Every country in the world has its own culture and traditions surrounding food. While meal preparation and eating habits vary from one home to the next, they center around a shared experience of nourishing the body and mind.
Food traditions are more seasonal for some families, such as the annual Christmas cookie baking party or Passover supper. Other families follow food traditions from their culture nearly every time they sit down for a meal.
The United States as a Melting Pot Shows in Food Traditions
America developed as a land of immigrants, many who brought food and cooking preferences from their home country. From Germany to Sweden to Poland, the food choices people made when the country was new indeed resembled a melting pot. Sadly, these rich cultural heritages vanished more as time went by. Today’s busy lifestyle, coupled with the availability of genetically modified and processed foods, has had a dramatic impact on the last few generations of Americans.
Many in the last two or three generations never learned to cook. Rather than enjoy the experience of preparing food and enjoying fellowship with family and friends, a large percentage of Americans prefer convenience food. Food industry experts feel that too many Americans have lost touch with real food, and that the time for a national food revival is long past due.
History of the Family Meal from a Canadian Perspective
The family meal as people view it today doesn’t have as long as a history as some might expect. Not too many generations ago in Canada, children from wealthy families ate their meals at boarding schools where they lived.
Children from well-to-do families who remained living with their parents typically didn’t eat with them. They might eat with their nanny in the nursery. Alternatively, the in-house staff might serve them in the dining room ahead of the meal for adults.
The type of family meal many recall with nostalgia today didn’t become commonplace until the 1940s. The arrangement does offer many benefits, such as giving family members a chance to talk about their day if they have been apart and providing children with an important sense of stability.
However, eating together doesn’t necessarily need to take place around a table. Nor does it need to involve only family members to be a valuable experience. As family responsibilities have evolved, sharing meal preparation tasks that includes shopping have become more common.
Another factor is that Canadians tend not to put as much pressure on themselves to make healthy meal from scratch every night. Keeping expectations realistic helps make the family meal more enjoyable when it does occur.
Meals Go Beyond Eating in China
The Chinese have some of the oldest traditions in the world when it comes to preparing, serving, and eating meals together. For example, the oldest person or the one with the highest honor sits at the head of the table.
Others seat themselves one at a time in hierarchal order. The process continues until the youngest person sits directly across from the most esteemed person. Also, the guest of honor picks up their chopsticks first, signaling to others that it’s time to eat.
Chinese etiquette dictates that each person should start filling their plate with the dish closest to them. When finished eating, each person sets chopstick to the right of the plate. The only thing left to do now is clean up.