Gurleen kaur Gill
Instructor: Garry Swanson
English 100 (14)
8 Dec. 2018
Food and Identity
Food is the important aspect of human life to survive. The food that we eat gives us energy and nutrients for our daily duties. Humans have different varieties of foodstuff to eat, for example, they have animals for meat and plants for fruits and vegetables. Different cultures have different preferences over food and these preferences separate the identity of one culture from another culture. Moreover, local food of any family represent the individual identity of that family. The food that people mostly eat describe them individually as well as culturally because some cultural beliefs and norms about food and sharing of food contributes to the sense of cultural identity whereas, flavour in food is one way that determine someones individual identity.
There are many beliefs and norms related to food have been associated among many cultures. These beliefs and norms about food represent the cultural identity of any person. Through food many people show their beliefs and principles, for example, Hindus do not eat beef because beef is made from cow and cow is the religious animal of Hindus. In the same way Sikhs are prohibited to eat non-vegetarian food according to their religious and cultural norms. However, among many western cultures proper way of sitting while eating and do not eat when eating shows the symbol of their cultural identity. Jose Antonio Burciaga in his article Tortillas states that, according to the Mayan mythology, the great god Quetzalcoatl, realizing that the red ants knew the secret of using maize as food, transformed himself into black ant, infiltrated the colony of red ants, and absconded with a grain of corn, Quetzalcoatl then put maize on the lips of the first man and women, Oxomoco and Cipactonal, so they would become strong (par. 3). According to this story, the belief that maize make someone strong and the tortillas are made from maize which can make anyone strong, is associated among Mexican culture. Therefore, among Mexicans the norm that tortillas can make them strong contributes to the sense of cultural identity.
Sharing of meal with anyone is also a symbol of cultural identity. Sharing food with someone and eating together shows the sense of friendship and part of certain community and culture. For example, in Punjabi culture there is a ritual of eating food together and sharing of food together called Langar. According to this ritual anyone from any religion, caste and culture can come and eat food. In this way, many people come to eat and share food together. Shirlyn Toppin, in his article, Soul Food Theology: Pastoral Care and Practice through the Sharing of Meals: A Womanist Reflection gives an example of the African Caribbean where they prepared and shared meals as a cultural identity of black people. Toppin states that, when he was conducting research at East London majority of people come from Caribbean. Every Monday evening 25 to 30 people meets from 7:30-9:30 pm and sharing of meal was essential to the meeting because different type of dishes represent different cultural background and identities( 46). According to Toppin, sharing of meal represent the cultural identity of black people.
Flavour is one of the important thing in food which contributes to the sense of individual identity. Any individual is known by the food because of the flavour and the taste of the food made by the person. This is a true thing that every individual who is in the field of cooking is expert in any particular dish and no one can make that type of food and adds that type of flavour to the dish. When I was 10 or 11 years old my grandmother made a sauce from the leaves of many plants like coriander, mint and other these type of plants which was very tasty. Everyone in my family and even my neighbours like that sauce very much and come to my grandmother for that sauce. She was very famous at that time just because of that particular dish and that dish represent her individual identity. After the death of my grandmother my mother and aunt made that dish for several times but every time they were unable to add that type of flavor which my grandmother was known for. Jhumpa Lahiri in her article, Rice talk about her father who is famous for a dish called Pulao and says no one can make Pulao like him. Furthermore, Lahiri admitted about the dish that Pulao is a dish that will die with him when he dies (par. 4). In this way, Lahiri make a point that flavour is a way through which food contributes to the sense of individual identity.
Food is a source through which any person contain energy to complete the daily needs and without food it is hard to survive. However, instead of energy, food contributes to the sense of cultural and individual identity. Sharing of food and norms and beliefs associated with food determines the cultural identity and the way of making food and flavour determines the individual identity.
Burciaga, Jose Antonio. Tortillas. 507-509.
Lahiri, Jhumpa. Rice. Patterns of College Writing. Eds Laurie Kirszner and Stephen. R.
Toppin, Shirlyn. Soul Food Theology: Pastoral Care and Practice Through the Sharing of
Meals: A Womanist Reflection. Black Theology: An International Journal, vol. 4, no. 1,
Jan. 2006, pp. 4469. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1558/blth.2006.4.1.44.