Food + Culture

Thursday, May 10, 2018

All over the world, food plays a central role in society. While each culture treats eating differently, we all value well-being and enjoyment of food.

 

An image of a dish on a white plate next to some chopsticks

The French, for instance, would never consider multi-tasking while eating. 

In ‘French Women Don’t Get Fat’, author Mireille Guiliano suggests that sitting down and eating mindfully is a key factor in the French woman’s ability to stay slim. In the land of leisurely meals, savouring food deliberately may increase the feeling of satisfaction, which may help control overeating and portion size.

In China, a common belief is that foods can play significant roles in body health and vitality. Ingredients are described as ‘hot’, ‘cold’ or ‘neutral’, and depending on people’s body status, foods of the opposite nature are eaten to bring the body back to balance. It’s also believed that eating certain foods together can be detrimental to the body, but eating seasonal food has great benefits, as seasonality coincides with nature. The Chinese saying 'Yi Shi Yang Sheng' means eat well, stay healthy.

To Italians, family is everything, and it is common practice for the whole household to sit down together to eat. Multiple generations may be involved in preparing food, and recipes are often passed down through the family like heirlooms. Traditionally, no one eats until everyone is present and seated. As one regional proverb goes, 'Chi mangia e non invita, possa strozzarsi con ogni mollica' (He who eats alone and invites no one, may choke with every crumb).
 

Two chefs cooking using a large work and frying pan in a professional kitchen

 

The art of kaiseki

The traditional Japanese multi course meal known as kaiseki is the ultimate experience in the pleasure and beauty of food. Dishes of exquisitely prepared food, chosen to honour the season with the ingredients selected and the individual bowls and vessels used to present them, build into a meal that approaches perfection. As Vaughn Tan wrote in his 2009 article ‘Understanding Kaiseki’, for The Atlantic magazine, “By meal’s end, I was satisfied in the broadest sense of the word: fantastically delicious food made with care and thought eaten in the company of people who feel strongly about food often does that to me. But beyond that, kaiseki’s underlying structure is part of what makes it so rich and satisfying to compose, prepare, and consume.”