The old saying that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach is definitely proved by me. In a similar vein, the way to a culture is through their meals. This is going to be such a tough principle for me to live out…
Being local in my eating practices is not just about fitting in, but a wonderful way to learn. To enter into a mealtime is to enter into the culture. Insights into relational dynamics of families and friends are on view. Expressions such as saying grace or even a simple ‘cheers’ or ‘dig in’, reveal what is important to people. The local Cambodian phrase ‘Nyum Bai’ meaning ‘to eat rice’ or ‘let’s eat’ or even ‘have you eaten?’ portrays a concern for the other backed up with an act of generosity.
In Melbourne, as part of our training, we were given the task of completing a worldview survey in order to help better understand another culture. I was surprised by how much was revealed about what a culture loves and how it works through studying their meal dynamics.
So food is not only the way to a man’s heart (and many women as well), but it’s also the way into a culture. I’ll definitely enjoy this aspect of culture learning-to-love. “Enough parsing verbs. I’m off to do some culture learning at lunch.”
Aussie reflection: What does Maccas or doing 11 wheat bix for breakfast reveal about Aussie culture? Do you have any examples of food or meal practices that reveal our culture?