How to Learn About Other Cultures...

How to Learn About Other Cultures Through Food

by Susan Huebert
Jobs People Do | JobsPeopleDo.com

Going to a friend’s house for supper can be fun, especially when you get to try something new. If you have friends from other cultures than your own, you might sometimes try food that you have never eaten before. You might not like everything that you eat, but you can still learn a lot about different cultures by eating their food.

What do you think of as typical Canadian food? Is it pizza or lasagna? How about tacos or burritos? We might think of these foods as Canadian, but they originally came from other countries and cultures before people in North America used the ideas to make food that suited their tastes. If you went to the places where the foods originally came from, they might be quite different from what you know.

One of the things that influences people’s traditional foods is what they could easily get before the days of fast transportation. For example, food from areas like the Middle East and India is often much spicier than European food because the spices and hot peppers grow there. Areas that grow potatoes or wheat tend to have a lot of dishes that include those kinds of foods.

In many areas of the world, people still shop every day for food, but their cultures also often include ways to keep food from going rotten without refrigerators. For example, cabbage and other vegetables are easy to grow in many parts of the world, but they become rotten very easily. Many cultures have developed ways of dealing with that, such as making pickles or foods like sauerkraut, which can keep for a long time.

Often the differences between types of food are important for understanding cultures. For example, kimchi is a kind of pickled cabbage that is much spicier than most other types. Also, a lot of Chinese food combines sweet and sour flavours that people in the Middle East are unlikely to eat. People from some cultures eat rice every day, and others eat spaghetti or potatoes. Each one has a different staple, or basic food.

The way people cook and eat their food can show a lot about their culture, as well. In North America, many people buy food for the whole week and store it in their refrigerators or freezers. In many other countries, people shop for food every day and make fresh meals. People in some cultures eat a lot of meat, and others eat only a little. Some people eat from separate plates and others eat from common dishes. They might use their fingers, chopsticks, or knives and forks when they eat.

Cultures are complicated, and it can take a long time to learn about them. Since everyone eats, comparing the foods from different regions can be a good place to start.


Choi, Amy S. “What Americans Can Learn from Other Food Cultures.”  http://ideas.ted.com/what-americans-can-learn-from-other-food-cultures/.

Columbia University Press. “Food is Culture.” https://cup.columbia.edu/book/food-is-culture/9780231137904.

EUFIC.org. “The Determinants of Food Choice.” http://www.eufic.org/en/healthy-living/article/the-determinants-of-food-choice.

EurekAlert. “The Human Food Connection: A New Study Reveals More About Our Relationship to Food.” https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2014-04/ajob-thf041514.php.

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