Food is all around us. We need it for survival. Food gives us energy, helps us maintain our lives, and helps us grow. It is a natural instinct to search for food when one is hungry, and people have been known to lie, cheat, steal, and even kill for food. The more humans evolve, the more food evolves, and we find new ways to grow, prepare, and present food to the hungry masses.
Whether you are a meat eater or a vegetarian (or vegan), food has the power to be undeniably delicious and beautiful. Ethnic cuisine can be found all over the world, and interest in a new culture is often started in a visit to a new ethnic restaurant. Chefs also travel to other countries to either study the local dishes or open up their own restaurant serving traditional foods from their culture. This global movement of culinary knowledge has led to “fusion” restaurants—restaurants that serve dishes that are a combination of foreign and local foods.
What traditional foods are popular in your home country? What foreign foods have become popular? Are any foreign dishes commonly eaten during special times or events? For example, during Japanese matsuri (festivals), Middle Eastern kebabs (sliced meat stuffed into a pita bread) are common street foods that are sold in food stands. Write about popular foods in your home country (three traditional, three from other countries, and three during special times or events), and then share with a partner or small group!
Home Country: _____________________________________________
Traditional food and dishes
Popular food from other countries
Popular food during special times/events
In spite of all this beauty and creativity, food also has a negative side. What began as a necessity for survival became a fight for customers and profits. Science entered the food industry, and soon processed meats and artificial flavors flooded supermarket aisles and restaurant menus. Quality family time spent during meals turned into eating ready-made meals or fast food as quickly as possible while each person stares at their smartphone screen.
Obesity and other health issues related to food choices has also spread across the world, and rather than promote healthy eating and life choices, some people choose to continue eating unhealthy foods while embracing movements like body positivity and “plus-size” models. (For more information on Body Positivity, go to https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-truth-about-exercise-addiction/201608/what-does-body-positivity-actually-mean.) On the other end of the spectrum are fad diets, such as the Keto Diet, body (or “fat”) shaming, and eating disorders. Let’s not forget the millions of people who are malnourished and starving because a shortage of food in their areas.
In short, food has become a complicated mess, ... but at least it provides a moment of happiness.
From 1984 to 1990, Paul Hogan, known across the world as Crocodile Dundee, looked into the camera and, with a dashing smile, invited us to Australia, promising to “slip an extra shrimp on the barbie for you.” Since that time, Australia has yet to shake the image of shrimp being grilled on a barbeque, and it is this image that most people conjure up when asked about food in Australia.
However, there are two very interesting sides to our discussion of food in Australia. The first side covers the people commonly associated with the country of Australia—the “Aussies” as they are colloquially known. Although on the surface there may seem to be similarities with the British, they are quite different, especially when it comes to food. Australians have a wide variety of food products that were created and produced there, and many of these products are exported to and enjoyed by other countries.
One of the most famous Australian products is Vegemite. Black, tart, salty, and
uniquely Australian, this spread made from yeast extract is loved by Australian children and adults, and is eaten in a variety of ways, but most commonly on buttered toast. Other popular Australian products include Weet-Bix, a high-fiber cereal bar, and Tim Tam, a sweet treat made with two biscuits separated with chocolate cream and completed covered in a layer of chocolate.
Regarding dishes, the national dish of Australia is roast lamb or meat pie, depending on who you ask (responses seem to differ online, with one source stating that Australia doesn’t even have a national dish). They also are known to eat crocodile and kangaroo meat, chiko rolls (inspired by Chinese spring rolls or egg rolls), ANZAC (Australia and New Zealand Army Corps) biscuits, and “snag” (i.e., sausage). While this is not an exhaustive list, these dishes and products are meant to paint a general picture of food and eating habits in Australia.
The second side of our discussion on Australian food and eating habits relates to the Aboriginal Australians. Aboriginal Australians were the first inhabitants of Australia, and have a unique culture that dates back centuries. The Aboriginal Australian males were generally the hunters (mainly of large animals), and the females were the gatherers (of plants and insects). Many of their ancestors’ hunting and eating habits have been passed down to recent generations, and include scouring the land for food that many Westernized cultures would find revolting.
Take for instance the witchetty grub (pictured at the top of page 75). The witchetty grub is a large, white moth larva that eats wood. Although not the most appetizing food, they are high in protein and have helped the Aboriginal Australians survive. If you are able to, watch the video from the BBC (2008) titled “Aboriginal Witchetty Grubs & Honey Ants - Ray Mears Extreme Survival”) (URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SJlO0aifJxA). Also seen in the video are Aboriginal women searching for certain ants in order to suck a sweet liquid from their abdomens.
The purpose of this section is not to disgust you, but intrigue you by opening your eyes to other cultures’ eating preferences. They may be different, but humans share one common goal when it comes to food—survival and enjoyment. Because of this, all food should try to be viewed and understood from an open-minded, culturally respectful point of view. Remember that there is always something you eat that is very strange to people in another culture!