It is a well known fact that food is the unofficial sixth love language. Making and giving food to someone is an intimate affair because a chef puts their soul into every dish they make, and they convey their emotions through their cooking. This intimacy does not disappear when looking at restaurants—in fact, it is only emphasized, because a restauranteur has to make every meal count for every person who eats at their establishment. This can be difficult because the American food scene is incredibly diverse; there are so many cuisines and flavors to choose from that people tend to forget about the meaning behind the food they eat. They devalue food, making it out to be simply sustenance when it is so much more than that.
American food is a blend of the history of many people mixed with the culinary contributions that built a unique food culture. One example that stands out is Chinese food. After the passing of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the only trade many Chinese immigrants had to fall back on was food. The result is that most Chinese restaurants are family run and incredibly Americanized in order to remain successful in the face of prejudice. Authentic or not, every meal served is a bite of their history that they are passing on. It’s more than just takeout.
In addition, not many people know how African American flavors that go back to the time of slavery have influenced the food they eat today. Southern fare, which is popular for being flavorful and filling, was built on the backs of enslaved chefs who drew inspiration from their own native cuisines. They were left with a choice: to prepare food with no guidance from the masters of the house, or be punished severely for embarrassing the host with poorly made food. Combined with the imported palates of the French and Spanish, the now diverse south has a reputation for having some of the best food America can offer.
The ignorance that surrounds culture is most prominent around ethnic foods. To most people, Indian food is an umbrella term for curry, which is a term for hundreds of dishes that are generalized for the convenience of people who don’t care enough about the food they eat to learn the differences. Many find it bothersome to understand that there are different cuisines from the various regions of India, and instead choose to group everything up into an idea that is so completely Americanized that there is only a semblance of authentic Indian culture left.
It is important to acknowledge what has gone into the creation of the food you eat because it represents the history of people, and ignoring what they have gone through to be able to provide food for you is disrespectful. America’s diversity is colorful and must be appreciated, whether it is food or language or anything else that might represent someone’s individuality or heritage.