The term food culture refers to the attitudes, beliefs, and practices related to producing and eating food. Entire countries can have food cultures, as can individual families. The food culture someone grows up in often remains with them for the rest of their life. It might take only a whiff of a favorite meal to take their mind back to childhood and relationships with people, some of whom have likely passed away by now. Food cultures typically have these things in common:
- People sit down to enjoy the food and then move on with everything else they have planned for the day.
- A positive food culture includes sharing meals with family and other loved ones.
- Food is often the focal point of celebrations and milestones.
- The value of land receives higher value than the convenience of people.
- Seasonal and local ingredients can make the food served especially unique.
- The purpose of food is to share and celebrate it.
How People Are Losing Their Food Culture
When people don’t grow up with a strong food culture, it’s common for them to look at food as something to manipulate and control. They also have little respect for it. Several factors contribute to this, including the development and popularity of commercially processed foods and the diet culture in the United States. These are just two factors that have contributed to Americans feeling entirely disconnected from their food culture.
The Family Meal is a Part of Food Culture
Sitting down to eat meals together as a family helps to develop relationships and traditions besides the more practical reason of filling an empty stomach. Regardless of culture, sharing food with other people symbolizes hospitality, compassion, gratitude, and several other positive traits. Eating together up to three times a day deepens bonds between family members as well as gives them the opportunity to learn from and teach each other.
Family doesn’t necessarily mean the nuclear unit of mother, father, and a few biological children. It can be any group of people who live or regularly spend time together. Making eating together as a group a priority offers the following important benefits:
- Provides predictability and structure to the day
- Attends to the nutritional needs of each person
- Contributes to the mental, physical, and social well-being of each participant
- Helps children learn socialization skills
Although daily routine is an important part of food culture, sitting down to eat together a few times a week is better than not doing it at all.
Understanding the Chinese Food Culture
The food culture in China is one of the most unique ones in the world. It’s about so much more than eating, as anyone who has observed mealtime seating patterns can attest. The head of the household or most honored guest typically sits at the head of the table. People considered most important after this person sit on his or her left and right. The seating hierarchy ends with the youngest person at the table usually sitting directly across from the oldest or most esteemed. Additionally, the meal doesn’t start until the youngest person invites the oldest person to sit down to eat.
People don’t have to live in China to establish a food culture and routine all their own. Their own children and future generations will be better for it.