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Food as a Means of Cross-Cultural Interaction Essay

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Updated: Mar 30th, 2020

Every culture has a cuisine or at least a food tradition of some variety. The food of a community reveals a great many things about the culture. Every traveler and every person who explores an unfamiliar neighborhood has to eat. Offering food is a natural response to a guest from elsewhere. Accepting food from the hand of the host is a quite natural response as well.

For purposes of this essay, the research question is, does the sharing of food between people of different backgrounds have more than anecdotal positive impact on intercultural relations? Subsidiary questions might include asking whether the sharing of food can accomplish more than simply introducing someone to a new set of dishes. Can try out exotic foods have a stronger effect than merely introducing a new taste sensation? Does the sharing of food affect both the visitor and the host?

Does it matter whether the visitor actually enjoys the food, or perhaps is even instead disgusted by the taste/smell/texture of the new food? Can an increased knowledge and understanding of other communities food lead to reduced hostility and fear towards that community? Does the increasing rate of globalization mean that such intercultural contacts around food will no longer be possible? Will the increasing degree of globalization mean that food is no longer important to cultural identity?

This present scholar notes that there are places all over the world where people are suspicious and insulting of their neighbors. There are also many groups of people who insult other cultures and countries that are distant and therefore unknown. Such behavior and attitudes do not promote peaceful interaction. In fact, insulting another can be a preliminary to more tangible conflict.

For example, if people call their neighbors food-related insulting names, perhaps a better understanding of their food habits would reduce this behavior. In summary, this scholar is interested in reducing conflict between peoples. If the sharing of food is a legitimate and effective way to reduce such conflict, what methods of cuisine sharing and next duration have the greatest chance of a positive impact?

This question is important because the world is filled with situations of potential violence. There are communities all across the world that live in a state of tension and apprehension about their neighbors near and far. If anything can reduce the condition of tension and hostility that exists in so many places, it is worthwhile. If something as relatively simple as sharing and demonstrating different food preparation techniques could prevent even a handful of deaths or injuries from conflict, then this is something that should be pursued.

The world needs more peaceful contact, and food sharing is low cost, low tech, high touch, and easy to duplicate in other locations. If it works to offset differences over religion, ethnicity, ideology, or another characteristic, then it is something to study further and perhaps use on a large scale by peoples and governments. This is why the thesis question justifies scholarly pursuit.

To begin to answer these questions, books such as Food and Culture, by Pamela Goyan Kittler, Kathryn Sucher, and Marcia Nelms will be helpful. This book has a chapter on Intercultural Communication, which seems to promise to be quite useful.

There are not as many sources that discuss the use of food as a medium for cross-cultural contact as one might wish. However, there are resources that explain how food expresses a community’s culture, such as the book by Carole Counihan and Penny Van Esterik titled Food and Culture: A Reader.

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1. IvyPanda. "Food as a Means of Cross-Cultural Interaction." March 30, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/food-as-a-means-of-cross-cultural-interaction/.


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IvyPanda. "Food as a Means of Cross-Cultural Interaction." March 30, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/food-as-a-means-of-cross-cultural-interaction/.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Food as a Means of Cross-Cultural Interaction." March 30, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/food-as-a-means-of-cross-cultural-interaction/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'Food as a Means of Cross-Cultural Interaction'. 30 March.

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