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What Food Can Tell You About Culture: Traditional Dishes

Many of us enjoy foods that would not be typically served in our households. For instance, you may desire Chinese takeout during the weekends or may visit your local buffet during the week. What most of us do not realize is that the foods we eat have a lot to say about their cultures. The connection between foods and culture is a lot stronger than most of us think.

A majority of us grow up eating foods in our households, not thinking much of it. Of course, the type of food usually depends on the cultural backgrounds of our parents. When thinking of food, we usually have warm, fond memories of perhaps our mother cooking our favorite dish after we had a bad day at school. For this reason, plenty of dishes hold immense personal value to us.

What Food Can Tell You About Culture - Traditional Dishes

As adults, we often seek out these dishes because they now have value in our lives. Whenever we are feeling down, lonely, or simply need comfort, we prepare these traditional dishes to make us feel better. While these dishes may bring great feelings or a hint of positivity into our lives, food also has cultural implications.

What Food Tells Us About Culture?

Cultural Food

As mentioned previously, the food prepared in a household solely depends on the ethnicity of the parents. This is called traditional cuisine. Traditional cuisine is a set of foods that are passed down through the generations. For instance, if our grandparents enjoyed consuming noodles, this might be passed onto our parents and eventually us.

Traditional cuisine is an important part of one’s culture. Not only does it shape our identities, but it makes us unique. By continuing the cuisine traditions of a family, we are preserving our cultures and passing them on to the next generations. Traditional cuisine may also be a symbol of pride for plenty of people. Think of it like a family recipe.

The family recipe was probably created by one of our great relatives and then passed down through the generations. In the end, this recipe is unique, having been tweaked by each family to suit their preferences. We can take pride in this knowing that no other family has acknowledged the recipe.

The tweaks to the dish usually occur to meet the needs of the generation at that specific time period. For instance, ingredients may not be so readily available or maybe diet and nutrition requirements are now different. Regardless, the dish continues to maintain its cultural significance and uniqueness.

While the dish may be slightly different, the dish still maintains the history behind it. One example of this is the Chinese value of harmony. Harmony means keeping a perfect balance between every aspect of your life and being positive while doing so. This idea is represented in almost all traditional Chinese dishes. They tend to create the perfect balance between sweet, savory, spicy, salty, and bitter.

The end result is a dish full of flavor and taste. Additionally, the Chinese also tend to take pride in their physical appearances. This can be seen by their architecture, their impeccable sense of fashion, and of course, in their food. Chinese food often looks vibrant and colorful, representing their culture perfectly.

Religious Food

Food also has great implications for religion. While food has a lot to say about culture, it is also heavily influenced by religion. Religion provides us with meaning, a sense of community, and structure within our lives. Humans naturally desire to have order, rather than chaos, in our lives and religion gives us an excellent outlet to do so.

By looking back at the foods present in our household, it is evident that almost all of the dishes have been influenced in one way or another by our religions. For instance, people of the Muslim faith may follow a strict halal diet. This diet includes a series of dishes that follow strict guidelines in the religion.

Another example is Hinduism where several types of meat such as beef are strictly prohibited. The typical Hindu household may not include any dishes that include beef such as ribs, or even gelatin-containing products. In short, next time you eat a meal, pay attention to the details of your food. By doing this, you will gain cultural awareness of others around you.

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