DIMENSIONS OF FOOD
We humans are fatally bound to food. Or someone has just invented some weird pill whereby we won't be needing to eat anymore. But who would do that? It's something we all can agree on: Food is good. Admit it, we sometimes grave for a certain dish even more than world peace. And maybe food is the way to achieve that goal. World peace I mean... Well, maybe also the graving for a certain kind of dish. We could combine the two!
Antoni Miralda is a Spanish artist who's work has been dominated by food. He even went as far by saying that not gold but the "holy stomach" will one day rule this world. Hereby he gives, I think rightfully, food the upper hand. It's one of the neccesities in life that we can't skip if we want to survive. Of course you could say that the ones with gold are the ones with food (you only have to look at the rivalry in the supermarkets-business and self evidently the winners of it).
The things we eat used to be bound to the climate we live in and could've been seen as a speciality or rarity within that part of the world. I'd even go as far by saying that food was a main part of culture. Culture is a very weird word and there's been some great discussions about what it actually means. Is culture something bound to old stuff only? Can we say that it's something primarily bound to a country or based upon a civilization? But when is something "culture"? Do you have to register culture or is it all the things off the list that are more important? We can't call everything culture, can we? Well maybe we can, but you could say that culture is a reflection or a magnification of that what is found to be important within a certain area or group. So, in theory, you could say that the type of food that gets to be eaten daily within a certain area or by a certain kind of people is part of what we define as culture. Although with globalization this can be a tricky statement. I mean, pizza has broken boundaries... Besides the type of food, also the manner of how it gets prepared and naturally consumed can give you a broad idea of how things work in a particular environment.
YOU SAY IT JOEY!
"You are what you eat" is quite a cheesy way of saying what I want to say. But it's scientifically proven that we are indeed what we eat (or atleast influenced by). We perceive things as they come out of our own perception. Therefore the meaning of food can change because of the room and the people it's accompanied with. You associate food with previous conduct that's relatable to how well you receive it. Therefore you are more likely to try something new when you're accompanied with people you can tolerate. And you're more likely to enjoy a pizza pepperoni with friends than with people you don't like or can't connect with. So, the way we behold food is influenced by our social identities. We always take part in social groups (even if you don't realize it) and this group can influence you towards the kind of nutrition you tolerate. This could be an explanation of why teens are obsessed with fast food (besides of course the fact that it tastes nice, that it is cheap and you can buy it anywhere in the world).
Geert Hofstede is a Dutch organizational psychologist (which basically means that he studies humans and their relation with work and work organizations) who's categorized National Culture Dimensions to define the lines of extremes within confined terms. These dimensions can be easily adopted to find out about the cultural state -through food- in different countries. Italy for instance has been defined to have a relationship-orientated culture with a higher score (as to speak) on the dimension Masculanity vs Feminity. Hereby the researchers stated that this is because in most Italian families the preporation of food is handled by the female part of the population. These gender roles are slowely being shifted by the new generation. However this can be seen as support for the very female-driven (hereby mainly focused upon the social role of the mother) state of mind in Italy. We're all aware of the stereo-type average Italian household, where the man is the boss but the final decision lays with the mother or grandmother. Respect towards these figures is part of the social values they withhold and thus a representation of local culture.
Now you could say that this is all circumstantial and indeed a stereo-type of reality. The thing with stereo-types is, as Chimamanda Adichie has stated beautifully in her TED-talk, that they aren't necessarily untrue -but they are incomplete. Therefore I guess you could say that culture itself is a generalization made to capture a bigger picture or story. This to make it easier for the story to live through generations. But those generations itself (evidently to be seen by the shifting of gender roles) are to be captured by how they conceive the story. Therefore it's very important to see how they consume their food. It tells a story on its own and can be related back to, or seen separately from, the environment they indwell.
Food can be seen as a tool for power and a representation of those who use it. Although the cultural representation gets to be slimmed down thanks to globalization (whether this is a good thing or a bad thing is debatable, but hey, we've got pizza!), we humans strive for a "local speciality". Hereby giving the servants of the holy stomach some power, because they are "the real deal" (instead of those supermarkets with their deliciously cheap factory-made pizzas). But food can play a bigger role in the way we conceive others and ourselves. It can make us aware of habits or maybe even be a representation of culture.