Food is an important part of daily life. If not for the sustenance it brings and ensuring we have the energy to make it through our day-to-day activities, but for how it brings us together through family dinners, celebratory feasts and congratulatory treats. Differing countries and communities all feature different food cultures and have different relationships with food and the way they eat. Some people consider sitting down to food a ritual and certain practices must take place first, for example saying Grace at the dinner table or arranging foods in a certain way before eating.
What Is Food Culture?
Your food culture is traditionally part of your heritage and it’s common to see immigrants bring over their recipes when they move away from their home countries. Most people can instantly think of a classic home-cooked meal that they occasionally crave from their childhood. Whether it’s something a parent used to make when they were unwell or if it was part of a large regular family meal that holds special memories, just imagining it can bring back warm thoughts and make your mouth water.
Adaptive Food Culture
When a family moves away from their home country, sometimes the availability of certain ingredients or culinary additions are restricted, and they need to adapt and adjust their recipes. These alterations can get passed down family lines until a new offshoot food culture is created, sometimes somewhere unexpected. Alternatively, travellers return home, bringing spices, recipes and inspiration from the distant lands they have travelled. A good example of this is Chicken Tikka Masala, a popular spiced curry marinated dish that takes its influences from India but was originally created in Glasgow, Scotland. It is now considered one of the nation’s favourite British meals and is a staple meal for Brits up and down the country.
Food Cultures from Around the World
If you’ve ever seen the images from the “Great Global Food Gap”, a study of 30 families and their weekly shops from around the world, it’s quite eye-opening into the differences between developed and undeveloped countries and how varying cultures eat. It’s not just about the food either, there are some key differences between the way different cultures behave at the table and approach a meal, for example;
Rice, noodles and seafood are central to Japanese food culture and you can expect to find warming miso soups and delicious sushi and sashimi (raw fish) on restaurant menus across the island. The Japanese love their food so much, you will often find locals who have travelled great distances just to try a tasty dish and most people will happily share their recommendations with you.
Fresh is the word in Italy, from fresh fruits, freshly-baked breads and pastries to fresh vegetables and freshly-caught fish. You know that when you sit down to eat in a recommended Italian restaurant, you can be sure you are tucking into something deliciously tasty and not long picked, caught or made.
In Egypt, it’s very common for families to grow a lot of their own fresh food and large families can almost become completely self-sustained. The soil and agriculture in Egypt is one of the richest in the world which contributes to their ability to grow enough to feed the nation. Food holds great importance in Egypt and giving food as charity is highly revered. As an Islamic Country, charity is one of the Five Pillars of Islam and is an expectation for all able and practicing Muslims.
Street food is huge in Thailand and you can expect Thai dishes to contain a complex combination of different ingredients, herbs and spices to create the ideal taste sensation. Thailand takes it’s influences from the surrounding countries of China, Indonesia and Malaysia to name a few but takes flavour and fulfilment to a whole other level. Try a Thai curry once and you’ll never look back and if you are feeling really brave, why not sink your teeth into a fried scorpion!
Food culture isn’t just important but interesting, do you have a favourite cuisine that differs from your home country’s traditional tastes or maybe you’ve started creating your own food culture at home! If you’ve been too scared to try some new foods, it’s time to stop holding back and expand your palette, you never know what exciting tastes you will find.