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Food and Culture

Food and Culture

One of the most visible signs of any culture is food. Any person can seemingly name dishes from around the world, indicative of a particular culture. Pasta dishes come from Italy. Sushi from Japan. Baklava from Greece. Food not only defines what is eaten in a particular place, but forms social groups in that culture. The intersections of food and culture are numerous and varied.

American food is reflective of its culture in that the American diet, like American culture, is often a melting pot, having taken dishes from around the world and made them ubiquitous across America. Most people would think that spaghetti and meatballs is an Italian dish. In fact, it is an Italian-American dish, invented in America in the early 20th century. Chop suey, similarly thought to be Chinese, is also Chinese-America, invented in this country alongside the fortune cookie.

Food and culture often move beyond the meal on the plate. Many cultures use food for social gathering. One thinks of the family Sunday dinner, the community banquet, or the the prominence of meals within daily life. Weddings, festivals, parties all have food as an essential part of the gathering, indicating that food, regardless of the type, is an essential part of bringing people together in a shared experience. This is the fundamental part of any culture: shared identity.

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