CulturalIdentity through Street Food
The streets in major towns have been defined by an increase in thenumber of people selling food. The individual locations in which thefoods are sold and the overall way they are served can act as aconfirmation of a given culture. Cultures across the globe have beendefined by the kind food that they ingest. Street foods can equallybe used to identify the individual cultures where people belong to.The focus of the definition is in the assessment of street foods andhow it has played the role of identifying particular cultures. Thein-depth analysis will draw from different scholarly articles withthe ultimate goal of comprehending the role of street food incultural identity.
Keywords:street food, culture
CulturalIdentity through Street Food
Culture can be described as people’s ways of life (Spradley, 2016).The broad definition encompasses factors such as the religiouspractices the foods ingested, morals or beliefs held by a particulargroup of people. The individual practices observed by the people canbe used to identify them. Food plays a crucial role in theidentification of a given culture (Anderson, 2014). People sharing aparticular culture may be having the same eating habits. The natureand type of foods ingested by a given group of individuals areessential in identifying their culture. Food features people’sdaily lives in various ways. The role of food in the manifestation ofa given culture is evident in its expression of people’s cultures,ethnic and religious practices. Street food can be described as thatwhich is ready to eat and is sold by a vendor, hawker in the streetsor public areas. The food is sold from a portable booth, cart ortruck and is meant for immediate consumption. Street foods cansometimes be referred as fast or finger food and are always cheaperthan that which is sold in the restaurant. Cultural identity can bedetermined through evaluation of the kind of food ingested by a groupof people. The choice of street foods and dietary likings are areflection of a given group of people’s way of life which ismanifested as their cultural identity.
The differences in a culture define the manner in which vendorenterprises create and run the different kinds of street foods aredistributed. The way in which street food is distributed plays acrucial role in the determination of the culture of a given group ofpeople. For example, street food vendors in countries such as Nigeriaand Thailand are predominantly women. However, in countries such asBangladesh, few women are in the streets distributing food. Thevariation in the group of people distributing street food can serveas an identity of the different cultures (Counihan, & VanEsterik, 2012). For example, in the case illustrated, the aspect ofvariations in gender roles comes up. The few number of women sellingstreet food could be a reflection of the fact that it is the duty ofmen to do the work. The situation could be different in countriessuch as Nigeria and Thailand where women are actively involved in thedistribution of food in the street (Oluwoyo, & Enemali, 2016). Ofsignificance is the need to acknowledge that street food can serve asa vital aspect in identifying the culture that one belongs to.
The role of street food in cultural identity can equally beillustrated with the change in the people’s ways of life. Forexample, in countries such as the United States and Canada, there hasbeen an increase in the number of people seeking street food. It isstandard practice to notice the number of people stopping at foodjoints to grab a bite or drink, particularly when one walks along thestreets of New York or Toronto. The practice is common especiallyamong those living in the urban areas. The role of street food incultural identity is manifested in cases where people are coming fromeither the rural or urban areas can be differentiated. The art ofingesting street food is prevalent among those living in the urbanareas (Zukin, 2012). It could probably be attributed to the way oflife in the urban areas that are defined by haste and the need torush to work. The situation may not be prevalent in the countrysidewhere people go about their daily activities in the farms and nohurry to move around.
The supply of street food can equally be attributed to the growingdemand by people to access authentic food. An increasing number ofindividuals have become sensitive to the kind of foods that theyingest. The increase in cases of lifestyle diseases has seen agrowing demand for authentic food. Street food has been identified asbeing authentic (Munjal et al., 2016). Because of the same, there hasbeen a high demand for such kind of food. Particularly, there is theaspect of restaurants using all sorts of food preservatives some ofwhich have been banned as part of the ingredients in preparing theirdelicacies. The growing demand in the number of people seekinghealthy foods is reflected in the streets where there is assurance ofauthentic and naturally flavored foods (Wynn, 2016). The people goingfor such kinds of foods can be perceived as adopting a new culture.Initially, there was interest in fast foods which could be gotdirectly from the restaurants. However, with increased sensitivityabout the lifestyle diseases, people have resorted to a new eatinghabit. It is a trend that can be used to identify a particularculture. It is essential to acknowledge that culture is a reflectionof people’s ways of life. The definition includes the nature offoods that people consume and the frequency with which it is done.For example, in Mexico City, street food has been acknowledged asbeing authentic compared to what is provided in the restaurants.
The nature of foods consumed by individuals serves to highlight theethnic identities of people while at the same time reinforcing one’ssense of identity when they belong to a different culture. Theingestion of street food can be a reflection of an urban way of life.People living in towns may prefer ingesting such foods because of theadvantages that they are known for. Similarly, an individual whomoves from one geographical location, say a rural setup and ends upin the urban area may find themselves ingesting street food if thatis what is being offered. The continued intake of street food inparticular for the individuals who have just moved to the urbanenvironment from a rural region can make them be identified with thepeople practicing the given culture. It is essential to acknowledgethat food is reinvented and reimaged to enable it to fit a particularculture. Similarly, the adoption of street food can be seen as anacknowledgment of the fact it forms part of people’s way of life.Because of the same, one can conclude that indeed, street food canhelp in cultural identity. Those ingesting the food can be linked toa particular culture. The manner in which they execute their day today lives which equally encompasses the type of foods taken dictatestheir cultural identity. Because of the same, if the intake of streetfood is a preserve of those living in the urban areas, then it is areflection of the role of street food in identifying a given group ofpeople about their culture.
The impact of street food in the identification of a given culture ismanifested in the experience that it seeks to give people ofdifferent age groups. For example, the younger generation has thetendency of going out to places where they can have fun. Thesituation is different with the older population who prefer stayingindoors and have their delicacy at home. The choice to go out forstreet food in particular among the younger generation can be guidedby the fact there is a high chance of meeting people who have similarpractices just like them. For example, partying is a culture that agreater percentage of the younger generation prefer. The decision togo out and get street food can be motivated by the fact that they caninteract with other individuals. Through the same, it is possible toidentify a group of people based on their frequent nature ofaccessing the street foods.
Further, street foods are served in locations that are defined byparticular characteristics. The environment with which the foods areserved is typical of people sharing a particular culture. Forexample, the location of food joints in a busy urban set up canindicate that inhabitants in the given area are in the middle classand practice a particular way of life. The assessment of theparticular location where the street food is offered can help provideinformation regarding the culture practiced by people in thatparticular area. Because of the same, it would be possible toattribute the street food offered in a given region with a particularculture.
Street foods are a reflection of the traditional cultures that arepracticed in different parts of the world. The diversity that existsin the street foods is a reflection of its origin. For example,various raw materials are used in the preparation of the streetfoods. The source of the raw materials could serve as a vital factorin identifying the particular culture. For example, raw materialsderived from particular rural areas are reminiscent of the culturepracticed in the particular regions. The processing of the rawmaterials in making the street foods defines the culture based ontheir source. Further, there is the aspect of the people attractedinto taking such foods. The attraction can further be related toone’s background which is a reflection of their culture. However,in cases where there is assimilation, the attraction will similarlybe a confirmation of the distinct cultures that a particular group ofpeople belongs to.
The manner in which the street foods are served can equally beessential in the determination of the identity of a given culture.For example, in Istanbul, Turkey, street food is a reflection of thenature of the city. People serving the foods have a tendency ofwelcoming the buyers with a smile as a way of appreciating theindividual customers. For example, for newcomers who visit the cityof Istanbul, it could be surprising, the degree of hospitality thatthey encounter in the streets when they meet the vendors. The wayfoods are served the cultural identity of Istanbul city (Sharma,2016). Because of the same, the street food is reflected as a measureof cultural identity.
Finally, the environment surrounding the particular area where thestreet food is being prepared identifies the particular cultureinvolved. For example, in Turkey, a street vendor would dress up whenthey are preparing Macun which is soft Turkish coffee (Sharma, 2016).A passerby would relate the mode of dressing to the Turkish culture.It is evident that street food is more than just the delicaciesserved but the process in which the entire process is executedreflects the culture in question. The practice is common in otherparts of the world such as India and the African setup. Further,street food can act as a reflection of the different culturalpractices passed across generations. For example, stories of thestreet food vendors have been told where the activity was done forcenturies ago among the Iraqi people and the Syrians. The art hasbeen practiced since then and has seen other neighboring countriessuch as Turkey adopt the practice.
Overall, it is evident that street food plays a crucial role when itcomes to identifying particular cultures. The practice of provisionof street food varies among the different groups in the society. People will be defined by nature and the manner in which the streetfood is served. The growth in popularity of street food can beattributed to its effectiveness and the demand by people to accessauthentic and naturally flavored foods. The intake of street foodsshould be encouraged for the convenience it provides people and theability to advance the individual cultures. The art of provision ofstreet food should also be encouraged because it is a source oflivelihood for many.
Anderson, E. N. (2014). Everyone eats: Understanding food andculture. NYU Press.
Counihan, C., & Van Esterik, P. (2012). Food and culture: Areader. Routledge.
Munjal, S., Munjal, S., Sharma, S., Sharma, S., Menon, P., &Menon, P. (2016). Moving towards “Slow Food”, the new frontier ofculinary innovation in India: The Vedatya experience. WorldwideHospitality and Tourism Themes, 8(4), 444-460.
Oluwoyo, J. T., & Enemali, O. (2016). An Evaluation of SavingCulture among Street Food Vendors in Informal Sector of Kogi State,Nigeria. International Journal of Innovation and Applied Studies,18(1), 252.
Spradley, J. P. (2016). The ethnographic interview. WavelandPress.
Sharma, S. (2016). Istanbul’s street food culture reflects thecity’s soul. Middle East Eye. Retrieved 17 December2016, fromhttp://www.middleeasteye.net/in-depth/features/istanbul-s-street-food-culture-reflects-city-s-soul-47547410
Wynn, J. (2016). Everyday Sociology Blog: The Social ContextBehind Street Food: Authenticity, Culture and Ethnicity.Everydaysociologyblog.com. Retrieved 17 December 2016, fromhttp://www.everydaysociologyblog.com/2014/09/the-social-context-behind-street-food-authenticity-culture-and-ethnicity.html
Zukin, S. (2012). The social production of urban cultural heritage:Identity and ecosystem on an Amsterdam shopping street. City,Culture and Society, 3(4), 281-291.