By: Imelda Inyang-Udo
One fact about me is that, I love traveling and exploring new places and Cultures, especially the food aspects of Cultures most importantly outside my country Nigeria…yes I am a foodie. Then again, when I travel to some Countries far away from home and taste some delicacies I actually ask myself if it’s someone from my country who made the dish.
So many similarities, Influences, cooking styles, and methods, taste plus aromas and then those that have had improvement in recipes due to migration of people.
With all these, I often ask myself why food isn’t a strong global unifying force like soccer and music.
So I decided to do some research on food and how it can be a tool to positively bring Cultures closer together and achieve better interconnectedness. This article will explain the Influences cooking styles have on Culture plus the Influences of Colonialism, migration and technology in presentation
food as a workable tool for positive culture shock.
When we hear Culture shock, we often link it to it’s negative effects only and forget all the positive
magic sparks like a shock it can pose. I want to educate you that food can help in creating that magic
shock. First, let’s highlight the major linking factors that has lead to the term I call “Globalization of
– Recipe Mergers and improvements.
– Growth and Expansion of Food chains.
Click #MCZIGLIVESERIES to watch Imeda discuss food and culture shock.
Colonialism: Ok, I am not going to bore you with all too much history, here, but it’s a fact that colonial masters took their food and eating styles along with them to their colonial territories. So doing, have helped to Influence the foods they Colonised Countries eat. Most Anglophone countries
are lovers of Tea, Pies, English sandwiches, English pancakes, Donots,Bread crust foods, there is even a good twist to this because the English ruled with Indirect Method. Which meant that the colonial territories could actually bring in their own local foods and successfully combine. This is why foods like Boiled Rice, English stews or Casseroles, Beans cake (Moin-moin) and Salad can be plated together. While you can have Bread ,Akara and tea going beautifully well.
The French, Spanish, Portuguese (Francophone, Hispanic, Lusophone) colonies had more direct rule
and till today most foods that you eat from those countries have Strong Influence in taste, cooking style, ingredients, dishing, and snacks. Most countries in Latin/South America eat very similar; Taco, Guacamole, beans, casadias, tortillas, Fruit salad, Red wines, beef, rum, wedges, hochata and lots of Fruit filed dishes. This is exactly similar with what Spanish and Portuguese foods are alike.
Please Note that Spanish and Portuguese have very similar cultures and language that is why they are usually generalized as “The Latinas”._
Many Francophone countries eat lots of Crusty bread, Unleavened snacks, pastries, plenty seafood rich sauces, semolina, couscous, Kebabs, Steaks, plus wines as well. While many Asian countries
were equally Colonised, many truly and remarkably stayed true and maintained their authentic foods , styles and ways of cooking and presenting food till this very day. Indians for instance, eat Tandoori Chicken cooked in Coal ,They Eat Brianne, Loads of masala dishes and eat foods based on Strict Hindu Principles as 80% of the Indian population are Hindus
The Chinese, Thai, Koreans on the other hand, have unique foods and have maintained eating foods
dished in different small plates.
The Middle East Asians , Consisting majorly of Arabs, eat similar and have similar cooking patterns and Ingredients, as well. Arabs are generally meat (Pork meat excluded because many are Muslims),Yogurt, Dates, Shrimps, Unleavened snacks, rice, hummus Lovers. Because Arabs have are mostly Moslems and Islamism originates from The Middle East , Many Muslims around the world have by extension adopted the Arabic style and method of eating, cooking and dishing as well. Especially in Northern Africa, Eastern Europe and some parts Western and Central Africa.
Regionalism: After Colonialism, and Religious Influences on foods, cooking styles and presentation, then comes the effects regionalism has contributed in making food a tool for positive Culture shock. Tribes and ethnicities, soil type, languages, political affiliations, climate, geographical
locations all serve as characteristics that form the sum total of what regionalism entails.
People who are connected by one or more characteristics of regionalism eat similar foods. For example, Virtually all countries in the West African region eat and make Jollof rice in different forms but great similarities. Jollof rice became popular from the Gambian Tribe called Wolof (which the Portuguese called Jollof; because the letter W is pronounced as J in Portuguese language). Today, Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, Togo, Senegal, Niger and Chad have adopted Jollof rice. Peanut equally grows wild in the region hence, countries there eat many dishes with peanuts like Peanut soup, peanut snacks (Kulikuli, dankwa, kilishi, roasted peanuts, Ose Oji are some examples of snacks made with peanuts that are popular in the West African region and can equally be very good compliments to popular stables in the region as well),Peanut sauce, peanut paste. Yams and other crops. East Africa. Plantain dishes are more abundant especially in Uganda, Botswana, Rwanda where they are grown wide. Unripe plantains are used as swallows accompanied with soups. Irish Potatoes, Apples, berries grow wild in The United Kingdom and Many countries in Europe. Pies, puddings, Lasagne, casseroles, soups and sauces mostly have these ingredients in their foods. The Middle East eat less fish or sea food because that region is characterized by large Desert areas rather, drier foods like Dates, Olives, figs, cashews are more evident while Camels and poultry are the largest sources of protein.
Tropical fruits grow in abundance in many South American countries and the people take so much pride in eating and cooking with so many fruits. Mangoes grow so much and originated from SouthEast Asia especially the Subcontinent India hence Mangoes are supplies in their cuisines. Rice is a very common staple in Many Countries in the Asian regions as the soil type and topography there really encourages it’s growth from Japan, Korea, India, Thailand, China, Indonesia, Vietnam have rice featured in many things they eat from puddings, Sushi, dumplings, spring rolls, noodles and breads like Roti and Chapati, Idli, and many more.
While countries in Regions that consists of Islands, oceans and other Aquatic features eat plenty seafood like Finland, Seychelles, Norway, Caribbean, Japan, Thailand etc. eat plenty seafood rich
Migration: This is by far the most important factor that has led to positive Culture shock with food. Humans have always had reasons to migrate or emigrate to other societies and Communities from prehistoric times. So doing, bring aspects of their Cultures to unite with the new Cultures they will be meeting in the new settlement, food inclusive.
Some of the historic Migration effects of food culture shock include: Slave trade, Marriage, Neutralisation and Economic movements.
Slave trade: From the days of colonial rule as earlier mentioned, colonial masters brought with them their own foods to the territories they ruled and controlled while the slaves to took to till the lands in other territories or work in factories also took with them some aspects of their food culture.
For instance, Jamaicans, eat Pepperpot, a dish that is very similar to Peppersoup of West African countries like Nigeria, Togo and Ghana. Same with Plantain dishes. Majority of Countries in the Caribbean and South America have some strong Influences from Africa; Bahia in Brazil is a state that has many Yoruba descends plus numerous other Tribes in the West African region which has Influenced their eating and cooking styles. Nigerian Akara is Acaraje in Brazil with a twist because of the ingredients they have and a merger with Portuguese style of dieting. Nigerian Moin-moin is seen as Abara in Brazil with a twist of crabs, Chicken and Shrimps; extra spicy as well.
In America, the West African slaves and the Native Americans (Native Indians) plus other Race created a Dish Called Jambalaya; this is very similar with West African Jollof Rice, they also have Jambalaya Pasta with was later Influenced by Italian cuisine. Germans in America during the world war Introduced Hamburger as fast food to further compliment pasta cultures. Mexicans, Panamanians, Costa Ricans, Cubans Dominicans and many Mid Western countries equally have many dishes that were brought in by early slaves through slave trade and improved them to fit their taste. Asians such as Indians and Turkish also brought some aspects of their foods like Mangoes, Cashews, Donna Sandwiches.
Marriage: Especially Interracial and intertribal marriages bring more connectedness to food. We have had some good food recipes that have been created by interracial couples which brings a pack of flavours from regions. Empanadas, Samosas, Frittata, Salsas, Rice and Beans are all foods that have Influences from cultures coming together. Plantain dishes in some countries like Cuba, Colombia such as Plantain Lasagne and Grilled or Fried Plantains have strong Influence from Africa and Italian cuisines.
Neutralisation: In more modern times, as people move, there is a higher demand for their foods in their new settlements just like how we see Afro Shops, Asian shops, and co. Which means people are bringing their foods to the new settlements. Chinese, Indians, Turkish and Italians have successfully done this. I don’t think there are countries without Chinese or Indian Restaurants, same way, I don’t think Pasta is absent in any country today.
Chinese Snacks such as Spring rolls and Eggrolls are so popular in many countries same with Indian Samosas of all types. Shawarma also called Kebab is fast becoming a popular street food in many cities popularized by the Turks and further improved based on ingredients available. Afro foods are gaining ground. Asians and Americans equally have some dishes with Okra, yams, cassava all having Influences from Africa. Indians have equally popularized Roti and Chapati in East Africa especially Uganda and Kenya to the point that we now have Kenyan Chapati.
Economic movements: When people move for investment or work purposes, they also come along with their food Culture to the new settlement they wish to invest in.
Technology: Technological advancements have been tremendously helpful in the spread of positive Culture shock through food. Right from the historic commencement of Industrialization till
this day. When it comes to Fresh food, technology isn’t always the first thing that comes to mind.
However, technology over the years has changed how we produce and find our food through applications, production, processing techniques, preservation, distribution, learning and consumption of food.
For example, factories can now produce large volume of Pasta or cheese and distribute; that is making Italian culture spread more. Hotdogs and hamburgers are more accessible because technology produces more burger patties and Sausages. Ships and Cargoes equally help to convey large volume of food from one settlement to the other especially when people have migrated in large numbers to help maintain regional food habits. With Television and the age of the Internet, we can now learn how people of one part of the globe cook that is different from ours and inculcate it. Another example is the cultural food awareness of food and eating habits.
Recipe Mergers and improvements: An understanding of spread of food cultures and the factors that have helped in shaping it cannot be complete without this. Many Chefs and culinary experts have emerged and become successful for their abilities to merge old recipes with new ingredients or experiment old ways with new ingredients in a new settlement. Some others have emerged from successfully marrying cooking styles from different cultures (through travels) to create newer blends.
Incorporating the new ingredients to match the new tastes in their dishes. Vada pav is an example of such males created through this merger, Salads also.
KFC in West Africa serves Jollof rice, Moin-moin and other west African fast foods with a touch of American fast eating. While Americans are spreading their Food Chains through universal franchise, other countries are equally doing same. Thai, Vietnamese, Indian, Mexican restaurants are very evident in many cities across the world. The success, then creates a new culture that people of different tribes and races can associate to more.
Growth and expansion of food chains:
McDonald’s corporation, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Domino’s, Debonier are leading examples of food chains and franchise that help spread popular culture around the world. They spread American fast food with a twist to available ingredients in their host countries. KFC Meals in Saudi Arabia and many Middle East countries will be Spicier than those in Europe. McDonald’s India is likely going to inculcate many Vegetarian and Vegan fast foods and dishes because a large percentage of the Population are Hindus.
African Kitchens are equally becoming popular outside Africa especially Nigerian, Ghanaian, Senegalese and Ethiopia.
McDonald’s is only in 2 African countries 😕. Their eyes never open to the market they have in Nigeria . We that like to hype foreign foods more than our own. While KFC’s leading market is Africa oh with Angola topping. Drive-ins and cultural themed street vendors are becoming a huge sight in cities across the globe.
This means that as foods are been improved upon, New recipes are created, technology helps in either televising or mass producing, people move with that new recipe, a whole cultural order is created. This is truly a globalizing force. Methods and styles of cooking and eating, dining rules and presentation, Religious preferences, regional preferences and ingredients, tastes all coming together
and plated up. We can indeed say cultures, despite its differences and wide diversified can indeed be unified. We can all appreciate and respect the beauty of culture true food and that indeed produces positive culture shock.
Imelda Inyang-Udo is a chef and founder, Yayala Tasty a member of the hospitality Industry and co-owner of a travel agency, Smart Future Resources LTD.