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Food and Culture. “ Tell me what you eat, and I ’ ll tell you who you are, ” wrote renowned gastronome Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin in 1825. .

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Food and Culture

“Tell me what you eat, and I’ll tell you who you are,” wrote renowned gastronome Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin in 1825.

The Meaning of Food is an exploration of culture through food. What we consume, how we acquire it, who prepares it, who’s at the table, and who eats first is a form of communication that is rich with meaning.


Is there anything that makes us more squeamish than unusual foods? When we were children, dishes others families ate were “weird.” As our tastebuds matured, we added more “gross” foods to our diets, but our culture tended to set the boundaries. Most Chinese find cheese repugnant, for example, and rare is the American who relishes the thought of devouring duck’s feet, a delicacy in China.

As the world gets smaller, regional favorites get nearer, less foreign, less “weird.” Some of these far-flung foodstuffs could even make their way to your neighborhood grocery store.

Would you eat these?



This Filipino delicacy is a fertilized egg that is incubated until a duckling develops, and then soft-boiled and eaten.



An acquired taste—and smell—durian is a large, spiny green fruit from South East Asia with a dense skin that protects a creamy center that some swoon over and some find putrid. Durian has such a distinctive odor (sewer-like is the most common description) that it has been banned on public transportation in some countries.



A West African dish made of pounded yam formed into slimy balls, fufu is served with meat stew or any dish with sauce or gravy.



Dozens of people in Japan die each year from eating this blowfish, which has an organ containing a toxin so deadly that only specially licensed chefs are allowed to prepare it.



Do you have to be drunk on whisky to eat haggis? A Scottish favorite made from the chopped heart, lungs, and liver of lamb or beef and mixed with suet, oats, onions, herbs, and spices, then stuffed into a sheep’s stomach, haggis is not for the faint of heart nor the weak of stomach.



An Icelandic dish that consists of putrefied shark meat that has been buried for months, then dried for a few more months, Hakarl is typically accompanied by a shot of Brenivinn, a caraway-flavored schnapps.


Hu-Hu Grubs

A New Zealand native, the larvae of the huhu beetle can be found in rotting logs and eaten raw or cooked. Connoisseurs describe the grubs as tasting nutty or like chicken.

(In Australia they say the same about witchetty grubs, which look similar).


Octopus (Live)

Eaten cut up but still writhing, raw octopus is a South Korean favorite that is often served with a pepper paste.



Named for the scrap odds and ends of pig it comprises (lips, snout, organs, etc.), scrapple is an old Pennsylvania-Dutch dish that was typically eaten at breakfast. Scrapple is comprised of a cornmeal mush made with the meat and broth, seasoned with onions, spices and herbs and shaped into loaves for slicing and frying.


Uni (in Japan) or ricci di mare (in Italy)

Raw sea urchin roe is popular in both sushi and pasta dishes.


All these foods are associated with different cultures. What is culture?

  • A culture is a way of life of a group of people--the behaviors, beliefs, values, and symbols that they accept, generally without thinking about them, and that are passed along by communication and imitation from one generation to the next.
  • Culture is the sum of total of the learned behavior of a group of people that are generally considered to be the tradition of that people and are transmitted from generation to generation.

Other than food, how is culture defined?

  • music
  • clothing
  • manners
  • religion
  • festivals
  • tools - utensils
  • others?

Food & culture

There is no closer relationship than kin, and food plays a large part in defining family roles, rules, and traditions.


Food & culture

Let’s look at the origin’s of some of our foods and our own culutral relationships with it ...