This paper is a discussion and analysis on traditional cuisine and the factors that influence the changes in dietary practices of indigenous people, and how to cope with the changes brought about by several factors. It has often been said that traditional cuisine is a part of an indigenous people’s culture, or it is a way of a tribe’s expression of taste and love for their ancestry and heritage. However, it is sad to note that many traditional cuisines have been slowly diminishing for reasons which will be dealt with and discussed in this paper. It might be too early to conclude, but it is nevertheless noteworthy, to speak of the successes of some traditional cuisines and this is because of the efforts and sacrifices of some leaders and members of tribes or ethnic groups who do not want their traditional “taste” to go to waste. When one traditional food is forgotten, a part of a culture is lost.
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The focus of the study is based on understanding the evolution of traditional food and how change in food pattern has influenced certain cultures, or the culture of various indigenous peoples throughout the world. The importance of nutrition is enhanced and the primary approach is to understand the importance of traditional food for the health of the indigenous people. The paper defines the important qualities of traditional food system with the aid of examples from specific cultures where previous research has shown that dietary change has consequences on nutritional health of the indigenous people. Change in the diet of people has caused nutritional problems because of the lack of raw materials caused by globalisation, urbanisation, and Westernisation, among other factors. The emergence of the debate over traditional and changing food culture has emerged from the subject on the re-localization of food consumption and production.
Traditional food for a region is usually identified as the dietary system inherent within a culture that grows out of the social and natural resources available and accepted by the culture (Kuhnlein & Receveur, 1996). The definition is somewhat comprehensive since it involves socio-cultural factors such as the sourcing of materials and the preparation activities. Traditional food is a valuable part of a people’s culture. It can be deduced from the literature that the various indigenous peoples in different regions who have assimilated with the local populace have tried all possible means to preserve and promote their traditional food, albeit with some difficulties because of environmental influences which are discussed in the literature review.
The paper defines and discusses many aspects about traditional food, including definitions of traditional and indigenous food and indigenous population. Other issues discussed relevant to the dissertation are concepts of culture and tradition of different indigenous peoples in several regions), along with the changes in traditional food over time due to several factors.
Aim and Objectives
The aim is to provide an analysis and understanding of various traditional foods of indigenous people in different regions and three case studies of traditional cuisines.
- To determine how different cultures preserve and promote their traditional cuisines
- To understand the advantages and disadvantages of traditional food
- To conduct case study research on three countries that have employed methods in promoting their traditional food globally to meet increased demand and enhance food tourism
- Why is traditional food important in understanding the culture of indigenous people and other ethnic groups?
- What factors change dietary habits and influence the evolution of traditional food of indigenous people and ethnic groups?
- What is the relevance of preserving and promoting traditional cuisine?
- How do different cultures promote their traditional food?
Traditional Food System
Food practices evolved through social and historical structures and events pertaining to a region (Foley, 2005). Traditional food system is defined as “all of the food species that are available to a particular culture from local natural resources and the accepted patterns for their use within that culture” (Kuhnlein & Chan, 2000, p. 596). This definition echoes the sociocultural significance of food, with emphasis on how it is made, preserved, and promoted to provide nutritional value for a group of people, ethnic group, or tribe. The food itself is as important as the process of its procurement, processing, treatment, chemical composition, and how each food is used according to gender, age, and social structure. Further, it is also important to understand the nutritional health consequences of the food.
For northern indigenous people, their traditional food is comprised of animal meat and vegetables or plants, but according to quantitative studies animal food is more ingested by these indigenous people and it is affected by season. The world economic system has changed that also affected indigenous people’s dietary system. There are still tribes and groups who depend on traditional food resources, particularly those living in reservations in the United States and Canada (Kuhnlein & Chan, 2000).
The term “Indigenous people” is defined as the cultural group inhabiting an area where it developed a subsistence base with available natural resources (Kuhnlein & Receveur, 1996). Indigenous peoples who have been the subject of studies are those from the ecological settings of Alaska, Canada, and Greenland, who bear different names and have their own traditional food. Other studies focus on the First Nations peoples who are living in different geographic areas in the United States and Canada. The Inuit are the Eskimos from Alaska and Canada; the Metis came from European and ethnic tribes in Canad; and the Saami of northern Scandinavia ((Kuhnlein & Chan, 2000).
Indigenous people have unique culture and tradition, particularly food which they use in religious offering and other festivities. Indigenous people also refer to a diverse population of people who move from one geographic location to another and are the original community dwellers, and assume different names (Kuhnlein & Receveur, 1996). They are members of tribes or primitive tribal groups and are dubbed as native or indigenous population of the land. In the early nineteenth century, indigenous people were described as a social formation that makes a tribe, which created a “particular type of society but, also a particular type of stage of evolution” (Béteille, 1998, p. 187). The definition is based on the presumption that a tribe is a “primitive social formation” and often “isolated” and “self-contained” (Béteille, 1998, p. 187). The problem with this early definition of indigenous people is that it defines the original people of a land as barbarous, unsophisticated tribes. However, the twentieth century saw a change in the concept of indigenous people in anthropological literature and brought in the concept of people inhabiting “the territory… in the past and present” (Béteille, 1998, p. 190). The food of a region that was prevalent among the indigenous people may be termed as traditional food, which is influenced by economic, social, and climatic factors. These traditional food systems undergo tremendous change due to internal and external influences.
The phrase “indigenous people” has undergone various changes in anthropological study since the nineteenth century. During the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century, indigenous people were described as people who were original inhabitants of a region. Béteille (1998, p. 190) points out that even in historic London, “it was the Indian or the African and not the Briton who was likely to be called a native.” Hence, it is necessary to develop a definition of indigenous people based on the geographic location of the people in the region. A more recent definition of the term defines indigenous group as a “cultural group in a particular ecological area” that has developed skills and conditions to sustain themselves in such environment. The subsistence of these indigenous people is based on their usage and dependability on the natural resources available in the region (Béteille, 1998, p. 190).
The literature review discusses about past researches on traditional food habits and systems of indigenous people. The review also explores the empirical researches which have documented the changes in traditional food system and the factors that influenced the traditional cuisines of different regions of indigenous peoples.
Traditional food of Indigenous Peoples
Traditional food is the food that has evolved through the usage of the natural ingredients available in the natural habitat of the region by the indigenous people of the locality. Anthropological research on traditional food system of indigenous people has escalated due to the changes in dietary system of the people. Many dietary anthropological researches have tried to uncover how the changes in dietary system of the indigenous people affected the traditional food system of the locality (Kuhnlein & Receveur, 1996; Receveur, Boulay, & Kuhnlein, 1997; Kuhnlein & Chan, 2000), while others have tried to ascertain the true nature of the traditional food of a specific region as this allows anthropologists to understand a connection between traditional food and the indigenous environment and the dietary system of the indigenous people residing in the area (De Roest & Menghi, 2000; Kuhnlein, 1989; Lambden, Receveur, & Kuhnlein, 2007; Roche, Creed-Kanashiro, Tuesta, & Kuhnlein, 2007).
Some other studies have concentrated in understanding the dietary transition among indigenous groups (Kuhnlein & Receveur, 1996; Kuhnlein & Chan, 2000; Guyot, Dickson, Paci, Furgal, & Chan, 2005; Sheehy, Roache, & Sharma, 2013; Kuhnlein, 1992). Researchers have cited various factors influencing the change in dietary practices of the indigenous people, such as climate change, technological change, external cultural influence, such as colonialism. Other researchers have found the use of traditional food as a way of attracting tourists and the rise of marketing and food tourism.
Changes in Traditional Food
Traditional food has been undergoing changes due to various reasons. Researchers have tried to ascertain reasons for which the change in dietary pattern and traditional food is occurring. The reasons include colonial influence, westernisation, climate change, urbanisation, change in social and economic structure of the region, and technological change. The proceeding section will discuss the various reasons that researchers have found to affect the traditional food.
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Traditional Food of Northern Indigenous People
The food system of the northern indigenous people (covering Northern American and Northern Europe) has been documented in detail by many researchers. The food intake of any group of people is aimed at fulfilling certain nutritional requirements specific for that region. Food is the source of maximum energy gained by the human body. According to a much earlier research conducted on the Inuit of Canada and Northern Europe, their intake of energy changed with gender, age, and work done (Kuhnlein & Chan, 2000). Another research on the Metis community showed that the food intake was similar in parallel of latitudes and that the intake of carbohydrates changed with seasons by 12% to 33% (Receveur et al., 1997). Further, there was also a difference in the food intake based on gender and age. The study demonstrates that the traditional food has greater nutritional value for the indigenous people than modern food. The energy required for the people of the region in a particular season can only be filled by the intake of food that is provided by traditional food (Receveur et al., 1997).
Another study conducted by Batal, Gray-Donald, Kuhnlein, and Receveur (2005) focused on the rise of chronic non-communicable diseases due to increased imbalance in the diet of indigenous population in Canada. The transition of the dietary practices resulted in the outbreak of diseases among the indigenous people in the country. The study concentrated on 18 communities and used a sample size of 1,356 participants. The methodology was based on collecting data on food frequency based on 24-hour recall questionnaires. The results of the study demonstrate the intake of traditional food among men and women, and the intake of traditional food in Denendeh and Yukon. The study demonstrated that “an average of intake over the seasons of highest and lowest consumption of traditional foods, were used to quantify the daily intakes of all the major food groupings consumed in two northern Canadian regions” (Batal et al., 2005, p. 53). The study found that the increase in chronic disease was due to contamination.
Kuhnlein and Chan (2000) demonstrates that the traditional food resources of the indigenous people were contaminated by chemicals which obviously caused diseases. The traditional food of North America and Europe was contaminated with substances like, “organochlorines, heavy metals, and radionuclides” (Kuhnlein & Chan, 2000, p. 597). The study also presented a comparison between the modern and traditional food of the region to understand how traditional food evolved.
Guerrero et al. (2010) studied the intake of traditional food in 6 European regions and interviewed 721 consumers. The study measured the frequency of occurrence obtained through a simple correspondence analysis. The associations thus obtained were further classified in 55 categories and then grouped under 10 broad categories. The concept of traditional food is built on the basis of the ten dimensions: “sensory, health, elaboration, heritage, variety, habit, origin, simplicity, special occasions and marketing” (Guerrero, et al., 2010, p. 231). The study demonstrated the difference in the perception of traditional food based on the above-mentioned ten dimensions:
Poland was closer to sensory classes (Aroma and Taste) and Health; Norway was close to Farm/field/rural, Shopping and Appropriateness; France and Italy were close to Heritage, Laborious, Good and History; Spain was close to Culture, History, Celebration, Conservative and Good; and finally Belgium was close to Natural/ Fresh, Laborious and Celebration. (Guerrero, et al., 2010, p. 230)
In a similar research, Almlia, Verbekec, Vanhonackerc, Næsa, and Hersletha (2011) studied the image of traditional food in six European countries viz. Belgium, France, Italy, Norway, Poland, and Spain. The research methodology adopted for the study was a consumer survey of the traditional food products for a large sample of 4,828 participants. The questionnaire sought to gain the personal opinion of the respondents regarding 15 intrinsic product attributes. The research demonstrated that overall traditional food has a positive image across Europe (Almlia et al., 2011). The pattern of the preference and perception of the respondents from the six countries was similar in all the six countries. The respondents pointed out that traditional food preparation was time consuming and obtaining the specific ingredients for their preparation was a problem. Hence, in all the six countries, it is widely believed that traditional food is more conducive to be made during festivals rather than for daily consumption (Almlia et al., 2011).
The literature shows the importance of traditional food to the indigenous diet system. The indigenous people are found to be in good shape when their intake of the traditional food is higher as they provide high nutrients and energy requirement according to the location of the individuals. The researches on traditional food demonstrate that food intake varies with gender, age, and season. Further, it is also believed that food requirements and nature of traditional food are similar in regions falling on same latitude. The literature also demonstrates that although traditional food is good for the indigenous people, it also poses danger on their health due to chemical contamination, particularly in geographic areas of Canada. In Europe, traditional food is believed to be a food for the festival. People believe that the preparation of traditional food is time consuming.
Traditional Food of Australia’s Indigenous People
Foley (2005) indicated that the impact of colonial rule on indigenous people has been profound, particularly the indigenous people of Australia. The food system of the indigenous people underwent a cataclysmic change which separated the people from their natural habitat. The process of urbanisation in colonies led to the rapid change in lifestyle of the indigenous people. In urbanised localities, the indigenous people were given rations for the work they did. The food was a mix of raw materials like “sugar, flour, tea, jam, and meat,” which changed the customary diet of the indigenous people (Foley, 2005, p. 25). The indigenous people were forced to take the rations rather than their traditional diet of meat and vegetables. Further, many women were employed as domestic help in colonial homes, and so they had to eat what was available and change their traditional diet. The primary reason for the change in the traditional food pattern has been due to the underprivileged status of the indigenous people in the history of Australian colonialism. Foley (2005, p. 34) asserts that, “Australian social structures have perpetuated socio-economic disadvantage for many indigenous people throughout the postcolonial period.”
The social and economic inequality of the indigenous people in Australia had a strong effect on the food habit of the people. The main issue that had induced a change in traditional food system of the indigenous people in Australia is cost effectiveness of the non-indigenous food, but “the cost of some healthier food choices recommended by nutritionists is significantly higher than that of comparable less healthy choices” (Foley, 2005, p. 35). Further, the modern discourse of cooking is also considered a reason for the change in the dietary system. The cookbooks demonstrate the image of kitchens, which are elegant and luxurious, unlike kitchens of the low-income group families. Even the simplest, traditional recipe is refined by the use of modern and expensive ingredient. The colonial impact on the food habit of the people was intensified with the incorporation of the European and “stylish food” in the diet of the indigenous people (Foley, 2005, p. 40). The indigenous Australians had a distinct food culture even in early 21st century. However, preference for traditional food was apparent, but due to various socio-economic conditions, adaptation of traditional food was reduced (Foley, 2005).
Traditional Food in Africa
In Africa, a study was conducted by Raschke and Cheema (2008) which showed a change in the traditional food system with the advent of the New World Order. Their study was based on East African countries, such as Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania. The long-term study covered the early colonisation to the present time. Raschke and Cheema (2008) showed that the colonisation of these countries by the European settlers with the aim of creating a New World Order had resulted in the systematic depletion of the indigenous and traditional food habits in East Africa. The study demonstrated the plight of traditional food in the face of colonisation. Raschke and Cheema (2008) noted the nutrition transition in the 400 years of history bolstered by oppression and control, both politically and economically. The reasons behind the change were seizure of arable land by the colonists, establishment of trade routes, destruction of the natural habitat, and importance paid on cash crops that destroyed the food agriculture in the region. The “cultural indoctrination” was a strong reason for the destruction of traditional food habit. Raschke and Cheema (2008) further add:
The primary vectors for the cultural indoctrination were the mission schools, boarding schools, and public health programs responsible for educating the youth. Traditional knowledge has been devalued as the education of children has shifted away from the tribal elders … ‘Education’ encouraged ‘sophistication’, which included a repugnance for traditional foods and ancient methods of food preparation, explaining, at least partially, why nutritious, indigenous foods are drastically underutilized and undervalued today. (Raschke & Cheema, 2008, pp. 665-666)
The influence of colonialism in East Africa began in the 1950s and 1960s. In the sixties and seventies, there was relative economic growth; however, the developing countries were engulfed in a continuous debt cycle and deceleration, which created the need for economic policy reform (Raschke & Cheema, 2008). The funds from IMF and World Bank were accepted to keep the economy afloat. Further, the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Trade and Tariff (GATT) brought in export subsidies and “domestic agricultural support for the struggling African countries” (Raschke & Cheema, 2008, p. 666). The rich multinational companies made their inroads into the African economies, thus creating a new form of colonisation: “Delocalisation of food production, food distribution and food marketing has redistributed power over food systems from the local economy to a few multinational corporations” (Raschke & Cheema, 2008, p. 666). The economic pressure that the country faced was due to the monopolisation of the arable land by transnational corporations. Food crops were no longer cultivated in the region; instead farmers were encouraged to cultivate “‘high-value’ agricultural products such as fresh flowers and exotic fruits for export” (Raschke & Cheema, 2008, p. 666), which affected the source of traditional food.
According to Raschke and Cheema (2008), the globalisation of the food system with the aim of economic reform is the primary reason for the change in traditional food system in East Africa. The globalisation process allowed a handful of powerful multinational corporations to gain unparalleled control over the food cultivation in the African continent, thus, helping them cultivate for export and not to meet the food requirement of the region. Traditional food from the region is high in nutrients that provide health benefits that are essential for the people of the region. However, globalisation of the food system, a brainchild of colonialism, impacted on the traditional food system of the region.
The Chinese Traditional Food
Li and Hsieh (2004) indicated that Chinese traditional food is unique in its sophistication as well as in its closeness to the Chinese culture. The various types of Chinese foods may differ by region but their unique role in defining the culture of the country is undeniable. Chinese traditional food is rich in nutrients. A Chinese menu can be rich with “sesame oil chicken and clam soup, (are) associated with a therapeutic or health promoting effect besides their pleasing taste and basic nutritional values, while others are linked to a historical or folkloric story, with zong zi and Beggar’s chicken as examples” (Li & Hsieh, 2004, p. 147). However, the Chinese food industry has transformed the traditional food market into a more commercialised, marketable industry wherein small-scale units produce Chinese food. These industries follow uncontrolled process and often get low profits. The Chinese have made use of technology to transform their traditional food system into a global cuisine:
Many traditional Chinese foods, such as tofu, tang yuan, and fish balls, are now processed using modern technologies that offer quality controlled end products, reducing the processing time and cost, and increasing the production, while other traditional foods, such as salted jellyfish, have hardly changed their traditional processing techniques because their special flavours or delicate textures cannot be reproduced using industrialized methods (Li & Hsieh, 2004). Globalisation of the Chinese traditional food changed certain aspects of the original food served in China, but somehow retained great part of the sophisticated cuisine. It is essential to understand that the large volume production of high quality products helped in creating a market for the Chinese traditional food (Li & Hsieh, 2004).
The European Traditional Cuisine
Guerrero et al. (2009) indicated that technology induced changes in traditional food products in Europe. Traditional food has been identified closely with European culture and identity. However, globalisation and the creation of a market for the European cuisine in other countries forced the European traditional food industry to adopt advance technology to innovate their production process. Guerrero et al. (2009) conducted a study on six European countries viz. Belgium, France, Italy, Norway, Poland, and Spain, using semantic and textual statistical analyses. They created twelve focus groups, two in each country, under similar conditions. They were measured against four main dimensions – “habit natural, origin-locality, processing-elaboration and sensory properties” (Guerrero, et al., 2009, p. 351). The research showed that the perception of the traditional food by the respondents with or without the use of technology was similar in all cases. The study also showed that greater innovation helped in preserving the concept of their traditional food.
Jones, Shears, Hillier, Comfort, and Lowell (2003) presented a study showing the growing importance of “slow food”. The study outlined the origins of the slow-food movement which started in Italy in the 1980s. The aim of the movement was to re-adopt the traditional food system wherein the people simply enjoy food, rather than rush to finish the food. The case study demonstrates the challenge that a traditional food system can forge on the fast food industry. Another study by Fonte (2008) showed the dynamic valorisation of local food using the results of a project analysing the local food of European countries like Ireland, Scotland, Sweden, Germany, Norway, Poland, Italy, Portugal, Spain and Greece. The study presents insights to promote traditional food, the importance of agriculture in increasing the preference for local food. Fonte (2008) adds:
A rich stock of lay knowledge is a patrimony of European rural areas, but its evolution has been stopped by the process of restricting knowledge to the ‘scientific’ that has been brought about by the industrialization of agriculture. Initiatives to delocalize food mobilize again local forms of knowledge and may contribute to enhancing, valorising and recreating that patrimony. (Fonte, 2008, p. 218)
The study focused on the strategy of the European rural areas to valorise the local food. This particular kind of milk is related with the food of the indigenous people who live in the highlands. Fonte (2008) argues that this is a sort of commercialisation of a people’s identity because Oscypek is introduced to tourists and sold at a low price.
The other strategy adapted by the Europeans was using technology and industrialisation of the production process of the local food in order to meet greater market demand. Fonte (2008) states that the new, commercialised cheese is “made out of pasteurised cow milk and that resembles the original Oscypek in colour, shape and name is packaged and sold all over Poland in supermarkets at a very accessible price” (p. 216). The third aspect was through the promotional efforts of the local governments to make the cheese as the brand of the region and thus, associating the region with the product (Fonte, 2008).
Miele and Murdoch (2002, p. 313) researched on the boosted phenomenon of “eating out” and tries to establish a difference between the food and entertainment where the importance of food becomes secondary and the second is “gastronomic aesthetics” where the importance is more on the quality of the food. The study focuses on “slow-cooking” and applied with some form of entertainment. The research concentrates on the second phenomenon, i.e. gastronomic aesthetics and researches a case study of slow cooking in Tuscany. The research shows that it is mainly the restaurants who have tried to adopt the traditional cooking procedure to provide better quality food to their customers: “The Slow Food movement seeks to heighten the aesthetic appreciation of typical products and works mainly through local groups and typical restaurants.” (Miele & Murdoch, 2002, p. 325).
The paper tries to establish a relationship between the “three main strands in the gastronomic aesthetic” which are similar for any kind of food and can be extended to the restaurant organisation are “connectedness” and/or “embeddedness” with the “surrounding socio-economic and ecological relationships” (Miele & Murdoch, 2002, p. 325). Thus, this movement in Tuscany was found to be a success because the promotion of the traditional method of cooking was adopted by the hospitality sector (Miele & Murdoch, 2002). The paper demonstrates that in order to make a successful preservation and promotion effort of a traditional cuisine it is important to associate all who may directly influence the effort such as the restaurant owners, chefs, government, and social movement institutions.
The popular Greek cuisine has become well known through constructive preservation and promotion. Trichopoulou, Vasilopoulou, Georga, Soukara, & Dilis (2006) conducted a study on the Mediterranean cuisine and reported that the Greek cuisine has been readapted and revived in order to bring back the nutrients of the traditional diet. They conducted a case study analysis of Greek food and defined the nutrient values of such a diet: “The Mediterranean diet was … a low saturated lipid diet that was conveying protection against coronary heart disease by lowering plasma cholesterol levels” (Trichopoulou et al., p. 499). They described a typical weekly menu of Greek food as one that adhered to both the physiological and religious requirements of the region. The menu corresponded with the Greek tradition of religious roots, but avoided animal foods especially during Wednesdays and Fridays, which are used for religious observance (Trichopoulou et al., 2006, p. 499). The European Union (EU) undertook measures to promote traditional food and helped revive the culture of local food through regulations specified in the “Traditional Specialty Guaranteed” (Trichopoulou et al., 2006, p. 503). Government regulations facilitated preserving traditional cuisine.
The French Traditional Cuisine
Bessière (1998) studied rural cuisines in different regions and points out the relation of food and tourism and has found the development of rural tourism through food. The study presents an analysis of the food and gastronomy of the region to understand the means undertaken to promote the food and culture of the region in France. The first step as mentioned by Bessière is to ascertain the demand for rural cuisine. The transformation of the rural areas from a peasant society to a pre-urban society is first necessary. The development of communication process within the region was essential to boost the production and productivity of the cuisines. The main basis of the development of the case for promotion of rural cuisine in France was based on the initial need for rural tourism.
Bessière (1998) identified the need to return to nature as the first and foremost reason for the development of rural tourism. The second reason for the boost in rural tourism is believed to be the desire to return to the roots and search for one’s identity (Bessière, 1998). Food is considered to be the psychological and social symbol that leads one towards their identity. Hence, the rural food is believed to be a symbol, a “sign of communion”, a class market, and an emblem (Bessière, 1998, p. 25). Some of the local food products like the Laguole cheese have been amply promoted as one of the best quality cheese in France. The best cheese is found in France, with one of its local brands awarded the AOC, a distinction that forced major production to the limits. The cheese commune employs about thirty people and promotes the tradition handed down to them since the twelfth century by the Aubrac monks ((Bessière, 1998).
Valorisation of the local cuisine is an emerging trend throughout the world and it has become necessary for many of the preservation of the traditional cuisine. The initiative for the promotion of the rural cuisine was taken by the National Council for Culinary Art indicative of the “current awareness and a real determination to preserve and safeguard the culinary heritage of provincial France” (Bessière, 1998, p. 32).
Food Tourism of Different Regions
A study conducted by Rand, Heath, and Alberts (2003) provide an analysis of the relevant literature on destination promotion to demonstrate the role that food has played in developing tourism in the regions. The research has placed special attention on marketing of local as well as foreign food to attract tourists. However, the paper does not provide any specific idea as to why and how a traditional cuisine can become the main tourist attraction.
Okumus, Okumus, and McKercher (2007) compared two different destinations viz. Hong Kong and Turkey to understand which region makes more use of food to market their tourist destination. It was found that Hong Kong makes extensive use of food as the core proposition in their destination promotions while Turkey makes little use of their rich cuisine to promote their tourist. Hence, Hong Kong may be considered as a successful case in promoting their traditional cuisine.
Horng and Tsai (2010) conducted a content analysis of the government and tourism websites to promote their traditional cuisine and food culture. The research has covered most of the East Asian countries like Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand and provided the techniques that have been used to promote the traditional cuisine of the countries. The aim of the researchers was primarily to understand the methods in promoting traditional culture and cuisine for destination promotion. The research also provides insight into the strategies for culinary tourism.
Jones, Comfort, and Hillier (2004) provides an insight into the British food market and shows that despite the multicultural influence on British cuisine there has been a recent increase in the interest in local food. The paper provides some advantages for local food and provides a few strategies that may be employed to promote these foods.
Contamination: A Threat against Traditional Food
Kuhnlein and Chan (2000) studied the traditional food of indigenous people of North America and Europe. They found that indigenous people had to deal with contamination which impacted their traditional food, forcing a change in the dietary habit of the region. The study reviewed the prevalence of the dietary contamination of the food, the risks involved, and how this affected the food habit of the northern indigenous people. Contaminants came from the soil or from ingredients such as fish and other marine life, wild food species, and toxic particulates in water such as mercury, toxaphene, cadmium, DDT, PCBs and chlorine (Kuhnlein & Chan, 2000). Contamination of the ingredients resulted in serious ailments, and its impact depended on the age, gender, and genetics of the indigenous people.
Research has shown that long-term exposure to mercury can damage the brain. Arsenic exposure may be carcinogenic and may lead to diseases of the liver, vascular gland, and the brain. Cadmium toxicity causes kidney disorder as well as lung cancer. The study found that change was essential in order to reduce toxicity of the diet since continued and prolonged exposure resulted in diseases (Kuhnlein & Chan, 2000). A similar study conducted by Furgal, Powell, and Myers (2005) demonstrates the effects of contamination on the food chain, which is a threat to the population’s health. Contamination of the food of the northern aboriginal people posed a challenge to the community health workers. Effective communication about health risks among indigenous people reduced their consumption of traditional food:
The management and communication of the risks posed by environmental contaminants in the food chain of Northerners pose a challenge to health and environmental managers and health professionals. Traditional food is the anchor to cultural and personal well being in the North. It is essential to the nutritional and social health of Aboriginal individuals (Furgal et al., 2005, p. 104).
Traditional food of the northern aboriginals is found to have a strong influence on the nutrition intake of the people. The traditional food used to have the required nutrients for the indigenous people, but contamination of the food caused health hazards, threatening the health of the indigenous population (Furgal et al., 2005).
Chemical contaminants were carried in the environment by “long-range atmospheric currents” and had contaminated the northern indigenous people’s food chains through a process called bioaccumulation (Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme, 1998; Jensen, Adare, & Shearer, 1997 as cited in Kuhnlein & Chan, 2000). The chemicals combined with local contaminants which were results of mining and agricultural pesticides.
Impact of Westernisation on Traditional Cuisine
A phenomenon that has caught the attention of researchers is westernisation of food markets. Pingali (2007) found in a study that continuous urbanisation and availability of western food in Asian countries increased the intake of western food as opposed to traditional Asian foods. Asian diet has shown a shift towards western food tradition, and thus Asian people have moved away from their staple diet of livestock, dairy products, fruits, and vegetables. Due to improved economic conditions, there has been a change from the staple diet of rice or wheat to Western food, and the pattern has now shifted towards greater preference for western diet. The quest for a better life affects food habits and diversification. The traditional food supply chain cannot meet this demand, forcing Asian countries to adopt most of the western dietary system, such as processed foods. Globalisation and urbanisation have changed Asian lifestyles as more women have become a part of the work force. Women cannot prepare food the traditional way, although Asian food still has traditional features (Pingali, 2007). But food has to be prepared with shorter time because time is of the essence for the working Asian men and women.
Asian agriculture has also been affected, shifting from traditional food farming towards cultivation of crops, fruits and vegetables used for the preparation of western cuisine. Traditional diet is still a part of Asian culture and cuisine, albeit diversified to meet the demands of the changing world, and from forces like globalisation and urbanisation. Indigenous peoples have tried to adopt measures to preserve their tradition and promote traditional food, but they cannot resist change.
From the above literature review, it has become amply clear that many researchers have established the nutrient benefits of traditional food and a digression from traditional food may cause serious malfunctions in indigenous physiology. Further, other researches concentrated on findings the specific reasons for the change in traditional food habit of indigenous people. In these researches, the reasons that became clearly responsible for the change in the traditional food habit were colonialism, globalisation, technology change, economic change, social change, and contamination. The researches on promotion and preservation of traditional food has concentrated on providing three main aspects – strategies to promote traditional food, promotion for development of tourism, promotion to boost local agriculture, and promotion of traditional food for their nutrient values and avoidance of health hazard of other foods.
Table 1: Literature on Promotion/Preservation of Traditional Cuisine.
|Strategies to promote traditional food|| ||1998 |
Hong KongSlow Food
|Promotion for development of tourism|| ||2010 |
|East Asia |
Hong Kong and Turkey
|Promotion to boost local agriculture|| ||2000 |
Tatra Mountain region, Europe
|Preservation/Promotion of traditional food for their nutrient values and avoidance of health hazard of other foods|| ||2006 |
Table 1 demonstrates that most of the studies have concentrated on understanding the various aspects of promotion and preservation of traditional food. The researches that have been conducted in this area can be broadly divided into four categories – strategies to promote traditional food, promotion for development of tourism, promotion to boost local agriculture, and preservation/promotion of traditional food for their nutrient values and avoidance of health hazard of other foods. The literature review shows that researchers have mostly concentrated on looking at promotional aspect of traditional food as a tertiary part of destination marketing. In case of Turkey, Greek, Hong Kong, rural France, etc. the aim of the researchers was to see how promotion of traditional food helped in boosting tourism.
However, little has been done to understand the strategies that helped in promoting traditional food. Strategies or a planned theory that may help other nations to promote or preserve their traditional cuisine is something that has not been addressed by the reviewed literature. The other finding from the literature review is that mostly the researchers believe that traditional food should be preserved as they provide nutritional value to the indigenous people (Kuhnlein, 1992; Kuhnlein & Receveur, 1996; Receveur, Boulay, & Kuhnlein, 1997; Lambden, Receveur, & Kuhnlein, 2007; Batal, Gray-Donald, Kuhnlein, & Receveur, 2005). The gap in literature lies in associating the benefits of traditional food in terms of nutritional value to their preservation or promotional efforts. Further, there is another gap in literature wherein the changes in the traditional food may be associated with the promotional efforts. This paper tries to address the first gap in literature i.e. understanding the promotion of traditional food and how strategies can be generalised such that other countries may adopt it.
The aim of this section is to provide a clear methodology for this research. The literature review on traditional food, its benefits to indigenous people, and aspects of promotion and preservation, show that it has a strong importance in improving diet as well as in preserving a cultural legacy. In many places, traditional food has been extensively modified due to modern ways of preparing food. This research aims to understand how promotion of traditional food enables preserving a cultural tradition known as traditional food or cuisine.
The method adopted for the research is case study analysis. Case study analysis is a well-established method to develop theories (Eisenhardt, 1989; Yin, 2014). According to Yin (2014, p. 1) a case study research helps “in many situations to contribute to our knowledge of individuals, group, organisational, social, political, and related phenomenon.” Since the promotion of traditional food is a socio-cultural issue, using case study method for the research is extremely helpful in exploring the options that are available in creating a holistic strategy to promote and preserve traditional food of indigenous people in the different regions of the world.
Most researches on traditional food have adopted the case study methodology in determining the need to promote and preserve traditional food. For instance, Trichopoulou et al. (2006) used the case study methodology of preserving traditional food in the Mediterranean, with a specific study on Greece. They analysed the Greece cuisine in order to get the facts and ascertain the benefits of sustaining a traditional food system. Other researchers, who have studied traditional food and their effect on indigenous people, have used the case study methodology to expound and provide detailed study of traditional food and the factors affecting change, e.g. the works of Kuhnlein (1992), Kuhnlein and Chan (2000), Batal, Gray-Donald, Kuhnlein, and Receveur (2005), De Roest and Menghi (2000(), Receveur, Boulay, and Kuhnlein (1997), Roche, Creed-Kanashiro, Tuesta, & Kuhnlein (2007), and Sheehy, Roache, and Sharma (2013).
Many researchers established the relationship between promotion of traditional cuisine and cultural tourism (Du Rand & Heath, 2006). The essence of the researches has been in establishing a connection between local agricultural products and the culinary heritage of the land. Thus, the main aim is to promote traditional food to local and foreign tourists in order to enhance destination experience (Du Rand & Heath, 2006). Food tourism helps in promoting local cuisine and popularisation of the traditional food in danger of becoming extinct in the face of globalisation. Preservation of the culinary heritage also increases the “authenticity of the destination” and stimulates “agricultural production” (Du Rand & Heath, 2006, p. 213).
The procedure associated in building theory using case studies are divided into eight steps, as in the following: “definition of the research question, selecting the case, method of data collection, within case analysis, cross case analysis, shaping hypothesis through tabulation of evidence, enfolding the literature and comparing and contrasting with previous researches, reaching closure” (Eisenhardt, 1989, p. 533). In our analysis, we undertook multiple cases in order to understand the approaches in various parts of the world.
The case study of promotion of traditional food was adopted using examples of different countries which have already made certain attempts to preserve and promote their traditional cuisine. The focus of the case study involved Hong Kong, Zambia, and Latvia. The three selected countries belong to three different continents and have different geographical conditions. This allows us to attain a comprehensive understanding of the strategy that can be developed which is not region specific. Subjects discussed include traditional cuisine, promotions of government and private sector, and aspects and activities in promoting traditional food. This provides an understanding of the strategy of the three countries to popularise their traditional cuisine and developing generalised theory.
Typically, the data collection method for a case analysis is through interviews, archival records, observation, and questionnaire survey (Eisenhardt, 1989). The data thus obtained may be qualitative and/or quantitative. For this research, this Researcher derived the data from online sources and databases of articles and journals, which provide ample information regarding the promotional activities undertaken by the above-mentioned countries to promote their cuisine; online databases, articles, journals, and online and physical library. The data collected from databases include research papers, articles, and white papers, archival records, and news articles on the Internet. The promotion of the traditional food is a conscious effort that some of the governments have undertaken in order to attract tourists and promote their culture. The case studies show how such efforts have been undertaken in various countries.
Shing (2011) presented a case study of traditional food of Hong Kong and how it has been popularised in the global market. The article mainly concentrates on exemplifying how a rural cuisine is popularised. The dish that is presented as a case is poonchoi, a rural food popularised in the cosmopolitan lifestyle of Hong Kong. Poonchoi is a traditional dish of the rural areas of Hong Kong and has become a star dish in many of the food festivals sponsored by the authorities. The dish has a strong cultural significance to the culture of Cantonese food because it is used in Chinese festivals, cultural and religious affairs, weddings, and other important celebrations (Shing, 2011). In the 1980s, the rural dish was brought to the urban areas of Hong Kong and gained popularity in the urban landscape. Soon poonchoi became a popular dish in major social events and business conferences. Food festivals were promoted to highlight the culinary culture of the island and the dish became a popular choice. The social, economic and political change in Hong Kong brought this essential rural dish to the cosmopolitan city dwellers’ palate. The Island’s government aimed to highlight the culture of the region, boosted the growth of this local delicacy and made it a popular traditional food.
The main basis of promotion and preserving of the traditional food in the region was based on objective to promote tourism. Gastronomic tourism was the basis of the interest of the country’s promotion of traditional cuisine.
Tourism in Hong Kong is one the major sources of income for the economy. The promotion of the tourism of Hong Kong is based on the country’s traditional cuisines. Before we start our analysis into Hong Kong’s traditional food industry and its promotion, we will first look into the tourism industry of Hong Kong.
The tourism industry in Hong Kong is a pillar of the country’s economy. In 2012, tourism contributed 4.7% to the country’s GDP as it provided 6.5% of the total employment (Government of Hong Kong, 2014a).
Table 2: Tourism Performance, Hong Kong, 2013, Source Hong Kong Tourism Board (Govt. of Hong Kong, 2014c).
|Total visitor arrivals||54 298 804||+11.7%|
|– Overnight arrivals||25 661 072||+8.0%|
|– Same-day arrivals||28 637 732||+15.3%|
|Average hotel occupancy rate||89%||No change|
|Average achieved hotel room rate||HK$1,447||-2.8%|
|Average length of stay of overnight visitors||3.4 nights||-0.1 night|
|Overnight visitor per capita spending||HK$8,123||+3.9%|
|Total Tourism Expenditure Associated to Inbound Tourism||HK$343.1 billion||+15.7%|
The above table demonstrates the rise in the tourism income and influx in Hong Kong. The largest number of visitors in Hong Kong came from Mainland China (16.7%). There was an increase in the tourists who came for a short visit; however, there was a drop in the number of visitors to Hong Kong for long haul, especially from the United States, which was the country’s long-haul tourist attraction. Tourists from the US have reduced due to the global economic slowdown as tourists declined by 6.3% from 2012 to 2014. Another strong contributor to Hong Kong’s tourism is Russia (20%). However, Hong Kong had attracted tourists from new markets such as India (4.9%), the Gulf Cooperation Council (13.4%), and Vietnam (14.4%) (Government of Hong Kong, 2014a). The data on tourism shows that tourism is an important sector for Hong Kong and promotion of tourism with the aid of traditional food would be an additional benefit for the country.
Food Culture in Hong Kong
The food culture in Hong Kong is essentially problematic as raw materials natural resources for culinary tourism is not readily available. The reason for the lack of natural resources is due to the country’s geographic position, which restricts agriculture in the region. Geographic position of Hong Kong is an impediment for agricultural growth, but is a sensitive hub for development of unique and multi-ethnic food. Hong Kong has a rich culinary culture and boasts of a unique culinary identity (Government of Hong Kong, 2013). Hong Kong was found to be a producer of rise in the early 17th century. They continued producing rice as a primary agricultural product until mid-20th century. However, as population pressure increased in the region, demand has also risen, and that is why the government promoted vegetable farming and livestock farming in the region (Government of Hong Kong, 2013).
Since Hong Kong is located along the Indian Ocean, fishing has been one of the primary activities in the region. Fishing was mostly done in the southeastern shoreline of China and oyster farming was an important livelihood in the northwestern province (Government of Hong Kong, 2013). Seafood is one of the main attractions in Hong Kong. According to one of the articles by The Guardian (2014):
Everyone visiting Hong Kong should set aside a day to discover the unspoiled natural beauty and superb seafood restaurants of the numerous outlying islands. The moment the ferry sets off towards the South China Sea, the traveller enters a very different world from the hi-tech skyscrapers and bustling streets of Hong Kong Island. (The Guardian, 2014, para. 1)
Traditional Food in Hong Kong
The traditional food that developed locally in Hong Kong is a profound example of Hong Kong’s culinary tradition. Food in Hong Kong is very spicy and originated from the Cantonese tradition. The main staples of the Cantonese dish, which are the traditional dishes of the island, are “noodles, rice, rice noodles, and congee” (Inter Nations, 2014, para. 6). Congee is a sort of porridge. In Cantonese cuisine one of these are always served even if the name or description of the dish does not mention it. The traditional food of Hong Kong has gained a lot of popularity due to the expansion of the tourism and one of the dishes that has gained immense popularity is dimsum:
The most popular food in Hong Kong is dim sum. In most restaurants, waiters roll around trolleys full of different dim sum, such as dumplings filled with meat or seafood, shrimps, chicken feet, or buns with various fillings. In other places, you order the dim sum treats off a menu. Usually, it all comes with a main dish such as fried rice, noodles, or vegetables. (Inter Nations, 2014, para. 7)
The food in Hong Kong is a combination of Southeast Asian, Chinese, and Western cuisine. Hong Kong is the melting pot of three different cultures and the food is more of a confluence of three varied cuisines. The government of Hong Kong provides a detailed article in its website that defines the benefits of healthy eating and promotes the food produced from locally grown materials (Government of Hong Kong, 2014b).
Table 3 presents a detailed list of dishes that are popular in Hong Kong. The table differentiates between the cuisines and delineates the dishes that are usually popular in the cuisine. The basic ingredients that are required for the dishes are also mentioned.
Table 3: Chinese and Southeast Asian cuisines prevalent in Hong Kong.
|Chinese||Chinese||Chrysanthemum tea, Jasmine tea||Milk tea, Yuanyang|
|Cantonese||Dim sum, Shark’s fin, Char siu||Fish, Meat|
|Buddhist||Buddha’s delight, Mantou|
|South Asian||Japanese||Sushi, Sashimi||Fish|
|Southeast Asia||Wonton noodle, Congee, Tofu pudding, beef jerky, Poon Choi||Wheat, Rice, Flour, Meat, Tofu|
Preserving and Promoting Traditional Food
The Hong Kong government and the private sector have collaborated to promote local cuisines as part of the program on food tourism. The government undertook various projects to popularise the local food. Food festivals are becoming popular in Hong Kong. Two annual food festivals are held, such as the Hong Kong wine and dine month and Hong Kong food and wine festival (Hong Kong Tourism Board, 2014). The food festivals display the traditional food of Hong Kong which represent the culture of the region. The foods are usually one which are rare and almost on the verge of extinction. One of the most popular dishes of Hong Kong food festival is Poon Choi and wife cakes. Poon Choi is a rural cuisine made in communal kitchens in villages using chicken, duck, pork, and root vegetables (The Observer, 2014). The dish is cooked in different layers wherein each layer has a specific meat and vegetable, and is then savoured in a daylong feast.
Another festival in Hong Kong is the Dragon Boat Festival, which is a rowing competition and attracts tourists from around the world. This festival has sports events and has its specific cuisine: “sweet glutinous rice dumplings, steamed in bamboo leaves” (The Observer, 2014, para. 2). The autumn festival in Hong Kong is celebrated with its own distinct kind of cuisines such as the Moon cakes and other pastries. The Bun festival called Tai Ping Ching Jiu is usually celebrated in the island of Cheung Chau. This is a festival where the whole island feasts vegetarian food for a week. However, the most sumptuous food is conjured up during the Chinese New Year celebration offering best of Chinese cuisine such as “Tong Yeun dumplings, Bak Jok rice-porridge congee, and whole fish dish” (The Observer, 2014, para. 6).
Another promotional tool employed by the Hong Kong government is their tourism website which showcases a page dedicated to promote food. Figure 1 shows the screenshot of the website that is used by the government to promote local food and dining options to the tourists. The website is a strong tool for promoting local cuisine as it presents a detailed copy to inform tourists of the places and the right food they can enjoy while on vacation. The site provides information about names of restaurants, local street food centres, the different kinds of food available in the city, the food festivals that the city hosts, and the quality assurance provided by the government (Government of Hong Kong, 2014b). This is a strong promotional tool that the government uses to attract foreign tourists as well as provide assurance to the locals that the traditional food is projected as an attractive product and is being promoted for awareness of the city’s longstanding culinary culture.
The Hong Kong traditional cuisine is popular among foreign visitors and guests and has been successfully popularised as a tourist attraction by the local government. The traditional cuisine has been a source of cultural pride and branded as the ambassador for the city’s long, multicultural heritage. The government of Hong Kong initiates the tourism programs and promotions with food as a central part of its culture and therefore, gastronomic tourism often becomes an integral part of the tourism system. The promotional activities that have been used by the government to promote their traditional cuisine are as follows:
- Promoting food as a way of life not only in restaurants or joints where one can find meals. The government has dedicated a website to promote food culture along with tourism (Government of Hong Kong, 2013).
- The government has started agricultural production in the region in order to enhance their food tourism. Further, as seafood is the main attraction of the region, the government has encouraged deep-water fishing in the ocean to help boost food tourism.
- The annual festivals that are held in the city, which allow people to see the culture of the city as well as the cuisine as each festival has its unique variety of food, associated with it.
Zambia is a landlocked country in Southern Africa, home to some spectacular natural wonders, but the government’s programs to boost the country’s tourism has not been completely successful. Zambia as a case study allows the reader to understand the government tourism programs, using local tourism and traditional food promotion. Tourism in Zambia is divided into three distinct categories – eco tourism, cultural tourism, and movie tourism (Zambian Development Agency, 2013). The tourism efforts in Zambia were revived in 2011 with a renewed slogan. The cultural tourism that has been promoted as part and parcel of the overall tourism campaign falls short of developing the right string. The tourist influx in the country has reduced considerably since 2011 (Zambian Development Agency, 2013). When looking at the purpose of visit of the tourists in the country, it shows that more than 50% of the visitors came for business purposes while only 26% for vacationing (Zambian Development Agency, 2013).
Cultural tourism has not been adequately explored in Zambia. The tourism website dedicates a page towards cultural tourism but does not provide the required information to the tourists about the real culture of the place. The tools usually used for food and culture promotion of a destination as web promotion, pamphlets and brochures, mass media advertisements, image branding, and exhibitions and trade shows (Du Rand, Heath, & Alberts, 2003). Although Zambia is rich in cultural heritage, the government has failed to project the essence of the culture to the foreign and local tourists (Zambian Development Agency, 2013). The country has a rich rural base with 60% of the population living in rural areas. It has a diverse, multicultural population and has a total 73 languages (Zambian Development Agency, 2013). The country has many cultural festivals ingrained in its tribal life but none has been properly projected to the foreign tourists.
The government to attract tourists has not projected the food culture of Zambia. Though the government has strong intent of doing so, but little action has been taken. Mabvuto-Ngwira (2011) points out that the country has a specific board to promote cultural tourism in the country. The Tourism Board had the sole responsibility of marketing and promoting the country’s tourism attractions, but some of its functions were transferred to another department but within the Ministry of Tourism. The government provided more funds for tourism promotion, particularly on promoting traditional cuisine as a way of enhancing tourism.
In 2007, the government enacted the Zambia Tourism Board Act No. 24 which formed the Tourism Board to promote Zambian culture and tourist destination both internally and externally (Mabvuto-Ngwira, 2011). Though there are enlisted acts and laws that help the tourism board to promote tourism in the country and to uphold the traditional culture and cuisine in the country, little or no effort has been done to help promote tourism. According to the tourism board promotion is the key to enhancement of tourism and hence, consistent promotion is required to uplift the image of the country. However, many have complained of insufficient funding to promote the tourism activities in the country and no constructive effort has been seen in the promotion activity.
Food in Zambia is based on maize, which is a staple food. The staple food is nshima that is usually served with sugar (Our Africa, 2014). This staple food is made of maize or corn and is actually a stiff porridge made of ground maize. This is usually eaten with meat, fish or vegetable. Other local popular dishes are ifisashi, which is a “green vegetable peanut sauce”, and samp a dish made of “crushed maize and been” (Our Africa, 2014, para. 8). Zambia boasts of some local brews like Mosi beer and Chibuka beer made of maize or sorghum and has a tangy taste of a milkshake gone sour (Our Africa, 2014). Exotic foods include Zambian “grasshoppers, caterpillars, cicadas, and flying ants” (Our Africa, 2014, para. 12)
The present tourism minister of Zambia, Sylvia Masembo, has taken many steps to promote the Zambian cuisine and insists that most of Zambia’s tourists and visitors take a taste of the food and culture of Zambia. She urged “local hospitality industry to actively promote Zambian dishes in their in-house cuisines” (Chongo, 2013, para. 1). Chongo (2013) mentions that Sylvia Masembo introduced training institutes that would train local people to prepare local dishes according to international standards:
Masebo said the initiative was also an opportunity for training institutions to introduce formal training tailored to preparing local dishes and maintaining high culinary standards … I am calling on this association to urge its members to mainstream Zambian dishes on the menus in Zambian hotels and restaurants. I would like you to ensure that Zambian dishes are on the daily menus in our hotels and restaurants (Chongo, 2013, para. 4).
The tourism industry aims to promote local cuisine in order to be competitive and maintain the standards of the hospitality industry. Prominent promotion activity that has been observed to promote the traditional cuisine of the country as part and parcel of the cultural tourism of Zambia are as follows:
- The website has a page talking of the rich culture of Zambia and the different festivals of Zambia. But no mention is made regarding the food culture of the country.
- The only event that was held by the Zambian Tourism Board was in 2010, during FIFA World Cup in South Africa to attract foreign tourists in the country. However, in this cultural exhibition, Zambia made no effort to project their rich food culture.
- The country’s cuisine was projected as an important aspect of tourism in the United Nations World Tourism General Assembly (UNWTO) since 2013 (Masebo, 2013). The government has started training men and women in the art of making African cuisine (Lusaka Voice, 2013)
- The television campaign made to promote tourism of Zambia globally talks of the flora and fauna of the region, culture, and history but misses out on the rich African cuisine that is par to of the culture and which many believe are one aspect that most tourists want to experience (Lusaka Voice, 2013).
Latvia is an East European country, located in the temperate climate zone. Due to harsh climate, agriculture has always been a tough business, and therefore, the Latvians always exert a lot of effort in making their food and in finding the raw materials. Latvian cuisine is mostly based on agricultural produce. Bread and meat are also part of their food.
The present Latvian cuisine has evolved from the traditional which survived through many generations. Now, it is a combination of several cuisines from Eastern Europe, German and Russian, and some food from Swedish cuisine. Although the Latvian cuisine has traditional features, it has modern taste and features, like the Western food (e.g. coffee, eggs, potatoes, etc.). Lunch is composed of soup with meat, but usually health foods influence the Latvian cuisine. Supper may be composed of a combination of several dishes, like milk soup, fried fish, but after supper, food still comes in and comprised of milk or tea, and desserts (Barlas & Wong, 2010).
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Latvia hosts a website that promotes the specialties of Latvian cuisine (Latvian Institute, 1999). The web page provides comprehensive information about the Latvian cuisine. The following table provides a detailed list of the Latvian cuisine.
Figure 2: List of traditional cuisine of Latvia, Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Latvia (Latvian Institute, 1999).
|Iejavputra||Yeast water, dried apples, rye, honey||Dessert|
|Saldskabmaize||Sweet and sour bread made of rye|
|Sklandu rausi||Bun made from rye flour and carrots, potatoes, apple, and cottage cheese||Cuisine from western province of Latvia|
|Janu siers||Cheese||Made in every household|
|Stenkis||Poppy and milk|
|Biguzis||Bread made of rye||Prepared in summers|
|Kiselis||Fruits, berries, milk||Dessert|
|Karasas||Wheat flour and barley meal flat cakes||Zemigalians and Kursi dish|
|Zirnu Pikas||Made from peas|
|Skabputra||Sour porridge, a drink made from barley groats and milk||A traditional drink from Zemigalians and Kursi|
The official website of Tourism of Latvia has a specific section dedicated to food and cuisine. Since 2011, the Tourism Board of the country has identified the hidden strength of traditional cuisine to promote local culture and therefore has decided to promote it to the “Families with children” and middle-aged segment of the population (Latvian Tourism Development Agency, 2011). The Tourism’s website also promotes local cuisines and urges tourists to visit places where local cuisine can be enjoyed (Latvian Tourism Development Agency, 2014). The Tourism ministry has identified traditional food as positive feature to promote cultural tourism in the country: “Diverse and rich cultural and historical (both material and non-material) heritage, city planning, national cuisine, presence of different religions, old craft skills, manifestations of contemporary culture” (Latvian Tourism Development Agency, 2011, p. 13). The slow-food of Latvia is one for the special global attraction and the Tourism ministry is eager to capitalise this strength (Latvian Tourism Development Agency, 2011).
The primary feature of the Latvian cuisine and efforts towards its promotion are as follows:
- The Latvian culture has a rich and old cuisine that boasts of varied, indigenous food and has been prevalent in the country for thousands of years. The cuisines boast of local ingredients and the cuisine changes with the extreme climate of the region.
- The Tourism ministry of the country has tried to project Latvian cuisine as a part of Latvian cultural tourism and has gained popularity in many targeted European countries like Estonia, Lithonia, Germany, and Russia. However, a global fame for the rich cuisine of the land is yet to be achieved.
- The tourism board hosts a website which dedicates a page towards Latvian cuisine and presents detailed information regarding the where in Latvia such food is served.
- Latvia participates in the Riga food festival that showcases Baltic food but hosts no food festival of its own.
The promotional strategies employed by the three states – Hong Kong, Latvia, and Zambia – are aimed at promoting traditional cuisine to boost cultural tourism. All the three countries aimed at building a strong gastronomic tourism. Local cuisine is used as strategy to attract local and foreign tourists. Zambia, which has just begun its gastronomic excellence promotions, has urged the local hospitality industry to boost their offerings of local cuisines and has begun classes to teach the local people how to prepare and improve the local cuisine. Clearly, local cuisine is slowly diminishing in Zambia, which has gained the attention from public and private agencies. To uplift cultural heritage, the government has provided training activities and trained people to help promote local cuisine. However, in Latvia, the case is different as the traditional food is still popular among the local households; little training is required to this effect. On the other hand, Hong Kong is the only city/country that has successfully promoted its cuisine. Of the three countries, Hong Kong’s cuisine has gained greater international popularity and greater presence in the tourism.
Given the background of the cases studied above, a comprehensive strategy to promote traditional cuisine may be employed. The following are the few steps that have been identified from the above cases as important aspects to promote traditional cuisine:
- Generating a sustainable food supply
- Concentration on local agricultural products and other activities like fishing or livestock farming
- Preservation of traditional food among locals
- Active promotion of cuisines and public-private collaboration
Generating sustainable food supply
The main aim of this activity is to ensure that the local ingredients or raw materials are amply available. For this reason, the natural resource must be able to provide the raw materials and ingredients necessary for the different menus. Hence, the traditional food industry has to be boosted such that it can cater to the increased demand for the local ingredients. This is not only to require to promote traditional cuisine for the purpose of tourism but also to promote traditional food among the indigenous people. Thus, the value chain of the traditional food system has to be streamlined to cater to the increased demand of modern life.
Concentration on local agricultural products and other activities like fishing or livestock farming
The agricultural sector has to be strong enough to sustain the increased demand or local ingredients to cater to the traditional food market. Local food in Hong Kong requires vegetables, poultry, and mostly seafood, which are available in the geographic area of Hong Kong. Fishing is an important activity in the city-state. In Latvia, the main ingredients are derived from farming, fruits, and berries grown in the country. Milk is also a strong ingredient. Further, rye is also required in abundance for most of the Latvian dishes. The ingredients are available in the locality. In Zambia, maize flour forms one of the basic ingredients for most of the traditional food. Other than that meat and fish are important ingredients. The government should focus on agriculture in order to provide raw materials for the traditional cuisine.
Preservation of traditional food among locals
Before promoting the traditional cuisine to the tourists, the local people must adopt the traditional cuisines. If the dishes do not gain popularity among the local population, which may have become depleted due to colonisation or globalisation, then the tourists will not attracted be towards the traditional food. Hong Kong has been successful in promoting its cuisine globally because their cuisine is promoted and patronised by the local population. The festivals are part of the culture and are practiced by the people of the island. This creates the popularity of the festivals hosted in Hong Kong. Valorisation of the local food to the locals is an important element to preservation of traditional food.
Active promotion of cuisines and public-private collaboration
Private-public collaboration is essential in promoting traditional culture and cuisine. This seems to have been adopted by all the three countries in the case study as the governments of these countries have undertaken active participation in promoting local restaurants and hotels that showcased the traditional culture and cuisine. Latvia and Hong Kong have websites that promote the restaurants that are best known for serving local cuisines while Zambia has started to collaborate with the private hospitality industry to promote Zambian cuisine.
This research presents insights into the strategies employed by nations and indigenous peoples to promote and preserve their national cuisine. The paper supports the view that promoting traditional cuisine also promotes tourism. Traditional cuisine projects the essence of the culture of a region, and upholding it as an offering in destination marketing, as Hong Kong has done, will help in making the traditional cuisine an international brand.
This paper has covered a detailed discussion and analysis of traditional food and culture of indigenous peoples. Traditional food is important to indigenous people or ethnic group as it relates with their history and culture. However, it was discussed in the literature that some traditional foods have been diminishing due to several factors, like globalisation, urbanisation, chemical contamination of the traditional food, and the lack of raw materials for food. The countries mentioned in the case study have promoted their traditional food in order to preserve their tradition and enhance tourism.
The importance of traditional cuisine in hosting the culture of a place is undeniable and ample research paper supports the adoption of local cuisine that helps in proving the required nutrients to the indigenous people suited for the specific climatic and socio-economic condition of the place. The logic of conducting three case studies from three climatic zones was to understand how food differed with regions and how the local food changed with the availability of ingredients. The cases showed that all the three regions have different traditional cuisines and taste preferences and mostly the ingredients of the traditional food were found in the agriculture and natural resources of the region. The analysis of the cases presented the strategies that must be employed in order to promote the traditional cuisine.
This study is comprehensive in its understanding of traditional cuisine and its importance to promote culture. The study presents a complete understanding as to how traditional cuisine can be promoted. However, the scope of the study was limited to three nations with limited resources, and in order to generate a more generalised understanding of preservation strategy of traditional cuisine, future researches should focus on empirical studies of the three states’ traditional cuisines, how they have evolved and survived through the years. Future studies should also focus on qualitative and quantitative studies with emphasis on analysis of raw materials and the cuisines’ earned patronage from different sectors of society.
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