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The Twelve-Mile Straight

An audacious American epic set in rural Georgia during the years of the ...
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eating clay

Created: 07/28/18

Replies: 6

Posted Jul. 28, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
teacher reader

Join Date: 02/14/18

Posts: 64

eating clay

Just remembered that I wanted to ask this: is there a biological or psychological reason for eating clay? Was it a common practice? Why?

Posted Jul. 29, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert

Join Date: 12/01/16

Posts: 292

RE: eating clay

I also was interested in the practice of eating clay. I went online ( and found a very insightful article that was written on April 2, 2014 for the segment named "The Salt - What's on your Plate". The title of the article is "The Old and Mysterious Practice of Eating Dirt Revealed". It starts off by quoting an old southern saying, "A child's gotta eat their share of dirt". The dirt they are referencing is "white dirt" which is actually kaolin and was viewed as acceptable to eat. Kaolin is used to make porcelain, paper and paint. The mineral kaolinite is the most common in the world with the best deposits in the southeastern United States. The article also mentions that filmmaker Adam Forrester made a documentary titled "Eat White Dirt" ( There is more information in the article which I believe may answer your questions specifically.

Posted Aug. 02, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert

Join Date: 09/26/12

Posts: 191

RE: eating clay

Eating clay was a new concept for me. I agree with a reviewer who referenced the adage that you have to eat a certain amount of dirt in your was clever of the author to include a fact that would make the reader research the topic.

Posted Aug. 03, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert

Join Date: 07/16/14

Posts: 387

RE: eating clay

This is a type of pica or eating of non-foods--it even has a fancy name--geo( earth) phagia (eating). As mentioned above the white earth in Georgia is probably kaolin, which is also found in paper. Wonder if that's why some kids enjoy chewing on paper? At any rate, it appears to occur among African-American women in Georgia, particularly pregnant women and seems to be taught them by older women. When doctors ask why they do it, they respond either that they like the taste or they crave it. Rarely are men, either African-American or Caucasian seen to eat it.

Not a healthy practice, since the material interfers with iron absorption from food and results in anemia. Would think it would be harmful to the fetus, too. Malnutrition is frequent as well.

My Grandmother, who'd be almost 200 years old now, used to say you had to eat a peck of dirt before you died. I never felt she meant literally eating dirt but rather getting dirty as a kid and eating without washing hands or dropping stuff on the floor and eating it--since that is when she usually made this pronouncement as my mother was having a fit because one of us was sticking something in our mouths we shouldn't

Posted Aug. 04, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert

Join Date: 12/03/11

Posts: 280

RE: eating clay

Katherinep has given an excellent response. The only thing I would add is that this eating of white clay is akin to the same pica craving that makes children eat lead-based paint. Fortunately for the children of today, the use of lead-based paint in homes has been widely banned, but in old houses and here in NYC around some of the bridges, lead based paint is still found and lead poisoning still happens.

Posted Aug. 11, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert

Join Date: 03/13/12

Posts: 559

RE: eating clay

Although I found the amount of clay eating to be strange when I read the book, I did stop and think about animals I've seen who are seeking salt or minerals and appear to be eating mud.

Posted Aug. 28, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
taking.mytime's Gravatar

Join Date: 03/29/16

Posts: 404

RE: eating clay

Although I have never researched this action, I know that I have read about this in other various historical fiction novels. It seems it is always a female living under a poor economic standard. I related it to the lack of food and the lack of nutritional understanding. Basically trying to appease a hunger and not knowing any better.


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