Do you often wonder how the Spanish came up with paella or why the Japanese prefer to eat raw fish? Whenever I travel to some place new, I read about their history, learn a bit of their language and then I read about their food. My belief is that in order to immerse and understand a culture, not only do you have to inhale the same air they breathe or speak the language they speak, but you also need to taste the food the locals eat. Often times, the delicacies they revere are tied to historically significant events. For example, in my home country The Philippines, Filipino adobo came about when the Spaniards invaded in the 16th century. When they discovered the indigenous way of stewing dishes in vinegar, they named it “adobo”. Today, Filipino adobo is my country’s most famous national dish. In this case, food tells us about a culture’s historical past.
In Italy, food served is often only made out of a handful of ingredients, a testament to the simplicity of life the Italians like to live by. It is quite the opposite in France. We associate French culture with artistry and flamboyance and those same characteristics extend to their cuisine. French people pride themselves in knowing how to cook, so much so, that they have turned culinary learning into an art form. In this case, food tells us a characteristic of a culture’s approach to life.