Food and Culture


Foodand Culture

Theconcept of “good to eat”

Foodis an important part of culture, traditions and religious customs. Inparticular, food considered ‘good to eat’ is usually influencedby one’s own culture, and often introduced from childhood by one’sfamily. Thus, culture dictates to some extent on what is appropriateto eat. In the United States, it is apparent that many Americanswould never dream of eating insects, dog, or horse meat among others.However, dogs have been eaten by various groups in Philippines,Thailand, Burma, Indonesia, and Vietnam among others (Sanderson,2014). On the other hand, some foods like human flesh are almostuniversally rejected and considered gross and deplorable.

Froma personal point of view, I have never tasted dog meat or eateninsects as am generally repelled by the thought of swallowing themdown and then gnawing on their bones. Like me, most Americans feelintense disgust at dog eating because dogs play a very important roleat home and, thus, eating is often regarded with horror. However,from a global perspective, Americans may seem unusual because insectshave been eaten in many societies without revulsion. The Chinese, forexample, ate stinkbugs, cockroaches, giant water beetles, and evenfly maggots (Sanderson, 2014). The Southeast Asians had similartastes.

Muslimdietary laws

Muslimsand many other religions have dietary laws, which classify some foodas lawful or pure and other forbidden. The division into lawful-pureand forbidding-impure groups of is based on the Quran. Forbiddenfoods include pork and pork products, blood, carnivorous animals orbirds of prey, alcohol, any meat that is not slaughtered, andintoxicants or any food with alcohol in it (Helstosky, 2009).Drinking alcohol or any fermented beverage is prohibited becauseMohammed did not like the violence that followed drinking. It is wellknown that Muslims are forbidden to eat pork or consume anything thathas been produced from swine, because it is considered unclean. Thepermitted species of animal such as a lamb must be slaughtered by asane adult Muslim by cutting the throat quickly, and invoking thename of Allah while cutting.

Abstainingfrom food or fasting constitutes a sober reflection on, and acelebration of the Muslim faith. This fast is broken by indulging ina feast with dishes varying according to regional and individualtastes. The most common dishes served during this feast include soupor stew, lamb meat, fresh fruits, and spiced rice. Once the fast isbroken in the evening, families celebrate and enjoy these specialfoods, usually delicacies of each region’s cuisine, with largegathering and kin travelling long distances to be at home for thefeast.

Foodrelated tasks

Severalcultures are gender oriented as they assign traits and tasks on thebasis of gender. Some of the common food related tasks consideredfeminine in the U.S culture include the responsibility to preparefood and cook among other house chores. In fact, the kitchen isconsidered as the principle place for the woman. In the U.S and othercountries such as Canada and Switzerland, the overwhelmingly majorityof household work such as cooking is performed by women regardless ofthe extent of their occupation demand. However, in the presentsociety where women have moved actively into labor, there has been acommensurate reduction in their household duties.

Althoughfood related tasked are mostly linked with women, the current societyhas continued to experience a transition with men becoming involve invarious in various food-related task. There is nothing in male genesthat hinders them from performing these tasks, but the lingeringstereotypes about their superiority. In fact, Mark and Surina (2005)argue that preparation of enormous quantities of food is bettersuited to the masculine qualities of power and control. More so,there are some standard dishes for a picnic or party that menparticipate in as a result of masculine pride, such like the Americanbarbecue. Today, men continue to dominate the commercial sectorworking as professional cooks and chefs.

Compellingtheory of insects

Ihave never been a partaker of insect delicacies either knowingly orunknowingly. In some parts of the world, eating insects is common,but in other parts of the world, such as in the United States, eatinginsects is almost unheard-of. Cultures that eat insects serve them ingourmet restaurants as they consider them as having nutritionallysignificant components such as protein. People from these cultureseat insects because they like and enjoy them, and not because theyhave to. According to Berenbaum (1996) over 200 species of insectsare eaten in Mexico, and served as delicacies in fine restaurants.Berenbaum adds that pacific islanders who eat an abundance ofbalanced diet of fruit, fish, meat and vegetables also eat a widevariety of insects by choice.

Inother continents, insect eating was largely a matter of fending offstarvation or of personal eccentricity. In most of the unproductiveenvironment insect-eating was or is a fact of life. Many culturesthat eat insects live in these hostile environments rely upon insectsas a source of livelihood, as well as, a major protein source(Berenbaum, 1996). This is not a problem for such cultures becausephysically speaking humans can eat many species of insects withoutill effects, so they include them in their diets. This being anexample of a difference between cultures, it is important to respectone’s delicacy however disgusting it may appear. This helps us toaccommodate different cultural values, and religious background.


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Helstosky,C. (2009). Foodculture in the Mediterranean.Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press.

Berenbaum,M. (1996). Bugsin the system: Insects and their impact on human affairs.Reading, Mass.: Basi Books.Topof Form

Bottomof Form

Mack,G., &amp Surina, A. (2005). Foodculture in Russia and Central Asia.Westport, Conn.: Greenwood PressTopof Form

Sanderson,S. (2014). HumanNature and the Evolution of Society.New York: Westview Press.