Since I started the journey with food, I’ve been tapping into the deepest secrets of tribal flavors, cultural flavors and the fusion of culture — food together in one place. Being brought up in Malaysia, a land where diversity is the symbol — our food has become our identity of different fusion.
Most of my knowledge of food came from the streets, came from the Bazaars and the houses I was invited to for weddings, open house “Rumah Terbuka” or festivals. The feast was a melting pot of our national flavors and our cultural heritage.
However, after traveling around the world — I realized one thing despite my difference from skin tone and not knowing their national language the one language people understand is “FOOD”. With a smile and simple High 5, you’ll be able to enjoy a fine meal in any country.
FOOD teaches people respect, sharing, love, care and most importantly teaches one about acceptance.
However, why do we as humans have tons of difference when we are off the dinner table? Or why are we most times not enjoying our foods?
Is it just an element needed to fit one’s necessity and lifestyle choices or is it something that plays a significant importance in encouraging diversity and peace?
Recently, I came across a very interesting and infuriating article from BBC. It labeled food bloggers as making food as racist. Culturally depicting food, culturally encouraging food are discriminatory. That using banana leaves to depict Indian cuisine or using cheese to depict French delicacies are racist and judgemental. Every cuisine in this world carry a certain history, carry a certain story and a certain heritage. Respecting it and sharing it is one of its qualities.
With a generation that’s become sensitive to most opinions, we are used to the portrayal of everything being in a racist context.Whereas , when someone documents food — it isn’t to trigger someone but instead to share another culture and its amazement with the world.
One of the biggest arguments the article had was that “Cooking Filipino Short Ribs Using Chopsticks”- Why is this statement relevant? Well because generally the Pinoy’s use hands or normal cutleries to eat their food. However, that doesn’t mean the person cooking or sending that idea is being racist. It’s just interest or passion about the other’s culture . It’s not white predominance or it isn’t related to what the political beliefs are- instead, it’s just a love for food and culture.
If someone misinterpreted a nation’s food or created a fusion. It’s best to educate them instead of spreading fury. For example, living in the west most people summarize Indian cuisine to curries. Being an Indian, I could either get mad and rage or I can educate them and cook for them food from different parts of India. I prefer the later.
This same example could be given to various bloggers who’s been criticized.
The one part of the world that’s haven’t been dragged back and forth in politics, perspectives, arguments and criticism would be Food. An Avenue that encourages people from all walks of life to unite and to taste. A hearty meal and full stomach encourage happiness and that’s what sharing of food does.
In all the countries I’ve visited, I’ve been welcome and the first place I was shown is the dining table. A general subconscious act of sharing. “Chef’s For Peace”, a band of chefs from 4 different origins and cultures coming together in the space of a kitchen to bring together people living in Jerusalem and around Israel — by sharing and enjoying different cuisines. They firmly believe that food can bridge the anger in politics and bring unity .
A concept shared by communities around the world, for example, the chopstick battle of mixing food in Lunar New Year, or the “Kuttan Chore” or “group rice” among the Indians, the love for ramen, the love for pho, the sharing of Kenyan spices and the list goes on.
It teaches people about culture, it brings light towards marginalized communities and allows people to see beyond appearances and speculations. It knows no borders, no anger, and no privilege. It’s solely for everyone to enjoy.