Tips To Understanding Cultural Cuisines
by Sarah Koszyk, MA, RD
The United States of America is a melting pot of cultures and ethnicities. According to the July 2011 US Census Bureau, Latinos constitute 16.7%, African Americans consist of 13.6%, and Asian/Pacific Islanders count for 5.6% of the entire US population. Within the four major ethnic groups, including Caucasians, there are even more diverse sub-categories of cultures. Every culture has different regional cuisines, food habits, values, beliefs, cultural behaviors, and more. As dietitians, we have the opportunity to work with multiple cultures depending on where we live. The importance of understanding where people come from is necessary in order to offer advice that people will adhere to. This article will provide you with important tips on how you can delve into cultural cuisines and assimilate yourself within the culture in order to gain a better understanding of the population you are working with.
#1. Talk to people. This basic rule of taking time to talk to people within the specific culture is essential. Reach out and ask at least three individuals how people eat within their culture in order to gain multiple perspectives. What cultural foods are used in their cuisine? What is a typical meal like? How do people eat their meals? Ask as many questions as you can to begin your learning process.
#2. Attend a cultural event. Contact the local cultural club and attend an event. Most events include traditional foods. You can learn hands-on how people interact with one another and start to assimilate yourself.
#3. Time to eat! Taste the food from the culture and learn how the dishes are prepared. You can try cooking some of the dishes at home or go to someone’s house and eat with them. This way you will learn ways to modify specific dishes to reach your clients’ health needs.
By immersing yourself in the culture, you will understand the cultural cuisine. Your assimilation will provide you with the tools you need to help your clients reach their goals. What cultural cuisine is on your menu today?