March 9, 2014, by Stephen Mumford


Indian, Italian, Lebanese, Spanish, Thai, Nepalese, Moroccan, Chinese; we all have our favourite foods. Increasingly, we enjoy diversity and variety and rotate our cuisine accordingly. New flavours and textures seem initially alien; yet how soon we can educate our palates and develop a taste for them. How soon we can yearn for that exotic dish.

Apart from languages and literature, foods are some of the greatest cultural exports. And it seems an unarguable good that cultural diversity has won out. Only the pathologically xenophobic could deny that our life experience has been enhanced by exposure to all these different culinary influences. Imagine how dull it must be to eat only one type of food, day after day, as still happens in those places that, for whatever reason, remain culturally isolated.

All these distinct gastronomic traditions have historical explanations, based around local ingredients, resources and circumstances. No doubt each recipe evolved, improvements in taste and texture following the response of the appetites. The skill and craft of a good cook is valuable yet not always acknowledged. Then there are some that we hold in such high regard, we think of them as an artist, a chef.  Creativity in preparation and presentation of food can become a matter of supreme national pride. We think of France and food is the first thing that springs to mind. And Danes love to remind us that the World’s best restaurant is in Copenhagen.

Food is a necessity. The continued prevalence of hunger is an unmitigated condemnation of our current systems of global trade and socio-political organisation. All of us should have full stomachs regularly. More than that, how can we deny that all should be allowed to savour good food and eat, not just from need, but for enjoyment of the experience?

Posted in Culture and Area Studies