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What Food Teaches us About Culture

What Food Teaches us About Culture

Food and Culture

Cast your mind back to your grandmother’s kitchen table. Do you remember what she was baking or preparing? What did it smell like? How did it make you feel?

Food and culture go together like bread and butter. Cuisine and recipes are passed down through generations - food helps a culture express who they are and where they’ve come from by incorporating flavours of their ancestors or original birth places into their cooking.

Let’s explore the importance of food in culture, looking at how food influences culture and what are some of the South African food cultures that still exist today.

How Does Food Influence Culture: What Does Food Teach About Culture?

Food is not only a means of sustenance but also a way to understand a culture's history and values. For example, in many cultures, traditional dishes have been passed down through generations, often incorporating ingredients that are locally available and reflecting the cultural and geographical influences of the region. Additionally, the way food is prepared, served, and consumed can vary widely between cultures and can provide insight into social customs and etiquette. Food also has a strong association with cultural identity and can be used to differentiate one culture from another.

When we explore and appreciate different cuisines, we learn about the diversity of human experiences and connect with people from different backgrounds. Ultimately, food can serve as a bridge between cultures, bringing people together to celebrate and share their unique traditions and experiences.

What are Some Local Food Cultures?

Within every country, you’ll find many different types of food cultures as a result of immigration and migration across the ages. In South Africa, our food culture is influenced by the first people to live in Africa as well as the settlers that came here from other continents. Here are a few of the dominant food cultures in SA:

Koi San





When you’re asked, ‘why is food important in culture?’, just think of your own family traditions and the meals your mother and grandmother taught you how to prepare. There were most likely a few traditional recipes and ingredients in the recipes that came from far back within your family’s cultural roots.

At whatsfordinner, we’ve put together a range of South African Recipes that take their lead from some of the cultures mentioned above. We also have put together a list of World Cuisine Recipes that encompass the real roots of some of the world’s most famous food cultures.

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