In our trip around the world (see our Summer Reading Challenge), what could be more fun than using food to explore different cultures? Today, Nive Burris, a Christian from India and food blogger at Handfulofjoy.com, helps us think about how food reflects culture. Plus, she offers links to recipes on her website, so you can try some of these tasty dishes yourself!
I grew up eating only Indian food. I did not get the taste of multicultural cuisine until I moved to the U.S. As time has passed by, I have noticed, cuisine tells a lot about the culture surrounding it.
How many of you associate a luau with Hawaii, clam chowder with New England, and spicy jambalaya with Louisiana? Now, let’s take a trip outside the U.S. for a minute. What comes to mind when I say aromatic curry, bratwursts, or spicy paella? We have started identifying places with food.
What can cuisine tell us about culture? Quite a lot, in fact. Here are a few spicy tidbits you and your kids might enjoy reading through.
AROUND THE WORLD FOOD FACTS
- India: Vegetarian food is most popular in India because cows are regarded as holy and worshiped by those in the Hindu religion, a major religion in the country.
- Middle Eastern Countries: Pork is often absent in the Middle East because it’s prohibited among Muslims.
- China: Noodles, not cake, is a birthday food in China. Slurping long noodles symbolizes long life.
- Mongolia: The Mongolian barbeque tradition started with Mongolian warriors who cooked thinly sliced meat on a hot shield they used to defend themselves in battle.
- Hindu culture: Annaprashana is an ancient Hindu tradition to celebrate the first food of an infant other than milk.
- Japan: We identify sushi with Japan. If the country is surrounded by water, you can bet it has the best seafood.
- Argentina: Thanks to the fertile pastures available to raise rich grass fed cattle, Argentina is well known for its superior quality of beef.
- Africa: Cassava roots, yams, corn, and peanuts grow best in many African nations. Mealie bread and peanut butter candy is proof of that!
- India: As the home of many exotic spices, aromatic Indian curry is popular worldwide.
- Thailand: Thai people love to gather around a hot-pot to share good laughs with friends. (Swiss do the same around fondue.)
- India: In any given morning in India, it’s not hard to find hot tea being sold in small clay cups, enjoyed by groups of good friends.
- Ethiopia: Ethiopians use soft, spongy “injera” bread as a utensil. Everyone tears off a piece of ingera and dips it into “Doro Wat,” a thick chicken stew cooked with spiced clarified butter, nitir qibe.
- India, African and Middle Eastern nations: Use of hands instead of fork and spoon is very common among these nations.
- China, Japan, Cambodia, etc: Chopsticks are very popular in Asian countries. Grab a pair at the grocery store and let your kids give them a try!
These are traditions that are shared across various cultures:
- India-Spain-America: Biryani is to the Indians what paella is to the Spanish and jambalaya in America. Aromatic rice is cooked with spices and meat/vegetable in one pot.
- Greece-India: Tzatziki is to the Greek culture what raita is to Indians.
- India-Armenia: Indians drink “lassi,” a thick yogurt drink, for the same reason Armenians have ‘tahn’ in the summer. It cools them off!
- India-Latin culture-Spain: Indians use turmeric for the same reason annatto seeds are used in Latin cuisine and saffron used in Spanish dishes. All three of these spices give a golden hue to the dish, and saffron makes the dish fragrant as well.
MAKE YOUR OWN TASTY TRIP
Food unifies cultures and countries. It can unify families too. So, how can you bring the world into your home? That’s where I hope Handfulofjoy.com can help! There you’ll find this and more:
- GLOBAL FOOD RECIPES: Use my site to find some of the best recipes from all over the world.
- STORYBOOK COOKING: Recipes that complement children’s books we’re reading in my home.
- SHARE THE GOSPEL: Find ways to pray and support missionaries and Christians around the world while tasting food from the cultures they serve.
What does the food you eat tell you about your family? What are the ways you can use food to expand your horizons and bless the countries of the world?
You can read more of how Nive uses free, printable resources–like free Focus on the Family’s missions passports and crafts by Michael’s–in this Hive Resources post, Passport to Summer Missions. She also has another post about how to Teach Kids to be Dinner Table Missionaries.
Thanks, Nive! Can’t wait to dig into some of these recipes!
Redeemedreader has also done a number of posts on stories from around the world, so if you’d like to do some further adventurous reading, check out our Christ in Literature: Anansi Stories and Japanese Literary Adventure: Study Notes.