Food and Culture
The connection between the food and culture is more than you may think.
Can you imagine that the food you eat everyday can reveal about where you come from? Do you ever checked yourself why certain foods or culinary traditions are so important and related to your culture? Have you ever questioned why people from different parts of the world eat various types of food?
Mostly we grow up by eating food that belongs to our culture. This becomes a part of who each of us are. Most of us connects food from our younger age with heartfelt feelings and some nice memories and it bonds us to our families, holding an exceptional and personal value for us. Food we had from our family often becomes the comfort food we seek as adults in times of pressure and tension.
The best example can be when you are sick. In childhood days, if you are sick you might not be able to eat rice because the body might be too weak, so your mother would cook soup and bring it to you. The aroma and flavor of the soup may become something very familiar for you. Now, whenever you feel tired or stressed, you remember the soup prepared by mom and you really feel starving for that soup.
On a bigger side, food is very much connected with the culture. That’s why the old recipes or traditional cuisines is passed from one generation to other. This also functions as an expression of cultural uniqueness. Migrants brought the food and ingredients of their countries with them wherever they went. The used the same ingredients and followed the same preparation style. This was a way of preserving their culture when they find and settle in new places.
Continuing to prepare dishes from their own culture for family meals is a sign of pride for their civilization and it was one of the means of handling with homesickness. Many of them even started their own restaurants which serve traditional dishes.
However, the food may not taste exactly the same due to lack of exact ingredients. For example, some unique ingredients for the preparation might not be readily available in all areas which affects the taste and flavor. It will be different from the taste and flavor of the dishes which they would cook in their home countries. Also, when migrants sell food in another country, they need to satisfy local community and other country customers as well. Therefore, they are forced to alter the original dishes to cater to a wider range of customers with diverse tastes and flavor choices.
Sometimes these changes to original dishes can create new tastes which still retain the cultural importance of the dish.
What remains constant though is the level to which each country or community’s exclusive food can reflect its unique history, lifestyle, ethics, and beliefs.
In China, harmony is an important element in almost every part of life. This is also reflected in Chinese food, where almost every flavor (salty, spicy, sour, sweet, and bitter) is used in a composed way creating delightful dishes with flavors that go well together. Historically, Chinese people have an elaborate style, which is specifically seen in their designs and outfits, as well as in their food. They give so much importance in the visual appeal of food along with nutrition and health. For this they will do a huge effort by decorating the dishes and making them look colorful, with vibrant red as their traditional color.
The American cuisine reflects their history. The European colonization of the Americas resulted in the introduction of European ingredients and preparation styles to the U.S. Later, the invasion of immigrants from other foreign countries developed a wide diversity in food preparation throughout the country.
In the new era were world get more globalized, it is very easy to access cuisines from different cultures. We should hold our heritage through our culture’s food but we should also need to be more knowledgeable about other cultures by trying their dishes. It’s important to note that every dish has a unique place in the culture to which it belongs, and it is special to those who make it. Food is a gateway into culture, and it should be treated in that way.