Food for thought

Hi everyone, it‘s Emi!


Recently I started thinking that you can find many examples of different cultures wherever you look. Not only are there significant cultural differences between countries but you can also see them between one country’s regions, people’s occupations, interests, age groups and so on. So what things separate them from one another? I think that there could be many possible answers to the question. For me the biggest indicator of a different culture is people’s behaviors in their daily lives: are there some things (positive or negative) that they feel very strongly about, are there some social rules they know and follow or maybe they share similar routines or preferences? Personally, I feel like food culture (an inseparable part of our lives) is one of the most exciting aspects of any culture.


This week I was very happy to attend a great TereTere session where we talked about our favorite food. Although it sounds like an easy topic to discuss, a lot of our group members found it quite difficult to choose only a few dishes. I guess many of us are used to enjoying good food regularly without thinking too hard about which one is the best. Some people prefer eating traditional/ local food, while others are more open to trying new flavors from foreign countries. While I respect my national cuisine, I’m an incredibly adventurous eater with a goal to try all the food in the world! Curiosity aside, I believe that trying new dishes, especially while traveling abroad, can help you understand the culture and the people better. When I lived in Valencia (Spain), I tried its famous paella Valenciana (a rice dish with vegetables, chicken and rabbit). A local friend showed me a good restaurant and told me that the dish originally was eaten by the poor rice farmers, who used rat meat (the only meat they could get) instead. It’s a great idea to ask about the country’s signature dishes, as they sometimes have fascinating stories behind them.


Sometimes discussing cultural differences can also lead you to finding more similarities than you expected. While discussing our favorite food, one person shared that she loved vegetables, especially zucchini. When I was a child my mother would make amazing zucchini pancakes, so I asked her if she had tried that. Although she hadn’t, that person told the group about savory grated potato pancakes, which were delicious and very simple to make. A person from another country said that they also made those in his country, and I realized that dish was quite popular in Lithuania too!


Those potato pancakes, although made in different countries and having different names, were actually the same dish. That was quite surprising and it made me feel happy to have this connection to my neighboring countries. This also made me think how many more things might we consider unique or only ‘ours’ when in reality they are widely spread or even universal… Now that’s some food for thought!


So what are some of your favorite foods? Do they have any interesting origin stories or perhaps can also be found in other countries? I’d love to know!


Always hungry for knowledge and new experiences,

Emi

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