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Food is a source of cultural identity

Read more about the history of Chinese food in the UK and the increasing popularity of 'foreign' foods and international flavours in Britain.

Food, Nation and Cultural Identity

Background As we travel to other countries or sit down to eat with people from different cultures we naturally question our surroundings. And our sense of taste is as important as our sense of sight and sound.

Tasting the foods of others is a powerful way of exchanging ideas and traditions. The foods we eat help to transport us to different worlds and to different times.

Food - Food And Culture

Our meals might connect us to places we've lived in or travelled to, or to the rituals of past generations. Identity crisis But the associations that are formed between food and identity can often slip into stereotypes. The English, for example, are associated with fish and chips, Americans with hamburgers and chewing gum and Italians with pizza and parmesan cheese. It's not uncommon for these stereotypes to offend: Racist abuse often links particular communities to certain food smells or 'strange' flavours.

The world on a plate In fact, travel, food is a source of cultural identity and sheer curiosity have over centuries ensured that traditions are constantly changing, adapting and shifting.

Many of the food traditions we associate with specific national identities have complicated histories. The spaghetti that is so closely linked to Italy has its origins in China, for example. Inside the British 'cuppa' is a history and geography that spans the globe from India through to the Caribbean.


In today's world economy all sorts of foodstuffs are traded and eaten around the world, from burgers in Bangkok to pizza in Food is a source of cultural identity. The patchwork of cultures in Britain has injected a rich diversity of foods in town and cities - most of us do not need to look far to find Polish delis, Indian curry houses, Jewish bagel shops or Thai takeaways to name a few examples.

Today, many consider chicken tikka masala the British national dish. Just as food is an indicator of cultural traditions and values, it is also an indicator of how these develop food is a source of cultural identity alter over time and space. But as we continue to exchange tastes, traditions and recipes in an ever globilised world, how much closer does it actually bring us?

On the one hand, food helps us to share each other's traditions, and to celebrate our country's cultural diversity. On the other hand, despite the variety of multicultural foods on offer, there is still evidence of racism among many people in Britain. How much do we truly accept a community just by eating their food?

Do you believe that a diverse supermarket shelf shows that British society embraces all people from different cultures and traditions, or do we just like to try new things to eat?