To really understand a culture’s cuisine, one has to take a peek at what they can find in local markets or shops. PICTURE: Unsplash
To really understand a culture’s cuisine, one has to take a peek at what they can find in local markets or shops. PICTURE: Unsplash

The cultural importance of food

By Lutho Pasiya Time of article published Sep 20, 2021

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Sometimes, many of us enjoy food that would not be typically served in our households. For instance, you may desire Italian takeaway during the weekends or may visit your local restaurant for a buffet during the week. What most of us do not realise is that the food we eat has a lot to say about their cultures.

The connection between food and culture is a lot stronger than most of us think. We eat many types of food, not thinking much of it. But when we do, we usually have warm, fond memories of, perhaps, our grandparents or parents cooking our favourite dish after we had a bad day at school.

Cape Town 160918- Porridge (umpokoqo) with Amasi is prepared during the pre-heritage celebration in Atlantis. Picture cindy Waxa

Whenever I devour umngqusho (samp and beans) or umvubo (dry pap mixed with maas), I always think about my dad, and how he makes these dishes so delicious. I think about all our memories in the kitchen helping him make the food.

For such reasons, plenty of dishes hold immense personal value to us. As we grow up, we often seek out these dishes because they now have value in our lives. Whenever we are feeling down, lonely, or simply need comfort, we prepare these traditional dishes to make us feel better. While these dishes may bring great feelings of positivity into our lives, food also has cultural implications.

Food connects people

When you think about it, back in the days of our forefathers, eating alone was never something normal. Families and friends would gather together to eat. Well, even in my generation it was something that was still existent. But, today, with the way technology and work culture create physical isolation, eating alone is much more common but, even so, people seek out others to enjoy a meal with – to connect with.

Ingredients are very important

To really understand a culture’s cuisine, one has to take a peek at what they can find in local markets or shops. Ingredients used tell us so much about people’s lifestyles and needs. A region's climate also plays a role in the supply of certain ingredients. This way, every culture manages to establish its own flavour profile. An example of this would be the use of spices – which makes this more fascinating.

Food creates beautiful memories

FRIENDS AND FAMILY ENJOY A BRAAI ON A BOAT

Because we apply so much emotional importance to food at the moment, it only makes sense that it would also become an important part of our memories. Experts reveal that humans recall memories more easily and clearly when they are attached to a physical sensation as well as an emotional experience.

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