk. I will not, and have not since I was a little girl, but it’s hard not to.
It was impossible not to notice that all of the subjects were Black women. The fact just jumps out at you. Fundamentally it is a racial issue, though I’m certain the culture distorters, using censorship and the mass media, could artificially induce the same behavior in Whites.
A specific form of pica known as geophagia is eating clay or dirt. “Clay Eating,” an article in the New Georgia Encyclopedia (2013), says the following about the eating of kaolin clay in Georgia: “The ingestion of white clay occurs predominantly among African American women who have been introduced to eating clay by family members or friends, either as children or during pregnancy. Clay-eating by men or non-African Americans is unusual, though cases have been reported.”
The racial and sexual characteristics alluded to by the Encyclopedia obviously extend to the eating of raw cornstarch, schoolboard chalk, and other such materials as well.
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