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5 Reasons Why Food is the Best Way to Understand a Culture

5 Reasons Why Food is the Best Way to Understand a Culture

Tell me what you eat, and I’ll tell you who you are.” – Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1825).

Food plays an integral role in our lives and rightfully so: the food we eat is intricately intertwined with our culture. You can learn a lot about a particular culture by exploring their food. In fact, it may be difficult to fully define a culture without a nod to their cuisine.

Don’t believe me? Here’s why food is the best way to understand a culture:

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Food is a universal necessity.

It doesn’t matter where in the world you’re from – you have to eat. And your societal culture most likely evolved from that very need, the need to eat. Once they ventured beyond hunting and gathering, many early civilizations organized themselves in ways that facilitated food distribution and production. That also meant that the animals, land and resources you were near dictated not only what you’d consume, but how you’d prepare and cook it. The establishment of the spice trade and the merchant silk road are two example of the great lengths many took to obtain desirable ingredients.

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    Food preservation techniques are unique to climates and lifestyle.

    Ever wonder why the process to preserve meat is so different around the world? It has to do with local resources, needs, and climates. In Morocco, Khlea is a dish composed of dried beef preserved in spices and then packed in animal fat. When preserved correctly, it’s still good for two years when stored at room temperature. That makes a lot of sense in Morocco, where the country historically has had a strong nomadic population, desert landscape, and extremely warm, dry temperatures.

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      Staples of a local cuisines illustrate historical eating patterns.

      Some societies have cuisines that are entirely based on meat, and others are almost entirely plant-based. Some have seasonal variety and their cuisines change accordingly during different parts of the year. India’s cuisine is extremely varied from region to region, with meat and wheat heavy dishes in the far north, to spectacular fish delicacies in the east, to rice-based vegetarian diets in the south, and many more variations in between.

      The western part of India is home to a group of strict vegetarians: they not only avoid flesh and eggs, but even certain strong aromatics like garlic, or root vegetables like carrots and potatoes. Dishes like Papri Chat, featuring vegetable based chutneys mixed with yoghurt, herbs and spices are popular.

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        Components of popular dishes can reveal cultural secrets.

        This is probably the most intriguing part of studying a specific cuisine. Certain regions of the world have certain ingredients easily available to them. Most people know that common foods such as corn, tomatoes, chili peppers, and chocolate are native to the Americas, or “New World”. Many of today’s chefs consider themselves to be extremely modern when fusing cuisines, but cultural lines blended long ago when it comes to purity of ingredients.

        Black pepper originated in Asia but became, and still remains, a critical part of European cuisine. The Belgians are some of the finest chocolatiers, despite it not being native to the old world. And perhaps one of the most interesting result from the blending of two cuisines is Chicken Tikka Masala; it resembles an Indian Mughali dish, but was actually invented by the British!

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          Food tourism – it’s a whole new way to travel.

          Some people have taken the intergation of food and culture to a new level. No trip they take is complete with out a well-researched meal plan, that dictates not only the time of year for their visit, but also how they will experience a new culture.

          So, a food tourist won’t just focus on having a pint at Oktoberfest, but will be interested in learning the German beer making process, and possibly how they can make their own fresh brew. Food tourists visit many of the popular mainstays for traditional tourism, like New York City, San Francisco, London, or Paris, but many locations that they frequent, such as Armenia or Laos, may be off the beaten path for most travelers. And since their interest in food is more than meal deep, they have the chance to learn local preparation techniques that can shed insight into a whole other aspect of a particular region’s culture.

          https://www.flickr.com/photos/karen_roe/7710763910/in/photolist-cKnFtm-vR9Pce-77TBC2-77XwjY-764cwk-7686GL-9XZmkA-e924xM-e8nBQr-8Z6gtC-7XBVoD-72cCtE-dJZTPW-aCRFNm-aCZTHV-9s9mCQ-cZ99aC-dNMxvF-9M5B7v-aqiCnK-uCccEs-cZ8QkC-qm6A1n-3oHNny-eX6Zc4-dNM7fB-6zTD1b-fkzFMh-cxFoc7-9ojvc5-9pi9t5-7KNak1-vAF7Sy-6BATiQ-72bq9R-oGVxeF-c9uczw-8oNFf4-jyYtV-8Esx2w-aCREPo-aCZTvk-aD14di-9Q5UGu-dNTao9-7Q1Baq-dha248-t7LP4G-bKy1GM-5GRGo

            Featured photo credit: Butter Chicken/ Kelly.Garsha via flickr.com

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            Last Updated on December 2, 2019

            10 Powerful Ways to Stop Worrying and Start Living Today

            10 Powerful Ways to Stop Worrying and Start Living Today

            Plato knew that the body and mind are intimately linked. And in the late 1800s, the Mayo brothers, famous physicians, estimated that over half of all hospital beds are filled with people suffering from frustration, anxiety, worry and despair. Causes of worry are everywhere, in our relationships and our jobs, so it’s key we find ways to take charge of the stress.

            In his classic book How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, Dale Carnegie offers tools to ditch excessive worrying that help you make a worry-free environment for your private and professional life.

            These are the top 10 tips to grab worry by the horns and wrestle it to the ground:

            1. Make Your Decision and Never Look Back

            Have you ever made a decision in life only to second-guess it afterwards? Of course you have! It’s hard not to wonder whether you’ve done the right thing and whether there might still be time to take another path.

            But keep this in mind: you’ve already made your decision, so act decisively on it and dismiss all your anxiety about it.

            Don’t stop to hesitate, to reconsider, or to retrace your steps. Once you’ve chosen a course of action, stick to it and never waver.

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            2. Live for Today, Package Things up in “Day-Tight Compartments”

            You know that feeling: tossing, turning and worrying over something that happened or something that might, well into the wee hours. To avoid this pointless worrying, you need “day-tight compartments”. Much as a ship has different watertight compartments, your own “day-tight” ones are a way to limit your attention to the present day.

            The rule is simple: whatever happened in the past or might happen in the future must not intrude upon today. Everything else has to wait its turn for tomorrow’s box or stay stuck in the past.

            3. Embrace the Worst-Case Scenario and Strategize to Offset It

            If you’re worried about something, ask yourself: “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” Could you lose your job? Be jailed? Get killed?

            Whatever the “worst” might be, it’s probably not so world-ending. You could probably even bounce back from it!

            If, for example, you lose your job, you could always find another. Once you accept the worst-case scenario and get thinking about contingency plans, you’ll feel calmer.

            4. Put a Lid on Your Worrying

            Sometimes we stress endlessly about negative experiences when just walking away from them would serve us far better.

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            To make squashing that worry easier, try this strategy, straight from stock traders: it’s called the “stop-loss” order, where shares are bought at a certain price, and then their price development is observed. If things go badly and the share price hits a certain point, they are sold off immediately. This stops the loss from increasing further.

            In the same manner, you can put a stop-loss order on things that cause you stress and grief.

            5. Fake It ‘Til You Make It – Happiness, That Is

            We can’t directly influence how we feel, but we can nudge ourselves to change through how we think and act.

            If you’re feeling sad or low, slap a big grin on your face and whistle a chipper tune. You’ll find it impossible to be blue when acting cheerful. But you don’t necessarily need to act outwardly happy; you can simply think happier thoughts instead.

            Marcus Aurelius summed it up aptly:

            “Our life is what our thoughts make it.”

            6. Give for the Joy of Giving

            When we perform acts of kindness, we often do so with the expectation of gratitude. But harboring such expectations will probably leave you disappointed.

            One person well aware of this fact was the lawyer Samuel Leibowitz. Over the course of his career, Leibowitz saved 78 people from going to the electric chair. Guess how many thanked him? None.

            So stop expecting gratitude when you’re kind to someone. Instead, take joy from the act yourself.

            7. Dump Envy – Enjoy Being Uniquely You

            Your genes are completely unique. Even if someone had the same parents as you, the likelihood of someone identical to you being born is just one in 300,000 billion.

            Despite this amazing fact, many of us long to be someone else, thinking the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. But living your life this way is pointless. Embrace your uniqueness and get comfortable with who you really are: How to Be True to Yourself and Live the Life You Want

            8. Haters Will Hate — It Just Means You’re Doing It Right

            When you’re criticized, it often means you’re accomplishing something noteworthy. In fact, let’s take it a step further and consider this: the more you’re criticized, the more influential and important a person you likely are.

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            So the next time somebody talks you down, don’t let it get to you. Take it as a compliment!

            9. Chill Out! Learn to Rest Before You Get Tired

            Scientists agree that emotions are the most common cause of fatigue. And it works the other way around, too: fatigue produces more worries and negative emotions.

            It should be clear, therefore, that you’ve got to relax regularly before you feel tired. Otherwise, worries and fatigue will accumulate on top of each other.

            It’s impossible to worry when you are relaxed, and regular rest helps you maintain your ability to work effectively.

            10. Get Organized and Enjoy Your Work

            There are few greater sources of misery in life than having to work, day in, day out, in a job you despise. It would make sense then that you shouldn’t pick a job you hate, or even just dislike doing.

            But say you already have a job. How can you make it more enjoyable and worry-free? One way is to stay organized: a desk full of unanswered mails and memos is sure to breed worries.

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            Better yet, rethink about the job you’re doing: What to Do When You Hate Your Job but Want a Successful Career

            More About Living a Fulfilling Life

            Featured photo credit: Tyler Nix via unsplash.com

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