author: vatika sibal
publication site: researchgate
Reading: How does food connect to culture
publication type: article
Publication date: September 2018
link to original document
People also connect to their cultural or ethnic group through eating patterns. food is often used as a means of preserving their cultural identity. people from different cultural backgrounds eat different foods. The areas in which families live and where their ancestors originated influence food likes and dislikes. these food preferences result in patterns of food choices within a cultural or regional group.
In religion, food is one of the most important parts of religious ceremonies. The role of food in religious culture is an important part of showing respect among their communities and many of these religions obey religious commandments so food is prepared in different ways. the meaning of food is an exploration of culture through food. what we consume, how we acquire it, who prepares it, who is at the table and who eats first is a form of communication, that is, it has a rich cultural base. Beyond nourishing the body, what we eat and who we eat with can inspire and strengthen ties between individuals, communities, and even countries. There is no closer relationship than the one with family and food plays an important role in defining family roles, rules and traditions. It helps us discover attitudes, practices and rituals around food, it sheds light on our most basic beliefs about ourselves and others. There is a relationship between culture and food. this negotiates our identities, cultures and environments.
Food is seen as more than just a means of survival. According to Barthes, food is considered multidimensional, as something that shapes us, our identities, our cultures and, ultimately, our society. Just as different clothes mean different things—for example, a doctor’s white coat, a police officer’s uniform, or military personnel—food also conveys meaning. but the meaning varies from culture to culture. Also, food couldn’t be seen as a trope if it didn’t signify the meaning of something to begin with, for example: tomato, basil, and mozzarella cheese on a pizza signify the taste of Italy. In addition, various food tropes are used in everyday life: many scholars have analyzed the relationships between food, identity and communication. One of the most common ways we use food is in the construction of our personal identities. but can food operate as the only factor of identification of a group or of an entire nation? Does food have its place within a larger set of values linked to age, religion, social status, some of which are closely linked to diet, while others have no link to food at all? Is the position of food flexible or is it central (or trivial) in the formation of one’s identity?
the meaning of food is an exploration of culture through food. what we consume, how we acquire it, who prepares it, who is at the table and who eats first is a form of communication, that is, it has a rich cultural base. Beyond nourishing the body, what we eat and who we eat with can inspire and strengthen ties between individuals, communities, and even countries
Religion and food are also connected, which adds meaning and significance to our lives. some food beliefs and practices are based on religion. Around the world, Muslims fast during Ramadan, which is believed to be the month during which the Koran, the Islamic holy book, was given by God to the Prophet Muhammad. During this month, Muslims fast during the day, eating and drinking before sunrise and after sunset. Orthodox Jews and some Conservative Jews follow dietary laws, popularly known as a kosher diet, which is part of their Jewish scriptures. dietary laws, which describe the use and preparation of animal foods, are followed for purposes of spiritual health. many followers of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism are vegetarians, in part, due to the doctrine of non-aggression or non-violence. abstinence from eating meat in these traditions stems from the desire to avoid harming other living creatures. Despite religious dietary prescriptions, dietary practices vary widely even among those who practice the same faith. such variations may be due to branches or denominations of a religious group, national variations, and the degree of orthodoxy or religious affiliation of individuals or families. In this we can understand that food transmits the religious feelings of people, making them unique and with their own identity.
In addition to affecting food choices, culture also plays a role in food etiquette. People in Western societies may refer to food-related etiquette as table manners, a phrase that illustrates the cultural expectation to eat or eat at a table. some people eat with forks and spoons; more people use fingers or chopsticks. however, choosing utensils is much more complicated than choosing chopsticks, fingers, or cutlery. among some groups that eat primarily with their fingers, diners only use their right hands to eat. some people use only three fingers on the right hand. in some countries, thumb sucking is polite; in others, licking fingers is considered impolite. rules regarding polite eating may increase in formal settings. At some formal dinner parties, a person may be expected to choose the correct fork from two or three options to match the food being eaten at a particular point in the meal.
Food plays an important role in the lives of families in most cultures. however, the degree of importance varies from culture to culture. In many families, activities and ceremonies focus on cooking and eating habits. a host family demonstrates their prosperity or social rank by providing large amounts of food. among other families elsewhere, activities and celebrations include food, but food is not necessarily the focus of the event. culinary traditions vary widely around the world. even among people who share similar cultural backgrounds and some of the same eating habits, eating patterns are not identical. In addition, families vary from their own daily routines during vacations, when traveling, or when guests are present. men eat differently than women. people of different age groups eat differently. however, in most parts of the world, food is associated with hospitality and the expression of friendship. therefore, sensitivity to food rules and customs is important to build and strengthen intercultural relationships.
As the food culture has undergone transformations and developments, has it also caused changes in some places? Without discarding their own customs and traditions, the gastronomic culture of many regions could acquire a new visual identity, and help us better understand our own culture and that of others. The multicultural character of the different contemporary cuisines is the result of the specific circumstances in which the regions are identified, and yet their authenticity and cultural preservation are maintained.
Food plays an important role in the lives of families in most cultures. however, the degree of importance varies from culture to culture. In many families, activities and ceremonies focus on cooking and eating habits. a host family demonstrates their prosperity or social rank by providing large amounts of food. among other families in other places, activities and celebrations include food, but food is not necessarily the focus of the event
food has symbolic meanings based on association with other significant experiences. An example of symbolic meanings, including references to food, can be found in many of our common expressions. bread is a good example of the symbolism found in food. when people sit together with friends at a meal, they are said to break bread with each other. this expression symbolizes an environment where friends gather in a warm, welcoming and jovial way to eat.
In conclusion, understanding a culture through food is an interesting process because once a person starts asking these questions, like how something is made, what ingredients are in it, or why it’s called a certain thing, the answers obtained go beyond culinary learning. In these responses, food tells us something about a culture’s approach to life. In the end, we can say that food works symbolically as a communicative practice through which we create, manage and share meanings with others. understanding of culture, habits, rituals and tradition can be explored through food and how it is perceived by others.
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