Food is Cultural – Always Eat and Travel
December 12, 2016 Kristance Harlow
Everywhere you travel, be sure to eat the local food. Food is one of the most exciting and immersive ways to understand a particular place’s flavor and way of life. To understand a new culture, you must taste their cooking. Food – and all of the surrounding rituals and traditions – can always tell us a little something about the culture. Social structure is reflected through the ways in which food is prepared, served, and consumed.
For eons, meals have been a defining feature of human cultures. It is our life force how we consume and what we consume, is different across the globe and largely defined by cultural upbringing. Food plays a large role in defining family roles and cultural traditions shape our mealtime mannerisms. Social values, belief systems, age old customs, and gender roles are all expressed through food.
For decades anthropologists have looked at the ways in which social relations are expressed through food. Researchers at the Orebro University in Sweden found that trying new foods is essential understanding a place’s cultural identity. Food can even be political (tell that to your mom next time she tells you to hush up about the election during a holiday dinner).
Some of the most scrumptious comfort foods were developed out necessity in times of poverty. Many regions around the world have traditional home cooked meals that seem hodgepodged together with leftover ingredients. Some of the most expensive and fancy-shamcy foods today used to be considered ‘peasant food.’ Take lobsters, for instance, they used to be fed to prisoners and the poorest working class.
When you choose your next meal when traveling, slow down to enjoy it and savor the exotic flavors and unique tastes. If you are willing to partake in a new dining ritual, you might just find that you like it and want to bring the tradition home. And, for the love of all that is delicious, do not take a course on an “exotic cuisine” and then whitesplain that food as if you’re the expert. Food is cultural and to try and separate it is disrespectful appropriation. Plus, you turn a rich history into a dull fad and that’s no fun at all.
I love to eat, but I wasn’t always an adventurous diner. When I was younger, nothing could make me eat a cooked carrot or broccoli. I wouldn’t have touched a mushroom, let alone try something I’d never heard of before. Travel changed all of that for me. I began venturing away from my bland and basic diet because I didn’t want to see the world and only consume McDonald’s while doing it. If you travel around the world without indulging in local delicacies, you are missing out on the beauty that is food diversity.
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