HOW FOOD INFLUENCES ONE’S IDENTITY AND CULTURE 4
HowFood influences one’s Identity and Culture
HowFood influences one’s Identity and Culture
Foodis any substance that living organisms ingest for nutritious valuefor purposes of sustaining life and growth. Food is, therefore, anintegral part of survival for all living organism because they neednutrition for nourishment and growth. However, food is also a symbolof culture and the identity of a community, nation, or a society. Culture is customs, social organization, behaviors, attitudes, oreven achievements that identifies a social group form others. Hence,dietary traditions can be part of the customs or behavior of aparticular social group in a specific time or on a regular basis. This explains why there are places where one can get cuisines thatoriginate fromdifferent cultures in the world.What one eats and howthey eat, therefore, constitutes their cultural behavior that may bedifferent or similar to other cultures as well.One’s dietary habitsare an identity as well because they are certainly different formother community practices. Hence, an individual who identifies withthe community or nation proves their identity by practicing thedietary habits. Communal or national identities formed throughcultural traditional dietary habits become the tradition over time.The customary behavior in meals and the composition of diets arepassed through generations as the tradition
Understandingthe influence of food on culture and identity is interesting throughan Italian dietary culture. Being Italian, one knows that food isnot just for nutritional value, but also an expression of custom andtradition. Italian culture revolves around strong family ties. Theneed for family cohesion extends to dietary cultures. Growing up ina typical Italian family brings with it interactions with theextended family and also friends. Eating among Italians is,therefore, not an individual affair, but a communal affair where oneis supposed to be concerned about another person’s dietary needs. Italian food habits are also very interesting. While there are threemeals in a day, it is difficult to separate lunch from dinner becauselunch, which starts between noon and 1 pm lasts for the rest of theday. One actually eats for the entire afternoon intermittently mostlywith friends and members of the extended family streaming in. Eatingis not just a passive exercise but an interactive session for peopleto bond and know about each other. Back in Italy one would see aunts,uncles, grandmas and grandpas laughing and asking question throughoutthe meal. However, in this college setting, the session would begraced with friends just to make it as interactive as possible. Ameal starts with antipasto and ends with a dessert, then follow it upwith ammazza-caffe’. For clarity, ammazza-caffe’ is a mixture ofcoffee and alcohol, mostly spirit. A meal always has some meat orfish with fresh pasta hand-made from the house. It is also vital tonote the central idea behind Italian Cuisine is originality andtradition. Although cuisines vary from region to region, they mustbe prepared with more emphasis on quality rather than quantity.Friends in the room always enjoy the food while curiously finding outhow it is prepared.
Thesedietary cultures affect one’s life in many ways. Firstly, onealways wants to eat with many people around. Joining college in theUnited States was really challenging. It was boring to buy readypacked food and eat it alone in the house. At some point one feelsthe culture crash when neighbors keep asking why there is always aparty and people joyously chatting in the apartment. While it maysound normal to one as an Italian, it may also sound extravagant toothers from a different culture especially friends with Englishroots. However, friends would understand that as an identityespecially after there is a chance to explain to them. At first theculture creates loneliness but it gradually becomes fan when friendsconsider it cultural identity that defines one. It is interesting tosee friends enjoying friends eager to enjoy the dietary culture.After a few months it becomes normal to prepare food and eat togetherwith friends. Interestingly, they also bring along their cuisines,prepare them and share the food among friends. It is amazing for oneto realize how much their culture has influenced other people andalso provide the opportunity to learn about other dietary cultures.People are likely to have interest and knowing something new fromtheir own. For instance, friends on campus would be interested inunderstanding Italian dietary cultures because most of them may onlyhave heard about them through the media. There is no better sense ofpride than feeling that one belongs somewhere and further being ableto demonstrate one’s culture through food and other symbols aswell.
Thefood culture also improves one’s health and the quality of life. Having many friends and relatives as a dietary habit creates healthyrelationships. Emphasis on natural food helps to avoid junky food.However, the Italian habits also impede personal efforts to loseweight due to including protein foods in all meals. As mentionedabove, fish and meat never miss in it. Unfortunately, the culturalurge is often stronger than health needs.