Jennifer Berg, director of graduate food studies at New York University, notes that food is particularly important when you become part of a diaspora, separated from your mother culture. “It’s the last vestige of culture that people shed,” says Berg. “There’s some aspects of maternal culture that you’ll lose right away. First is how you dress, because if you want to blend in or be part of a larger mainstream culture the things that are the most visible are the ones that you let go. With food, it’s something you’re engaging in hopefully three times a day, and so there are more opportunities to connect to memory and family and place. It’s the hardest to give up.”
Food as identity
The “melting pot” in American cuisine is a myth, not terribly unlike the idea of a melting pot of American culture, notes chef Dan Barber (TED Talk: How I fell in love with a fish). “Most cultures don’t think about their cuisine in such monolithic terms,” he says. “French, Mexican, Chinese, and Italian cuisines each comprise dozens of distinct regional foods. And I think “American” cuisine is moving in the same direction, becoming more localized, not globalized.”
What Americans can learn from other food cultures | ideas.ted.com.