Food: Providing A Full Stomach And A Source Of Identity

Anybody who know me well will know that I absolutely love food. Cooking food, eating food, reading about food, talking about food – anything to do with food. While usually the discussion stems from what I had for dinner, I thought today I would bring you some more intellectual thoughts about food. Enjoy!

What is food? Food is a nutritional substance which the body needs to develop and sustain itself. Food is something which we share with family and friends at mealtimes. Food is a source of pleasure. It is a source of comfort. Food is something which is unfairly distributed throughout the world. Food is a basis for identity.

Everybody knows the age old saying, ‘you are what you it’, presuming it deals with food consumption and how it affects our bodies. However, this adage can also be interpreted in another way; we are what we eat meaning the food we choose to eat becomes part of our identity.

The food we chose to eat often becomes a symbol of who we are. Food becomes an identifier of the type of person one is. This is particularly the case for people when they visit a foreign country as they often link the food and people of a country. This action can help people to understand and connect with the ethnicity within the country which they are visiting. Studies have proven this. One particular study conducted by Dr. Manpreet Janeja, a social anthropologist at Jesus College, examined teenagers at a school in the UK and how they identified each other with food. The study showed how they engaged with each other through the food they were learning to cook and also showed the teenagers high level of religious code awareness amongst each other through food.

Food is at the heart of communication. This is most apparent within the family unit where most of the communication takes place over meals. However, the world also strongly communicates amongst itself through food. Food is a powerful way to exchange ideas. Perhaps the greatest example of this is the actuality that British people consider chicken tikka masala to be the nation’s favourite dish. This example also shows how people are developing over time. Their identities are to some extent changing due to this integration of ethnicities and their cuisine.

This implementation of one country’s dish into the heart of another is a pleasant which showcases the positive aspects of cultural diplomacy. However, it cannot be forgotten that this is not always the case. During the 1900’s, when the US was experience massive influxes of immigrants from all over the world, social workers who were sent to check up on immigrant families concluded that those families who choose to eat their national delicacies rather than revert totally to American cuisine were seen as a barrier to assimilation. This may be an old example but one only needs to look at the news to be informed of racist attacks, attacks which have not been prevented simply because of the introduction of international cuisines.

Therefore, while food can act as a stepping stone between countries, allowing identities to integrate and develop, it still needs to be defined whether or not food can actually bring people together. Perhaps it can, but as a contributing factor and not as a singular force.

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