Food, strongly interconnected with culture
If we would have only one thing in common, then it would be the daily food we need to survive. But food is much more than a way of survival. Food has many symbolic meanings. It not only expresses but also establishes the relationship between people and their environment as well as between people and what they believe. Therefore, food is an important component of a society and its culture. This became for me also very clear after surviving a 10-day lemon juice cleanse… It was sometimes hard not to eat, but the even harder part was the social isolation: almost every meeting with people involved food and/or alcohol. Food is a way of celebrating life, showing how well we’re off and where we’re living on this planet. In Chinese culture, foods have been used as symbols of meaning in many occasions. For example Chinese dates mean that the couples can have children early or peanuts stand for having a long life.
Food is even often used as a means of reward or punishment. A child might be rewarded with a fast food meal after bringing home good school performance, or punished by not offering this meal. A survey showed that 29% of parents use foods to comfort the child, 23% of parents use the foods as a reward, and 10% of parents take the method of depriving food as a punishment. Sweets and desserts are the most commonly used foods for these purposes.
Your culture and environment chooses your dinner
Surprising pictures have been made by travelers around the world. How less or how much we eat, even at such a level we die from eating constantly too much or low quality food. Just compare the family of Chad who spends around 1.23 dollars for one week of food, such as their favorite food: soup with fresh sheep meat and the food expenditures of 341.98 dollars of the Revis family in the United States for spaghetti, potatoes, sesame chicken as favorites.
It’s amazing how environment and cultures influence the cost and calories of the world’s dinners!
Food and flavor lead to evolution of humans
Worldwide we can see huge differences, but in these different favorite flavors we can, according to author John McQuaid, again find a very strong human resemblance. In his book he explains that human evolution and taste are closely linked. If we would be like other animals, we would go out and out food, eat it and stay alive. This has been true for hundreds of millions of years. Today, thanks to food security, we live in societies that don’t deal with these battles any more, but the urges are still there. People still crave for a juicy burger (not me as a convinced vegetarian!) or a glass of wine. With every bite or sip, the anatomy in your brain and body responds and ancient impulses are taking over. John McQuaid even believes that with the discovery of better flavors, for example cooking that changed the taste of food, there’s a mechanism for larger brains and smarter strategies for getting food.
Scientists made the link with this specific invention and the developing of a larger brain and the changing of the body shape, to what it is now. So, in large, we can say that human culture and civilization spin around food and food, in its way, around flavor. It’s no surprise then that food and eating habits are so different, since they are so inherent to survival, evolution and since we are social animals, our own culture. I’ve always been touched by people, living in extreme poverty, who want to share their scarce and best food, as documented in the documentary “Living on one dollar”. Gathering enough food is in many societies, because of the scarcity and high prices, still a daily priority and gives to food a very high value. It represents their culture and only the best food can be served, honoring their culture.
Globalization of food leads to other cultures
Many countries, such as the United States or Mexico, have then again a problem of too much calories. Already over one-third of the adults in the US are obese. While national obesity rates depend on many factors, such as lifestyle and culture, including food and eating habits. With the globalization, we can access easily to other food and eating customs. Everyone can borrow healthy eating habits from countries around the world and leave some less-wholesome practices on foreign soil. Food can also heal us, and even fasting can make us feel 10 years younger again. Food is our way to survival, evolution and to express ourselves as human beings.