Food From Other Cultures

If you read my post on Stepping Out of Your Food Comfort Zone you know I feel it’s important to mix up your meal plans week to week. You may be wondering how to do that if your cooking knowledge is limited by your personal life experiences. We live in a world of inspiration available at our fingertips from across the globe! A country’s food tells you a lot about their culture. Expand your horizons not only through tastes but also in the history behind these other cultures.

Jennifer Berg, director of graduate food studies at New York University explains that, American cuisine is shaped by the natural wealth of the country. Having never faced agricultural hardship, Americans had the luxury of not relying on rotating crops, such as the Japanese, whose food culture now showcases buckwheat alongside rice, or the Indians, or the French and Italians, who feature lentils and beans alongside wheat. That kind of negotiation with the land forced people to incorporate those crops in to the culture. And so eating soba noodles becomes part of what it means to be Japanese, and eating beans becomes part of what it means to be French.

Often times, the food we eat has been passed down to us by the generations that came before us. The food that our parents prepared for us when we were feeling sick is most likely the same that we will prepare for ourselves or our kids when feeling unwell. What you eat and how you do it tells a lot about the person you are. Food sheds light on the people’s way of life, their cultural values and their perspectives on life.

Greeks have strong ties among the community. Mezedes (appetizers) are shared among the diners. The stories told over tzatzikispanakopita, and dolmades create lifetime memories. For the Italians, food conveys warmth, love, pleasure, nutrition, and history. This means that Italians hold their food in great esteem and they often talk about food. They also don’t mind spending a lot of time in the kitchen. Family meals are often elaborate festivities with piles & piles of dishes being served during an entire afternoon.

Food is meant to bring people together! Every single culture and religion uses food as part of their celebrations, says Ellen Gustafson, co-founder of the FEED Project and The 30 Project, which aims to tackle both hunger and obesity issues globally. “The celebratory nature of food is universal. Every season, every harvest, and every holiday has its own food, and this is true in America as well. It helps define us.”

As a human being, we need adventure! We cannot always settle for the same old routine meals. It is our natural instinct to be attracted towards excitement. When you step out of your comfort zone and take a taste of the wild side, it is only then that you are truly learning about life. Change is healthy. Of course due to Covid we aren’t going anywhere for a while… That doesn’t mean you can’t explore other cultures! The kitchen is a place where you can travel to any country without having to ever leave your house!

Pinterest, Instagram, food blogs, google in general are all excellent resources. Go to a grocery store specific to another culture and look around for inspiration. Have conversations with people! My coworkers and I talk about food often and we have really enjoyed sharing recipes and lifestyles with each other. With todays resources there is no reason to not branch out within your own kitchen!

Once we can travel again, be open to anything! You may think you like particular dishes but that other ones just aren’t your cup of tea. While traveling, you will encounter certain kinds of foods that you might turn your nose up at in typical circumstances, but you should try to keep an open mind. When looking at a menu for a type of food you have never tried or even those where you always order the same dish, try something different. If you have no idea what kind of food the menu is describing google some to help you make a decision. Better yet ask the server what they recommend, they have insights you can’t get on your own. Explore, try new things and you might just stumble on food that changes you life!

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