Globalization is associated with the exchange of cultures and ideas from one community to the other. Different cultures have varying ways of preparing food. To this end, different communities are known for their unique type of foods. Globalization has enabled people to move from one part of the world to the other. The movement has facilitated the exchange of different cultures, including those related to food. However, in some areas, the cultures have not been implemented in the right way. To this end, some people are ignorant about the food associated with cultures that are different from theirs.1
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The current paper is written against this background of globalization, food, and culture. The essay is based on an interview conducted with Michelle Broom, a renowned figure in the field of international culture. The interview reveals that food and culture are interrelated as far as globalization is concerned. What this means is that culture affects the kind of food that people take. On its part, food is one aspect that defines the culture of a people. The interviewee gave the examples of France, America, and China in her description of how food can affect the culture of a place and vice versa.
Globalization, Food, and Culture
Michelle Broom: A Brief Biography
Michelle Broom is a professor in the University of California, Riverside. She has worked in the department of Comparative and Foreign Languages for several years. The interviewee has occupied several positions in her career at the university. She held the position of the Director of Programs in Comparative Literature between 2004 and 2007 and from 2010 to 2012. She was also an Associate Professor of French and Comparative Literature in 2003.
Apart from the two posts, she has also worked as an Assistant Professor of French and Comparative Literature from 1997 to 2003 in the same university. In 1997, she worked in the University of Pittsburgh, Spring. She worked as an Assistant Professor in French. She has a Ph.D. and a Masters degree in Comparative Literature from Brown University. Her specialization is French from Brown University. She has a B.A in Literature from Harvard University.
Michelle Brown has studied a number of films and written reviews about them. She has also written a number of books. Some of her publications include “A Cultural Obsession” and “Cultural Exchange in the Age of Globalization”. The latter is a book in progress. Michelle has also written various articles in a number of peer reviewed journals. Most of these articles are related to film and cinema.
She has also attended several conferences. Similarly, most of these conferences are related to film and culture. All her activities show that she is concerned about culture and its expression in film. In the interview, she explains how some towns in China have changed their ways of lives to accommodate a mixture of cultures from different places around the world.
Food and Globalization: The French and Chinese Culinary Revolution
Globalization has affected many aspects of the modern society. Food is one aspect of the culture that has been affected by this phenomenon. According to historians, food is one of the earliest carriers of cultures. People have used it for a very long time to identify themselves. It is noted that globalization and food culture can have either negative or positive effects on the way people lead their lives. A number of countries have experienced these impacts. Two of these nations that have gone through changes as a result of food and culture in relation to globalization are China and France.2
Sino-French is a concept used to describe the interplay of Chinese and France cultures. Chinese cuisine has changed significantly over time for a number of reasons. A major element is the exchange of cultural items between China and different places of the world. In ancient times, China was known for its unique foods.3 According to the Chinese, food has a lot of meaning in people’s lives. The culture is associated with a number of delicious dishes made from different plants and animals. China is divided into different regions. Some culinary cultures are common to all regions, while others are specific to some geographical locations.4
A brief history of Chinese food and culture shows how globalization has affected the region. The society has a number of traditional foods. In ancient times, food was prepared under the watchful eye of cooks.
Traditionally, Chinese cooks are required to be highly qualified to help in the preparation of these dishes.5 The tradition of dedicated cooks originated from other parts of the world, such as Asia, North America, and West Europe. Chinese food is composed of two important components. Consequently, it is rare to find Zhushi accompanied with vegetables, meat, or fish. Zhushi is the name used to describe carbohydrates in China. It is the staple food in the country.
Traditionally, the development of Chinese and French cultures has taken different routes. For example, carbohydrates are regarded as the main types of foods in China. However, the case is different for many European countries, including France. In these cultures, proteins and meat are the main components of culinary undertakings. In the recent past, globalization has changed things.
Tourists visiting China from France brought with them new ways of doing things that the Chinese had no knowledge about. The exchange took place in spite of the fact that the two cultures were different. The development led to the emergence of restaurants specializing in French cuisine in China. The continued effects of globalization saw people in China embrace food from other places of the world as well.6
Before the onset of globalization, Chinese dishes were mainly composed of rice. Cultural exchange led to the introduction of new foods. However, the preparation of these new dishes was affected by Chinese culture. For example, Chinese chefs could not prepare some of the French cuisine exactly the same way as they were made in France. It is a fact that most of the chefs in China are qualified enough to prepare different Chinese dishes. However, some lack the element that is needed to perfect foreign dishes and retain their original taste.7
The element that is lacking in these chefs is culture. For example, in the movie ‘270 Loaf Rock’, the Chinese baker struggles to “add life” to his bread.8 While baking may not be a traditional Chinese art, chefs like Pao-chun are doing their best to improve their skills. As such, one can argue that globalization affects food by altering the taste and the culture within which they are prepared.9 As a result, a dish in China would taste different in France in spite of the fact that it is made from the same ingredients.
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However, even though Chinese French food does not taste as its original counterpart in France, it is still sold at high prices in the different restaurants in China. It is important to note that these developments are not limited to China and France. To this end, countries like the U.S and Germany are importing food from places like China because of different reasons.
One of the reasons may be health. Most Chinese dishes are believed to be healthier than other food in the world.10 China imports Quinoa from America just because it is good for the health. In addition, the food is delicious. People who have adapted to the traditional foods in their culture may change their diet as a result of the benefits associated with the new culinary experience.
The change in food culture is brought about by, among others, globalization.11 China has been under the influence of France for some time. The interaction between the two cultures during this time could have resulted in different things, including intermarriages. The developments led to a change in the culture of the two societies brought together. Given that food is part of culture, the intermarriages caused by globalization are associated with the introduction of new dishes.12
The Cost of Globalization of Food and Culture
The change in culture due to globalization comes with a price. For example, some of the exported commodities are expensive. However, this may not be reflected in the prices of foods in the countries of origin. Globalization has turned the food industry into a business frontier where the importer pays money to have something that is not part of their culture. What this shows is that culture is expensive.13
Chopsticks were a common feature in traditional China. They are used as the primary eating tools for solid foods like rice. Spoons made of ceramics are used in taking soup. Knives are not allowed on the table because they are regarded to be weapons. However, globalization has changed this culture. In France, chopsticks were not common.
The case is different today. Many homes and restaurants have embraced this Chinese way of eating. On their part, the Chinese copied the French by introducing spoons on their dinner tables.14 Spoons were developed and later blended into the Chinese culture. Some of the new dishes that were brought to China could not be taken without spoons. Restaurants were forced to alter their practices to fit into the copied culture. Some restaurants in France also adopted the Chinese culture of using chopsticks. Most of the restaurants have upheld this practice as globalization intensifies.
The Chinese way of preparing food takes less time. Food can be prepared within thirty minutes. Sometimes, the food is prepared in advance for customers. The Chinese food market cannot be compared to that of France. It is fairly large. It is a culture in the region to sell food in large quantities at night. The practice is a reflection of the economy and the culture of the people. Most of the food joints in parts of China, including Taiwan, are located in the streets.15 A case in point is the location of Pao-chun’s bakery in the streets of this city.16
Some aspects of this culture are witnessed in some places in France. Locating eateries in the streets allows for quick selection of food and saves time. In other cultures, such as French, people traditionally have food in restaurants. Westernization means that it is rare to find food joints on the streets. However, in places like Taiwan, cheap food is found on the boulevards where customers can buy and eat within the shortest time possible. However, in many places in France, customers have to make orders and wait for more than an hour. Chinese people also believe that food in the street is more delicious and cheap compared to that in restaurants.
Globalization of the SinoFrench Culture and Creation of Jobs
Globalization has created many job opportunities in the world. An example is China. A number of executive chefs in this country are foreigners. Most of them have come to do business. Before globalization, traditional food in China served cultural and sentimental purposes. It was not based on commercial interests. People used to eat varying dishes during different seasons to symbolize certain things in their culture.17
However, with globalization, most of the meanings associated with some dishes were lost. Production of food became a business. New types of dishes that had no meaning to the culture were introduced. One may argue that globalization has given people opportunities to make a living out of food. However, the move has led to the erosion of the food culture that had meanings to the people.18 Modern food cultures are now on the rise with the introduction of new types of dishes.
Production of Food in the New Globalized Culture
Globalization is associated with various changes. Some of them are seen in food production. Some studies show that in many places around the world, importation of food has increased. The rise is brought about by changes in production. In China, there are groups of people who are not Chinese but prefer taking traditional food from the countries they come from. It is one of the reasons why imports have grown and food production reduced, especially in the developed economies.19
In traditional China, food production was characterized by various agricultural activities. People used to work in the fields to produce food. Most of the products from the fields were for domestic use. In addition, some crops grown at the time took long to mature.20 Fishing was carried out, albeit at a small scale. Similarly, the fish was used for domestic purposes. However, in spite of this overreliance on human labor, food production was still high.
According to Bloom, globalization has seen the introduction of genetically modified (GMO) food products, especially from western nations like France. Some of these modified products have been embraced by some cultures in China. France and other nations in the west are aware of the differences between the two sets of food products. Production of food in traditional China was usually carried out in seasons. As a result, it was difficult to find some products in certain times of the year. The inconvenience is one of the reasons why GMO food was accepted in China.21
However, at the beginning, consumers had reservations regarding the safety of the products. When the safety was assured, China adopted some genetically modified foods that changed their culture of production. Some of the products that were not in the market during certain seasons were made available throughout the year. In addition, the food products matured faster than their traditional counterparts.
For this reason, Bloom acknowledges that globalization in the modern world has seen the introduction of many types of foods. Both France and China have embraced some of the species of the GMO foods that first came from the former. However, the health concerns cited earlier have forced the Chinese authorities to take measures to protect the public.
Shifts in the Taste and Flavor of Food
Globalization is one of the factors behind shifts in the taste and flavor of food over the years. Some of these changes have been opposed in certain parts of the world. Traditional culture in places like China was characterized by the use of natural flavors when preparing food. Herbs were used as spices in those days. The natural flavors gave food a distinct flavor. Globalization has contributed to the introduction of new types of spices. Some of these additions are not natural. On the contrary, they are manufactured artificially to alter the taste and flavor of food. Consequently, the taste of food has changed due to the introduction of these products.
Food preservatives are also commonly used in the modern world.22 In China, the culture has been borrowed from western nations, including France. The development shows how culture can change the lifespan of food. The new inclusions in the modern culture are slowly eroding the traditional way of life in places like China.
Impacts of Globalization on the Nutritional Value of Food
Globalization has seen the introduction of food products that are regarded as unhealthy in different parts of the world. For example, China has embraced the culture of baked foods from places like France and America. The glorification of such cooking procedures has seen chefs like Pao-chun in ‘270 Loaf Rocks’ alter their procedures to participate in international food competitions.23 People from France and other European countries use meat and other such products as the main parts of their meals.24 Chinese people are different as they have more faith in carbohydrates.
The different food cultures have varying impacts on public health. For example, research shows that excessive intake of meat and baked products have negative impacts on the health of the individual. A research on Asian food indicated that some types of meat products contain fats are not healthy to the human body. Health complications are caused by the high saturation of fats, simple sugars, as well as reduced nutritional value.
Chinese traditional food features healthy dietary fats. It is also associated with low cholesterol and plant based proteins, which are healthy for human consumption. Other foods that have been introduced in China include hamburgers, pizza, and French fries. Obesity is one of the health complications associated with these junk foods. In spite of this, many people in China seem to have embraced these new dishes.
The authorities conducted the China National Nutrition and Health Survey to investigate this issue. The research analyzed the consumption of vegetable and fruits in the country. It used data collected from 1982 to 2002. The results indicated that there was a drastic decrease in the consumption of these food items. During the period under review, the intake dropped from 270g to 45g.
The decrease was significant considering that there was no cheese in China in 1982.25 The main reason behind the decline in the consumption of traditional food and vegetables was the presence of fast food joints. Many people did not like the taste of cheese, which was a western product. However, the Chinese fast food market continued to grow because of the commodities it produced.
Globalization of Food and Culture and Social Segregation
According to Bloom, at the beginning, the negative impacts of globalization of food and culture in China only affected specific groups of people in the society. For example, until recently, fast food was regarded to be for the royal class. Restaurants that specialized in these dishes sold them at high prices. The only people who could afford it included the educated, the rich, and the young.
Most of them were drawn from the urban areas. Most of these restaurants conducted their businesses from these locations.26 People in the rural areas were not affected by these food products because they were not exposed to them. However, things have changed and junk food has become popular.
It is predicted that if the current rate of growth in the fast food market in China persists, the nation will be forced to import the products from other nations like France and America. The growth will slowly see the erosion of traditional Chinese food culture. Children are regarded as the largest market for the fast food in this country. Today, the average Chinese child knows more about junk than traditional food. As such, the future generation in the country is likely to be more oriented towards foreign food than traditional dishes. The erosion process starts when children are not taught about the various aspects of their tradition.
Many people believed that fast foods would not be accepted in the Chinese culture. The individuals who introduced the products in China had to add a little touch of Chinese culture to make them acceptable. Chefs who baked the hamburgers and pizzas had to add an element of the Chinese culture to them to ensure they are accepted by the people.
The products were regarded as snacks because most of the people were traditional used to eating rice. The fast food joints introduced in the country went against some of the cultural beliefs of the people. Most of the products from these establishments were taken with bare hands given that the Chinese were used to chopsticks.27 It was a process that saw a change in the culture of the Chinese people with regards to fast foods. Most of the new food cultures imposed themselves on the Chinese social fabric.
Currently, the Chinese fast food sector is growing at a very high rate. Globalization is the major factor behind this growth. A number of French fast food joints have established outlets in the country. The companies attribute their success to the inclusion of the original Chinese culture to their products.
Globalization and Beneficial Impacts on Culture
In some instances, globalization has impacted positively on the Chinese way of life.28 For example, the introduction of new foods has supported the modernization of the country. Consequently, the growth of food culture has spurred economic development in China. The expansion of the Chinese fast food market has also introduced the element of consumerism in the nation. Change of eating habits as a result of the emergence of various fast food joints has made the culture look more Chinese than foreign.
To some extent, the change of food culture in China is encouraged by the government. To some extent, the authorities have made it possible to import food products from the west. One of the major motivations behind this move by the government is to encourage modernization. However, critics continue to remind the public of the negative impacts of importing food products.29 According to them, overreliance on imports may bring down the economy due to reduced levels in local production. As such, expenditure on foreign trade will rise.
Globalization has affected the culture of food in several ways. People have adopted different dishes as a way of cultural exchange. In France, one is likely to find food that is traditionally Chinese. However, in Paris, most locals will prefer to eat what they are used to than immersing themselves in Chinese culinary experiences. Chinese traditional food will cost more than French cultural dishes.30 However, with the migration of people into France, the adoption of the new Chinese culture is slowly taking roots.
The same thing has happened in China where a lot of fast food joints have come up. Globalization can be said to be the main cause of the erosion of the food culture in many places. A good example of this is China. Consequently, the modernization process must be controlled by the government to ensure that traditional heritage as far as food is concerned is preserved. As such, the economy will be shielded from the negative impacts of food imports.
270 Loaf Rocks. Directed by Lin Chen-sheng. 2013. Taiwan: UltraStar Mission Valley, 2013. DVD.
Bird, Allan, and Michael Stevens. “Toward an Emergent Global Culture and the Effects of Globalization on Obsolescing National Cultures.” Journal of International Management 9, no. 4 (2003): 395-407.
Bloom, Michelle. “Transnational Chinese Cinema with a French Twist: Emily Tang Xiaobai’s “Conjugation” and Jia Zhangke’s “The World” as Sinofrench Films.” Modern Chinese Literature and Culture, (2009): 198-245.
Gordon, Philip, and Sophie Meunier. “Globalization and French Cultural Identity.” French Politics, Culture & Society, (2001): 22-41.
Mintz, Sidney, and Christine DuBois. “The Anthropology of Food and Eating.” Annual Review of Anthropology, (2002): 99-119.
Zhang, Yan, and Jake Harwood. “Modernization and Tradition in an Age of Globalization: Cultural Values in Chinese Television Commercials.” Journal of Communication 54, no. 1 (2004): 156-172.
Zhou, Nan, and Russell Belk. “Chinese Consumer Readings of Global and Local Advertising Appeals.” Journal of Advertising 33, no. 3 (2004): 63-76.
1. Allan Bird and Michael Stevens, “Toward an Emergent Global Culture and the Effects of Globalization on Obsolescing National Cultures,” Journal of International Management 9, no. 4 (2003): 400.
4. Philip Gordon and Sophie Meunier, “Globalization and French Cultural Identity,” French Politics, Culture & Society, (2001): 25.
5. Ibid, 23.
7. Michelle Bloom, “Transnational Chinese Cinema with a French Twist: Emily Tang Xiaobai’s “Conjugation” and Jia Zhangke’s “The World” as Sinofrench Films,” Modern Chinese Literature and Culture, (2009): 200.
8. 270 Loaf Rocks, directed by Lin Chen-sheng (2013; Taiwan: UltraStar Mission Valley, 2013), DVD.
10. Bird and Stevens, 405.
13. Bloom, 230.
14. Ibid, 199.
16. Gordon and Meunier, 30.
17. Ibid, 29.
18. Sidney Mintz and Christine DuBois, “The Anthropology of Food and Eating,” Annual Review of Anthropology, (2002): 109.
20. Yan Zhang and Jake Harwood, “Modernization and Tradition in an Age of Globalization: Cultural Values in Chinese Television Commercials,” Journal of Communication 54, no. 1 (2004): 159.
21. Nan Zhou and Russell Belk, “Chinese Consumer Readings of Global and Local Advertising Appeals,” Journal of Advertising 33, no. 3 (2004): 69.
23. 270 Loaf Rocks.
25. Mintz and DuBois, 101.
26. Bird and Stevens, 400.
27. Zhang and Harwood, 172.