Food Culture as a Part of the National Culture Essay

Food culture has always been an essential part of the human existence. Different nations have developed their unique food peculiarities. Food is an inalienable component of the authentic culture of a particular community. This element is an essential part of the national culture and is distinguished from the other cultures. The food preferences reflect the food patterns and choices of a certain cultural group. Due to the people moving to different countries, the food cultures also traveled over their original borders.

Literature Review

An increased interest in the food culture is observed in the modern society. It penetrates into all spheres of the mass culture. Numerous researches study the culinary peculiarities and popularization of food culture. The processes of cooking and consumption of food and food culture are not just the means of satisfying the biological need in nutrition anymore; they have become the parts of daily life of a modern human being (Cassarino 14). The cultural knowledge of food is widely covered in numerous theoretical and practical studies.

Food culture is an element of the national cultural tradition; in such a manner, certain ethnical foods are typical for a particular social group. It is a certain empirical experience earned by a community; it reflects the nutrition system limited by the space and time.

In the studies on the relevant interconnection of the food culture and cultural tradition (“Food Culture and Tradition”), food is considered a stable element of the cultural traditions. With the help of the cultural memory, every cultural group or individual distinguish specific tastes and other food attributes known from the childhood. They are nurtured in every social group and all of its representatives. Moreover, the article describes that in the past, food consumption used to be a survival means. Nowadays, however, it is associated with the pleasure in most developed countries while the poor countries still do not pay much attention to the esthetic side of food as its primary aim is to provide energy from the available natural resources of a particular region (Silva et al. 11).

Food culture is not only an element of hospitality but also bears a religious and social significance. The food culture is predetermined by the way of cooking, consumption, and serving. These processes depend on the behavior of the inhabitants of each country.

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The study emphasized the migration of the food culture from one country to another one due to the people moving for different reasons ranging from the religious to adventure goals. Therefore, the foreign food culture has settled in the traditional cultural basis of another encountering country and/or experienced the transformation (Pill 119). The article draws the readers’ attention to the reasons for the preferred food and preparing methods in every ethnical culture. According to the research, the food culture has roots in the opportunities to be found under particular conditions and circumstances.

The research stated that the differences in the food traditions are harmoniously integrated in a particular culture (Counihan and Esterik 11). Nowadays, it seems complicated to analyze and describe the distinguished food cultures explicitly. The authors mention that a representative of one culture will experience the cultural shock due to a different cultural perception. There is an interesting issue that highlights the peculiarities of the food culture. The source considers the physiological taste experiences, peculiarities of preparation, and basic attitudes including the acceptance of the natural environment, as well as social interconnections. Therefore, the authors underline the importance of food culture once more.

The differences in food culture are still an object of scientific interest. Kim, Oh, and Park study the regional and cultural differences of nutrition (Kim, Oh, and Park 4). The wide scope of the research covers the most significant issues of the food culture. The scientists pointed out that the food habits can be traced back to the first humans; they have evolved due to the development of social community and economic ties. The formation of a civilized society promoted hunting, gathering, agriculture, Industrial Revolution, and current innovation. These historical advances showed the growth in the people’s attempts to get food and make the process of its preparation easier.

The food culture is examined in the light of the cultural tradition of a certain country. The overall assumption of Almli et al. concerning the tastes and taboos in the food cultures leads to the thought that the food preferences of various countries make the world multiform (130). The accustomed way of nutrition of Americans may run counter to the Asians’ one due to the existing food rules and taboos. The high-calorie content of the American dishes is harmful to the Indian or Tibetan food cultures since their representatives provide food with a greater meaning. The authors emphasize the hierarchy of the eligible foods and the role of animals in it.

Food culture reflects nutrition of a particular nation and is associated with it. Understanding of the distinctions and specifics of some culture is tied with the features of the food consumption. Everyone is prone to drawing parallels between the nutrition in the country and character of its citizens (Fieldhouse 24). Such association occurs due to the ability of food preferences to represent the unique tastes, traditions, history, and culture of a particular nation. In most cases, this connection is predictable and expected. Identification of the food choices and habits may reveal the affiliation of a person to a certain social or religious group.

The researches into the connection between the current environment and food culture provide a special group of scientific facts about the interdependence and mutual influence of these attributes of human life. For example, a certain online study has proved that the diet and environment are linked. The biodiversity of the region enables people to identify the country by its food culture. In the example with crops, the developer initiated the issue of the authentic origin of food and inherent natural environment.

The joint report of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the Platform for Agrobiodiversity Research raised the question about the connection of the food production, biodiversity of a particular country, and food security (“Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture”). Thus, these attempts of a nation, which were proved by the previous deduction, reflected the attitude to the food culture and the food production conditioned by the absolute natural resources of a region. The sustainability of agriculture shifts the food preferences in terms of the natural nutrition. The ecological state and scarce natural resources can affect the food culture and cause its transformation. The point is that the food that was common for the past generations and made their habitual diet has been changing over the years of agricultural development and industrial exploration.

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Food culture is influenced by social customs and historical occasions. For example, social and religious events may affect the tradition of preparing certain products. A different taste, ingredients, inclusion of fruit, vegetables, spices, or herbs, food service and preparation are the elements of cuisine and reflect the traditions of a nation.

Eating within the food culture has an important part in the religious vision and presents a solitary ceremony in some religions. The type of food and peculiarities of consumption have a substantial role in the food culture associated with the religious traditions of the world. The study of the Better Health Channel suggests the connection between food culture and religion (“Food Culture and Religion”). Food is considered an element of the spiritual ritual of many religions. The food is accepted in observance of Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, and other religions of the global community. The food culture of these religions varies since their followers have different worldviews. The adherence to certain religion means maintenance of the appropriate food culture. As an example, the researchers provide the food and drinks of the Christians that may not be widespread among the followers of other religion. In the daily life, Orthodox and Catholic Christians eat different kinds of meat. General restrictions do not include fish consumption. There is also a fast, during which the Christians follow a strict food diet. In comparison, the Protestants have no similar rituals and celebrate only a few religion feasts.

The Christians value the ceremony of Holy Communion that includes the consumption of bread and wine as the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ. The dairy food is allowed by the Christian food culture and should be avoided only on certain fasting days. Among the Christians, the alcohol consumption is ambiguous while the Muslims are prohibited to drink alcohol at all. The consumption of meat is also a strict issue in Islam. The food culture of the Islamic countries allows adding meat to the diet if it was gotten with the conduction of the religious rituals of slaughtering. Moreover, the Islamic religious traditions prohibit pork meat.

The Islamic food culture is based on the strict Sharia laws (Huda). According to the authoritative scientific sources, the dietary habits are guided by Allah. The Halal concept determines the permitted products that can be useful while Haram lists the forbidden food that is harmful to the spirit of a Muslim. Specific fasting traditions require special behavior and variable diet. The Haram food such as the pork mentioned above and the derivative products are also forbidden for the Islamic community. The Muslim competent sources admit that bread and certain bread products can come under the Haram concept if they contain the alcohol traces owing to the yeast ferments. The same issue concerns gelatin and caffeinated drinks.
Judaism also has a specific food culture (“Judaism 101: Jewish Cooking”). As the Jewish articles testify, their culinary concludes the kosher food that is permitted by the ancient religious laws and strictly excludes shellfish and pork. The cultural peculiarities of food among the Jewish community are tightly associated with the formal behavior; they even concern the way of the food preparation and serving. The food culture of the Jews is also conditioned by the fasting and appropriate type of dishes and their permitted composition.
Hinduism has developed a special attitude to the food as it is associated with the body and true gift of God (Jayaram). Therefore, their food culture emphasizes the health food habits; food in it obtains more meaning rather than nutrition. According to the Hindu source, the food consumption has always been filled with religious content. For a Hindu, preparation and eating are the sacrificial acts intended to strength his or her soul and body. The dishes prepared by these people are offered to God; they include food with tang and different tastes depending on what is the purpose of the consumption. Food varies from the so-called pure one, which is full of light feelings, to hot one that includes strong impressions and is salty or spicy, as well as so-called intoxicating food that is full of vital energy.

The serving traditions divide the food of the Hindus into several categories according to the status of a person, his or her guests, and purposes of offering. Mostly, the cuisine includes vegetarian dishes, some types of meat and fish, dairy products, and different spices. The cultural traditions with religious basis forbid crabs and ducks in some regions with the Hinduism culture. Most Hindus does not consume beef, alcohol, garlic, and onion. Therefore, the food culture of this religious group has some similarities with the Islamic and Buddhism concepts.
Another faith that determine the food culture of its followers is Buddhism. According to the study of Framingham State University, this religion prescribes the awareness of natural products that comes from the earth and thus, are considered as the purest (“Buddhism”). The study focuses on the fact that the food habits of the Buddhism community vary. Most popular dishes are vegetarian and can include fish and meat. The Buddhists from Vietnam and China refuse from garlic, shallot, and onion as some of the Hindus, but prefer the pungent spice. The Buddhists from Tibet forbid the consumption of meat and adhere to the vegetarian lifestyle (Anderson 21). The study on the attitude to alcohol and addictive products suggested that these products are strongly negative due to its impact on the consciousness and appropriate behavior of a person.

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The issues of the immigration and changes in the food culture are a separate theoretical and practical research. One of them studies the evolution of the food habits, as well as the formation of the multicultural food and dominant food peculiarities around the world (Koc, and Welsh 47). Koc and Welsh revealed the immigrant identity though the food habits and hard access to get food appropriate to a particular individual. The importance of adaptation to the foreign food due to the immigration is considered significant and complicated as a human body that formed and developed on a certain type of food may refuse other ingredients. Therefore, food plays a determined role in the wellbeing and health of an individual and reflects his or her identity and culture.

Methodology

The methodology of the research of food culture may include the analysis and comparison of different food cultures from worldwide. The trend of food consumption also refers to the tools of the methodological approach to the issue. The articles and statistical data confirm the actuality and research ability of the food culture. The attitude to the problem is based on the focus and generalization of the current phenomenon by the determinants of its development. The hypothesis is also used in the research as an important tool of discussion and analysis. The validity of the research methodology definitely reflects a given problem since its results are proved by reliable scientific articles and publications. The research of food culture should be conducted on the basis of authorized statistical and sociological data.

Data Analysis

The research of food culture primary considers the common culture, religion, biodiversity, lifestyle of people, and the immigration rate of a particular country. Religion is among the important determinants of the food culture, which influence the nutrition features of a region. Thus, the religious distribution can testify the growth of a particular community and appropriate widespread of certain food. According to the data, in 2010, the largest percentage among the major religious groups is taken by the Christians.

The representatives of the Christian communities that follow a specific food culture represent 31.5 % of all the world’s population. The widespread of the Christian beliefs has determined the popularity of specific cuisine and adherence to the rituals, in which the diet play a significant role as one of its major attributes.

The Muslim population constitutes more than 23 % of the global population. The Islamic traditions described above are actual and crucial for the faithful part of the world community. Consequently, the food culture took the same percentage as the Muslim beliefs include the traditions of a particular nutrition as the component of the Quran. The religious base of the social life of these people is the texts that regulate the culinary behavior of people praying to Allah. This social category is less experienced in terms of the food changes; therefore, the food culture can mostly be measured by a number of Muslim followers.

In 2010, the unaffiliated people constituted more than 16% of the planet population. A high percentage of those who did not follow any religion meant the population with certain food identity but without religious views. Therefore, these people did not support the initial religious meaning of their diet. Although they could understand the role of the food culture, they would say nothing about the possibility to associate their food culture with any religious group.

The next significant percentage was taken by the Hinduism due to the high number of its followers. Nevertheless, it did not have any strong influence on the special food culture. The nutritional attributes are widespread and vary within this religious group. The popularity of the Hindu culinary was higher owing to the exports of the food tradition. However, according to the data as for 2010, the core meaning of the Hindu food culture was preserved by 15% of the total population.

In 2010, the mentioned Buddhism religion and its food culture had only 7.1%. The low share of this group can be explained by the limited number of population in the Buddhism countries and the specifics of the religion and food peculiarities that remained complicated to most tourists and immigrants.

The small percentage of the folk religionists and followers of other religions may be considered in the framework of the major religious group as their food preferences may base on the popular processes of purchase, preparation, serving, and consumption.

The research of the popularity of certain food culture basing on religion has some issues. The assumptions concerned only the core and accurate distribution of different food cultures among religious people and excluded the possible followers or those who tried the particular cuisine for a tourism purpose.

The major part of the Christian food culture was spread all over the world. The Muslim cuisine was popular in the North Africa and Middle East. The religiously unaffiliated population with indefinite food belonging made up the majority in China, Japan, Czech Republic, North Korea, Hong Kong, and Estonia. Nevertheless, these countries have own food culture, which can be analyzed separately.

The Hindu-majority countries, including India, Nepal, and Mauritius shared a similar nutrition. The Buddhist food was popular among such religious countries as Sri Lanka, Laos, Bhutan, Mongolia, Burma, Thailand, and Cambodia. These countries share almost the same food tradition according to their religion, but the biodiversity and socioeconomic opportunity of the population have caused some differences in nutrition. The Jewish food is mostly consumed in Israel as the center of this religion. Nevertheless, the worldwide Jewish population is much bigger due to numerous ethnic groups living outside the country.

Food culture can also be researched in the light of the opportunities for the countries’ residents including the families’ budget to be spent on food. The prices and incomes of social groups will show the needs and level of the food consumption worldwide.

According to the data, a high rate of the residents’ income spent on food was typical of the Algeria (43.8 %), Pakistan (45.5 %), Ukraine (42.1%), Belarus (43.2 %), Morocco (40.4 %), and Kenya (44.9 %). These countries had a higher consumption rate and opportunities for a developed food culture. The socioeconomic tradition to spend more on food proved the difference from other countries, according to the factor of spending. Among the major countries with fewer food preferences, there were the USA (6.9%), Canada (9.1%), Ireland (7.2%), and the UK (8.8%). These countries with own cuisine spend less money on food in comparison with the world community. Moreover, the rating reflected and conditioned the impact of the price dynamics, growth of population, weather conditions, currency, economic circumstances, and social behavior as the additional influencing determinants of their food culture.

The global tendency of the food culture concerns the food security due to the growth of hazardous substances in the environment. The food security may also satisfy the proper and actual needs of the human body in proteins that are equally available and valued by all food cultures and societies (table 1) (“Food Security Indicators”).

According to the data, the protein supply in food for all regions was different in the long run. Latin America, Eastern Asia, and Northern Africa had the richest supply as these countries built their diet on meat or/ and cereal crops for domestic usage and exports. Meanwhile, Middle Africa, Eastern Africa, and the Caribbean had a smaller protein supply. The low protein ingredients of their dishes are typical of their food culture.

The national table etiquette is a part of the food culture. The most popular cultures are Asian, European, Turkish, American, and the one of the Middle East. The distinguishing attributes are a way of seating, eating, body language, conversation, food, table serving items, and place (“Cross Cultural Dining Etiquette”). The roles of each participant in a dining ceremony are predetermined by the cultural and religious norms. The Chinese people, for example, use chopsticks while the Arabians help themselves with hands; the rest uses traditional dinnerware like folk, knife, and spoon. The behavior is also different, according to the social status and place of eating.

The food culture has passed through great changes due to the immigration. The Chinese, American, African, and other flexible immigration groups settle down in various countries worldwide and import their food cultures into the local traditions of nutrition. The popularity of the American and Asian cuisine became a craze and statement of the gastronomic fashion. Nevertheless, the global trends of changes that happened in particular countries are confirmed by the numbers of immigrants in the most popular destinations (“International Migration Statistics”).

According to the data, the US, Russian Federation, Germany, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE are the most popular destination chosen by millions of immigrants that bring foreign food culture with them. The lack of natural and usual nutrition force them to create appropriate establishments and develop own food culture within the new countries of residence. Therefore, the community of these countries and the rest 20 countries from the top rating are exposed to the alien food tradition. They experience the substitution of the native food.

It should be admitted that today, the term of international food becomes real due to the quick and wide spreading of the most influencing countries’ cultures that promote cheap and high-calorie food. The national food cultures, especially the weak and yeasty ones of poor countries, suffer from the Chinese noodles and American hotdogs. The influence of these popular items is accomplished with the economic, labor, and products’ supply due to international trade and investment. Numerous articles point out the fact that immigrants continue to be faithful to their food culture, which is a part of their national and historical background.

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Results

The theoretical and practical researches revealed the essential role and trends of the food culture. The scientific and publicist articles confirmed the key importance and historical meaning of nutrition among other elements of social and economic life of the regional and world communities.

The articles revealed the connection and interdependence between the food habits, culture, and religion. The religious base is significantly reflected in a particular national tradition and cuisine of certain countries and regions. The division of the world community into several religious groups allows determining the peculiarities of each one.
It was noted that the food culture has a strong economic and social background. Its historical past explains the differences in the food cultures of various communities. It was found out that the diet of a particular country can identify any individual wherever he or she is.

The current importance of food culture concerns the loss or preservation of biodiversity and tight connection with the environment. Therefore, scientific views are focused on the food security as the modern indicator of the food culture and safe environment.

According to the chosen methodology, the results feature the following findings. The dominant role is played by the Christian food culture owing to the worldwide spread of this religion. The next position is taken by Islam and its numerous followers. Therefore, the Muslim food tradition has had a serious influence on the world culture.

The food culture also depends on the economic factors as they have been proved to cause a difference in the acceptance treatment of food and nutrition. The mentioned food security has testified the unequal distribution of the protein supply among various regions and its effects on the food cultures.

Food culture contains the table cultural etiquette that is an integral part and peculiarity of the nation. Consequently, different ethnical groups have developed and followed various types of this cultural phenomenon. Moreover, there can even be certain cultural contradictions.

The immigration movement predetermines certain modifications of the food culture and leads to its changes. The most favorable countries for immigrants were defined in the research. The effect on the food culture of the immigrants was made by the one of the powerful and largest countries because of the economic features.

Discussion

The discussion points concern the origin of the food culture; at the same time, its economic, cultural, and social background may be the consequences of its formation and development. The impact of another food tradition on the national one may be reflected in the permanent interdependence of countries rather than immigration influence. The attempts of creating the measurement tools for the food culture are still shallow. The religious indicators that may reflect the food culture are rough but explain the core of the issue. The discussion points consider the definition of food culture among the other elements of national and global culture. The further research disputes may touch upon the cross-cultural behavior while eating.

Conclusion

Food culture is a unique phenomenon by itself due to its social, cultural, economic, and political dimensions. It can be referred to at the macro and micro levels; moreover, it plays an important role in the national and international affairs. Food culture can explain the historical and modern life of people. This issue divides the world community into several major groups by religion, etiquette, food spending, and immigration. The important role of identification is attributed to food culture by the current complicated changes.