In America, it is all about the big portions. When you go to a fast food place they will ask if you want to upgrade your order to a bigger size. It is very common to have big portions but that is not the case in every culture. In America, the huge portion sizes are not questioned but Americans eating elsewhere will realize how not all cultures have so much food on their plates. Foods that are part of rituals and traditions may not have huge portion sizes that leave you busting once you are done eating.
You can see the values of a culture from examining its food culture. In America, we are concerned with being what we consider ‘clean’ and using utensils when we eat. Eating with utensils means everyone has a personal fork, knife, and spoon. In other cultures, eating with your hands can bring you to a more personal level with the people you are eating with. For example, when we went to Addis Restaurant and ate Ethiopian food, most of us were sitting on these small stools that were right next to each other and close to the floor. There was very little personal space and we all ate with our hands, using enjera. Enjera is a thin flatbread that is used to grab food that you would like to eat from the platter. This was a very different setting and experience compared to what it would be like to eat at an American restaurant. Eating at Addis with the class helped me reflect on my own culture and how what we do on an everyday basis is very different from other cultures.
Each culture has dishes that are important to them and hold meaning. The people that prepare these dishes make them with love because many of them care about their culture dearly. I believe that when it comes to the holidays and the whole family is together, it is a great time to have a cultural dish prepared that everyone can enjoy. Certain cultural dishes also take a long time to make because there are so many steps involved, so people will make the dishes during special occasions when everyone is together.
I have deeply held beliefs regarding food because I see the kind of effect it has on my family. The cultural dishes my family prepares brings back good memories for my grandmother who was born and raised in Slovakia. Being able to make these dishes in the U.S. reminds her of home and her relatives and it helps to keep our culture alive within our family. One of her favorite dishes to make is bryndzové halušky. In English that means ‘sheep cheese gnocchi.’ My grandmother loves to make that dish before we have a big meal on Thanksgiving or Christmas because it is light and serves the purpose of an appetizer. Similar to myself, I know there are plenty of families that feel the same way and one meal can make people happy and bring a family closer.
It is easy for me to adapt to other cultures when it comes to food because I am an open person. I want to expand my knowledge of things that are foreign to me as much as possible and that includes trying foods and learning about others culture. Eating at Addis Restaurant is an experience that I will never forget. When I heard about this class trip I wasn’t sure that I would be eating much but I was completely shocked once I started eating. I felt so happy that I enjoyed a meal that was from a completely different culture than my own. The first thing I tried was the lamb and it was delicious. The chicken had a little lemon taste to it and the sauce just added on to the goodness. I mixed a little of the corn with each piece I ate and everything was really enjoyable. I am thinking about going back to Addis with some friends before I leave London! After we ate, the waitress came around and we smelled the coffee beans as they roasted because it is a tradition to have us smell them as they roast. When the coffee was ready, we all drank coffee and ate popcorn. I would say it was a very successful day for me when it came to food.
I believe that it is easy for me to adapt to other cultures when it comes to food because I grew up around different dishes. Slovak, Irish, and Hispanic dishes were something I ate very often. My father is Irish, so for St. Patrick’s Day my mother always makes corned beef and cabbage. This is something that we all eat and it makes me happy to be eating something that I know is related to my culture. My mother and grandmother cook Slovakian dishes frequently. I also have many friends who are Hispanic and whenever I go to their house there is always food. I am very familiar with variety. My tastebuds are not ethnocentric because I have tried different dishes and I hope to continue doing so wherever I travel to. I am not focused only on my own culture, like most people think Americans are. I don’t feel that certain foods have to be prepared or served in a familiar way because I am willing to change or adjust my way of eating.
Everyone has different taste and preferences when it comes to food but regardless, everyone should be respectful of the culture. An outsider rejecting my own culture’s food norms would be fine with me as long as they were doing it in an appropriate way. It is unlikely that someone is going to like every single food they try from each culture. If the person is willing to give the food a try and not be judgmental from the beginning, I would be fine if they didn’t like the food. The willingness to learn and even attempt to eat food from another culture besides your own would mean a lot to me. On the other hand, I would be offended and hurt if someone was disrespectful and started saying nasty comments without knowing much about the culture and not even tasting the food.
I am very comfortable trying other cultures’ food customs. Expanding my mind and trying new things is something that I enjoy doing because it adds some excitement to life. My mentor from high school knows how much of a picky eater I am. Everytime we went out to eat, she would try to get me to eat something different and I was often surprised at what foods I enjoyed. I don’t like vegetables but I am willing to try it if that is the only thing on the dish. Thankfully, there were plenty of options I could choose from on the platter at Addis Restaurant. Regardless of what was on the plate, I would never be disrespectful to another cultures’ customs or food because I would never want that done to me.