Food has been known throughout history to be a form of self-expression and identity. It has been a means of preserving culture from generation to generation.
Every nation has its own wonderfully unique cuisine, adorned with touches of its national heritage. But what is the significance of food as part of someone’s cultural identity?
Food has become a part of who we are and often allows us to briefly relive moments of childhood, oftentimes making us reminisce about the good memories. Something is comforting about traditional food; a longing for home and our loved ones fulfilled by the savory, warm aroma of the dishes.
It seems only reasonable for immigrants to often retain their culinary customs even after years of immigrating to another country. It’s like bringing a piece of their homeland with them, an everlasting sense of security.
Continuing to cook traditional food despite the modern culture of this day and age is a symbol of pride of their ethnicity for many families. Through the rich flavors and various colors, a story is told. Every dish is emblematic of a nation’s history, beliefs, and values.
A perfect example is Chinese cuisine. For the Chinese, balance is very important. This is why all five flavors of sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and spicy are combined to make a well-balanced and tasty dish. For them, presentation and the appearance of the dish matter just as much as the taste, as they have to look appealing. Chinese food is also symbolic of their philosophies and beliefs.
The Chinese dumplings, or jiaozi, that are often eaten during Lunar New Year, are shaped like a bag of money. The Chinese believe they symbolize wealth and fortune. Another dish is tangyuan. This is often eaten during the Lantern Festival symbolizing the full moon. Its roundness also means “togetherness and reunion”.
Mooncakes that are often eaten during the Mid-Autumn Festival also hold a special meaning. They mean family reunion, as they are shaped like the harvest moon. In certain special events like birthdays, food plays an important role as well. Noodles are often a significant aspect as their long shape represents long life. The Chinese really have different dishes for different events, portraying the essence of food in their culture.
This is just an example of how beliefs and values can be reflected through traditional food. Another example that hits close to home for most Indonesians is the most loved instant noodle, Indomie. Indomie’s affordable price and delicious taste are a couple of the main reasons it is widespread in Indonesia. Many Indonesians often bring packets of Indomie when traveling or staying abroad, coming to the rescue to comfort homesickness. It has been a source of pride in most Indonesians, accompanying their days when situations are tight.
These examples show how food is more than just food to many. It holds a special significance – a warm place in someone’s heart. No matter how far you may be from your home country, traditional food will always give you a piece of home to bring with you wherever you go. They are there in our ups and downs, in our highs and lows. They are there as a part of us forever.