Food: A Window into Other Cultures

While it may be hard to catch a flight to Morocco and China to experience their culture, food allows us to experience a snippet of each country’s culture with significantly less money. And while the U.S. may not have a lot to brag about, food diversity does appear to be one of its raging pros. Americans seem to take for granted the amount of traveling one can do with just a few minutes of driving. The fact that one can still experience Asia’s finesse with the use of chopsticks and the savoring of Sake, or that one can be a victim of India’s spice infatuation with just a walk down the block, or receive some of Puerto Rico’s warmth with some of their mondongo from down the street, it all emphasizes the effect the food market has created in terms of cultural unity.

As opposed to if you go to China, where the majority of the food that will touch your palette will be Chinese, or if you decide to travel to Italy, most of the food found there will be Italian. This speaks volumes of the dedication and commitment countries have to their own culture and traditions. While in the U.S., the food that is mainly consumed is not even American, it’s Chinese. 

A study that analyzed Google search data to find out what cuisines Americans search for and eat the most revealed that Chinese food is the most Googled cuisine in the United States, with an average of over 3.35 million searches per month. Mexican follows it with an average of 1.22 million Google searches per month. Thai food is third, and Indian food is fourth. This also speaks volumes of the essence of American culture, more specifically “cultures” plural. The U.S. is made up of a myriad of cultures, and that may very well be what makes its identity.

America has one of the most diverse selections of food in the world, and it’s because of what the U.S. is actually composed of: immigrants. Which is why while other countries do offer non-native food, the U.S. does it with more variety and authenticity.

The United States has by far the largest number of immigrants with over 50 million, and that isn’t counting the family of the immigrants that were born in the U.S. Worldwide, the United States is home to more international migrants than any other country – and more than Germany, Saudi Arabia, Russia, and the United Kingdom combined – according to the UN Population Division’s data. And that is just the data from 2020.

All people from all cultures come to the U.S. daily, and with them come their cuisines. John Mariani, a food and travel correspondent and author of his Encyclopedia of American Food & Drink, agrees: “As a result of more than 400 years of immigrant history, America has become not just the richest gastronomy in the world—one that ravenously accepts from other food cultures while influencing them in return—but one in which all those who accepted the challenge to come here contributed to and enjoyed.”

Food is not only a gateway to other countries, but also a means of conversation. It can be used to unite countries in war, combat racial division, decrease cultural ignorance, and entertain a world in which immigration is not just a word related to ICE investigations and the separation of families. A world where we are all the same: a human species.

We are in a land of immigrants, let’s start seeing the advantages of living in a country with so many different windows to other cultures. As Michael Pollan once said: “The more we honor cultural differences in eating, the healthier we will be.”


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