‘Food is the ingredient that binds us together’.

Food has always been a big part of our daily lives but at times we tend to miss just how important it is for our identity and the way it creates associations with certain memories, events, tasks, and even people.

If you think about it, we spend so much time a day either thinking about food or eating it. Though in many cultures food is far more than just sustenance–it’s an experience that stands as a common ground for strangers, it’s a universal language that opens up conversations in a very natural way.

When I say food is a big part of our identity, I’m referring to our ethnicity, traditional dishes we familiarize ourselves with when we’re young and the impact they end up making on our understanding of culture and diversity in general.

We all have nostalgic associations with certain foods, for example; the sweet smell of pastries at our grandma’s place, or the sight of mom buzzing in the kitchen, working her magic and creating something delicious out of thin air. The dishes we grow up on become a big part of our understanding of who we are as people because they are a link between our past and present selves. Just a whiff of familiar smells can make us jump back to the past in an instant. 

The nostalgia also finds its place on our dinner table in the present, as we brag about family recipes to our friends and colleagues and introduce them to the culture we came from and our upbringing through food. We let them know who we are as individuals. It’s like when kids bring to school their ethnic dishes on a special occasion and share a little piece of themselves with their friends. Even when people go on holiday to foreign countries and bring their family and friends souvenirs, such as local wine and sweets, they wish to share a little part of the experience they had with the ones they love. 

The way we associate food with certain things is important as well. Some foods end up holding an emotional value to us because of the connections we make for it. For instance; we all have our preferred food we eat when we’re down in the dumps or feel ecstatic. Certain dishes are an absolute must while we’re sick (like chicken soup), or are going through breakups (chocolate), visit amusement parks (fairy floss), or see a movie (popcorn), we simply cannot have one without the other.

Choosing the right kind of meal for a moment you wish to remember for years to come is quite important unless you want it to leave a bad taste in your mouth (pun intended). 

For instance, what you bring to eat on hikes, camping trips or enjoy during your holidays, in general, will always create a strong link with the emotions you felt at that moment, the smells you took in, and friends or family you shared that food with and the conversations you had. It all becomes a well-rounded picture in your mind and food-the ‘bond’ among it all.

Food is an emotional trigger, a link between people that has no discriminative features, no gender boundaries, or ethnic restrictions. Food is a universal language, and you can speak it with anyone, anywhere around the World.

References: Zoe Adjonyoh | TEDxOxford

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