Why Food is a Cultural storyteller.
5 reasons Why Food is culture's best storyteller.
Ah, the smell of home-cooked food. Is there really anything better than that? In my humble opinion, I highly doubt there is. But when I ask you what home-cooked meal you are thinking of. I assure you many will have different answers. Another situation for you: remember as a kid, you are going over to a friend’s house. As the evening approaches you can smell the amazing food your friend’s family is cooking. Relatable already? Well, for some kids it might be really surprising. They might have had the habit to eat a quick and light dinner everyday. You can probably tell where I am going with this. Food is all about stories. Stories behind traditions, stories behind recipes, even the stories behind the ingredients. Let’s talk about why food is a cultural storyteller!
FOOD CULTURE, LET'S TALK ABOUT That.
‘Food culture’, sounds great right? I suppose we get the idea, but how would you actually define it? Even as a right out foodie I had to go look it up to really understand the full extent of it.
By definition, food culture refers to both the practices, attitudes, and beliefs as well as the networks and institutions surrounding the production, distribution, and consumption of food. Well, it couldn’t have been described more technically if you tried. It’s a whole mouthful. So let me make it a little easier.
In essence, it is as much about personal memories, traditions, cultural heritage as it is about the climate and environment you find yourself in. We cook with the knowledge we have and the ingredients we find in our proximity. The trick is to not see food culture as something global. It really can be as microscopic as looking at your own family’s dinner table. I guarantee it’ll look different than your neighbours’.
“Cooking is the landscape in a saucepan.”
– Josep Pla
5 key aspects why food is a cultural storyteller
Time for a little list! Because, let’s be real, who doesn’t like their info structured in bite sized pieces? Here’s a list of things to think about when you: try new foods, are travelling or are trying to analyse what your own food culture is actually like..
1 - The Etiquette, Sir/ MAdam,
No matter what country you visit, there will always be something different when it comes to culinary etiquette. One of the most well-known differences compared to western culture has to be: slurping whilst eating. In Japan it is considered standard practice. It indicates that you are thoroughly enjoying your meal. So, much to the frustration of some, slurping isn’t all that bad.
Recommendation: When travelling, definitely make sure to delve into some research on the etiquette of your destination. Or, if you are just curious, this blogpost sums up quite a few interesting & unique facts on the matter.
2 - INGREDIENTS ARE KEY!
To really understand a culture’s cuisine, definitely take a peak at what you can find in local markets. Ingredients used tell you so much about people’s lifestyle and needs. Besides, regional climates play in the provision of certain ingredients. This way, every culture and even region manages to establish their own flavour profile. The use of spices makes this extra intriguing. By the way, a tip from experience, always check before you order anything spicy. As a Belgian, we have no idea what that means in other cultures… Yes, many mishaps may have happened to me that way.
3 - THE LANDSCAPE & CLIMATE
I briefly mentioned it, but take a look at what the climate is like in different environments. It won’t only explain the produce and ingredients. It also tells you what people want to eat. Our appetite is hugely based on the environment we’re in. When it’s hot, it generally suppresses hunger, when it’s cold our body craves more fats. Anyway, I won’t get too scientific, because let’s face it: that is as far as my knowledge goes. Let me put it in perspective. You know when it’s 30 degrees Celsius & suddenly you really crave that watermelon you have not thought about all winter? Yes? Well, think exactly that but on a more global scale.
4 - COOKING METHODS:
Throughout different places you’ll see a difference in cooking methods people prefer to use. Did you know that in Australia many parks have a public BBQ at your disposal? Shocked? Well, I know I was. As a European I never even thought of that concept. But it speaks for itself. Australians have been BBQ fanatics for so long. It is almost written in their cultural identity. There are plenty more examples of this. If you want a peek into more of this, this article on “5 unique cooking methods from around the world” will help you out.
5 - the rituals & comforts
Last but not least, food is a prop for countless of traditions, whether it is in a religious, cultural or social setting. No matter where you are in this world, food implements some sort of structure. Apart from that it also creates comfort. For example: I know that for me, not one Christmas has passed without the presence of plenty of food. Whatever happens, trust me, I tend to keep it that way. In all seriousness: the presence of food on many occasions speaks volumes about how culture works.
The kitchen is a place of intimicy, where it all comes out.
If they invited me into the living room, we were formal. You wouldn’t hear about the family issues,
but not in the kitchen.”
– Claudia Roden
If you are intrigued to hear more… I honestly have to recommend you to take a peek at this video. Claudia Roden expresses her stories on this topic much better than I ever will. I promise you, you will not regret it!
Let's start a conversation.
After all that, can you tell I’m a foodie yet? As this is my very first blogpost, I feel this is the right place to invite you along on this journey . If you are a fellow foodie, a traveller, or just someone with a curious appetite, stayed tuned as more content will be coming your way.
In the meanwhile let’s get acquainted!
If you have any anecdotes about your food traditions, feel free to drop them in the comments underneath the blog. I am curious and always up for a chat!