Understanding a culture
July 5, 2010, 12:32 pm
Filed under: Philosophical, Uncategorized

I believe you can learn to understand a culture through their food. It has been my (albeit limited) experience that if you walk into a market, let’s say (because this is where I have experienced it the most) an Asian one, staffed by Asian immigrants with a poor grasp of English (ok, but their knowledge of English is light years ahead of my knowledge of Laotian), and if you start pulling stuff off the shelves and asking questions, they’ll light up and be happy to tell you what to do with banh pho, or black rice, or pickled daikon. I may not be thrilled about the various religious practices, or particular cultural practices, but food is a common factor across humankind. Everyone eats. Everyone. And if you show an interest in their food, you have a common meeting ground, a place to come together. ok, so I didn’t buy the pint of blood that was in the cooler, but I did get a bundle of cress, a bag of black rice and those beautiful woven rice wrappers. I also got a smile from the checkout person and a couple of comments from customers, including advice “that black rice is hard, cook it longer than you think”

If you want to try and understand someone, come to them through their food. It cuts across many obstacles.


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