Food and Culture

6 June 2016

Food is needed as a source of energy and to sustain our bodies. Besides a need for survival, it is sustains our heart and mind. As the book states, “food practices of many societies can reflect religious and cultural taboos”. In all cultures, people sit down while eating their meals, whether it be families, friends, coworkers, and classmates. It is a time to share ideas, stories, whether formal or informal, creating traditions, and rules of what to do and what not to do while having their meal. Food becomes sacred and has meaning such as Thanksgiving meals. A traditional Thanksgiving meal almost always consists of Turkey. The turkey is still the culinary symbol of the November feast. The Cornucopia is the symbol of abundance of fruits, grains, etc reaping for that year.

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While foods and tastes differ from place to place, the cultural importance of food exists the world over. Throughout history food has also played a pivotal role in the areas of race, gender and religion. From who grows the food to who prepares it, food has strongly been linked to the varying roles of men and women. Changes in farming and food production have invariably brought with them changes in what men and women are able to do, and not do.

Race also tells a story to what they eat. For example, Italy pasta is served as a side dish, whereas in in America, Italians serve pasta as their main course. My Italian neighbor said it is because food was very expensive during early Italian immigration and pasta was very efficient. Therefore, they ate as much pasta to hold them up during the day. As for religion, what you can and cannot eat is an important way for people to connect with their deities and their religious communities. Whether we are man or woman, religious or not, or whatever race these issues impact the society in which we live.

The editors of this text provide many examples on food, culture, and values. This brings us back to Patricia Hampl’s “Grandmother Sunday dinner”. She said, “Come and eat” was not, after all a personal statement, but a racial one, the cri de couer of Middle Europe. Chagnon also mentions how “food sharing is important to the Yanonamo in the context of displaying friendship”. In spite of him not sharing, they insisted on demanding his share and made his meal unpleasant. Finally, Amy Tan exemplifies that one culture’s favorite foods can make someone grimace. But she taught us that no matter how embarrassing or different you can be, you should “be proud that you are different. Your only shame is to have shame”.

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