Culture

Hunger certainly is the most important driving force for food consumption, but other factors come a close second in determining people’s food behaviors. Looking at food from a strictly nutritional point of view has been rare – traditionally, what an individual consumes has been seen as a reflection of their traditions, cultural values and beliefs. The symbolic meaning of food oftentimes has little or no relevance to the nature of the food; however, it does form an important component of an individual’s identity.

While culturally-relevant food habits that are passed down from one generation to the next are key in cementing people’s life-long food preference, societal shifts also affect food choices to a significant degree. Events like mass migration of populations from one corner of the world to the other have always enabled the introduction of newer diets to different geographical areas. Globalization has further amplified the spread of foreign diets to different societies. Cuisines that were once considered exotic – Indian, Lebanese, Japanese, for instance – are popular and common foods today. Technological innovations and improved supply chains over the decades have brought previously unavailable food items to local supermarkets throughout the world, as a result of which people have adopted global ingredients to complement their existing tastes. Additionally, pop culture has greatly helped in bringing food to the forefront of living room discussions – food-based entertainment has made cooking “cool”, a desirable asset even. Previously passive participants in the kitchen are now actively seeking out opportunities to plate up, resulting in more diverse tastes being included to the global food culture.