Arguably, there is no greater, faster or more favorable way to get to someone’s heart than through their stomach.
Food has this incredible quality to reveal so much about the person it’s made by, the person it’s made for or the culture that inspired its origins. It is truly an art form, a phenomenal masterpiece that enraptures the five senses and has the ability to transport you to a memory, a feeling or, in the case of really well-made mac and cheese, provide an unimaginable and perplexing amount of comfort.
There are smells that overwhelm your brain, a symphony of flavors that crash spiced symbols down your tongue, hand-held treats that whisper confectioners’ sugar onto your fingers, perfectly crisp bites that inspire ASMR and jaw-dropping, Instagram-worthy plating techniques that almost make you regret having to destroy it.
Food is also one of the world’s only avenues of universal communication. The kind of foods each culture uses as its “language” differs between cultures. And yet, food is understood to be vital — not only to life, but to the representation of culture, of history and of identity.
An article on cultural awareness cited that “food and the etiquette of dining are both infused with cultural meaning and history. The use of hands, forks, spoons, cutlery and chopsticks denote significant historical factors sharpened by geography, social status, gender, tradition and religion.”
Food is that one ingredient that can tie together a multitude of flavors, expressions and experiences in a meal. It is an opportunity for communication — an open door for understanding, for cultural appreciation, for finding the beauty in something you haven’t been privy to before. On a global scale, food is the language through which people of different origins can find common ground, can share an inside look — a welcome — into a whole new world of traditions, techniques and inspirations. On a smaller scale, such as on our campus, the presence of food inspired by different cultures in our Marketplace is a unique invitation to try something you haven’t before — a true nod to the theme that college provides the opportunity to meet new people, try new things and discover new pleasures in life.
In a time like this, where people are facing the horrors of daily attacks on culture, on religion and on identity, it makes sense to appreciate the beauties we have in this world inspired by the histories of the cultures that formed it. We may not communicate via the same words, we may not speak the same ideals or morals, we may not believe in the same truths, and this disparity inspires the hatred and confusion that separates us.
But food — food is what every single person needs to survive. This food, that was molded and shaped by the roughened hands of families passing treasures from generation to generation, this could be the language that will inspire growth and reinvent the future, that will mark the individuality of our future human nature. This could be the language that we need to tell the story of our collective history as a people — as a humanity that has fought one another, has wronged one another and has forgotten the beauty of one another.
And this, this could be the true tongue of solidarity, the rhetoric of love and the language of forgiveness.
Hannah Gulko is a junior majoring in human development.