Have you considered how cuisine (food) is a huge part of our native culture? On my kitchen counter sits a package of mung beans. My very American mother does not know what mung beans are. But Chinese friends make delicious soups from mung beans. Every Azerbaijani table includes salad, but don’t look for lettuce! There will be radishes, super sweet tomatoes, tender cucumbers, green onions and handfuls of fresh green herbs (bunches of dill, tarragon, basil and cilantro) arranged on a plate. I can’t serve handfuls of fresh herbs in the U.S. unless I grow them myself. They’re too expensive! But in Azerbaijan, a huge bunch of dill sells for $.04.
Tell us about your native cuisine. What kinds of foods are essential to serve a guest in your native culture? What are the most truly Chinese, Japanese, Russian, Indian, Pakistani etc. foods in your opinion, as an expert in your own cultural cuisine? What foods are missing for you when you travel outside your native country – what do you most hunger for that you can’t find?
In the U.S., we have the concept of “comfort food”. There is no single opinion about how to define comfort food, even in the U.S. – it’s a very personal matter! Consider the kinds of times when you might look for comfort in food – when you’re sick, or depressed, or after a hard day of work. What are the kinds of foods you really want to eat at those times?
Now consider the opposite kind of food – let’s call it “adventure food”. Do you sometimes find yourself in the mood for a culinary adventure? What kinds of foods have you enjoyed just a few times (and you might not want to eat them very often)?
In many cultures, eating together is an important sign of friendship. For example, in Azerbaijan – an acquaintance who wants to show that you have deeply touched them might say, “I’ll cut a lamb for you”. This means that they will share a meal (including lamb meat) with you because they wish to show their deep friendship towards you. Does sharing a meal have special significance in your native culture? Give examples. Share a story of a meal that was very important in a family, friend or business relationship.
The story below concerns food as a peace offering. Do you know of other such stories? Have you ever personally used food as a peace offering?
An Israeli king named David was camping in the fields near the home of a man named Nabal. While David and his army were there, they protected the flocks and employees of Nabal. But when they asked for food from Nabal, this was his reply: “Who is David? . . Shall I then take my bread and my water and my meat that I have slaughtered for my shearers, and give it to men whose origin I do not know?”
King David was angry and ready to kill the man. But Nabal’s wife Abigail send “200 loaves of bread, 2 jugs of wine, five sheep already prepared, five measures of roasted grain, a hundred clusters of raisins and two hundred cakes of figs” to David secretly. This gift of food resulted in peace. David said, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, who sent you this day to meet me, and blessed be your discernment, and blessed be you, who have kept me this day from bloodshed . . “ 1 Samuel 25