Food is any substance that provides the nutrients necessary to maintain life and growth. There are many ways to eat healthy and we are not limited to one right way. For example, there are different methods of cooking vegetables such as stir-frying, steaming, boiling or even eating them raw. United States is a mecca of cultural diversity. In 2016, nearly 326 million people legally immigrated to United States from the Caribbean, Central and South America, Asia, Africa, and Europe.1 As humans continue to migrate, so does food and dietary habits. For example, we can experience Chinese cuisine flavors through a stir-fry pork dish made with soy sauce, rice wine, and ginger root; Mexican cuisine flavors through a meal combined with tomatoes, onion, chili pepper, and cumin; and experience Italian cuisine flavors through a pasta made with tomato, garlic, basil, oregano, and olive oil.
As immigrants have transformed food in the United States, food for immigrants is a cultural identity. Food is a way to stay connected to the land they left behind while cultivating a feeling of security and comfort in a new environment. Moving three years ago to United States and eating a plate of rice, beans, and fried plantains represents home and each bite reminds me of the beautiful beaches of Puerto Rico, the warm weather, and my mother’s kitchen. The Puerto Rican cuisine is influenced by a mixture of cultures: African, Spanish, and Taíno (indigenous group). This blend of cultures makes the Puerto Rican cuisine delicious and preparing a Puerto Rican dish makes me feel close to my identity, as well as home even though I am 1,713 miles away from my loved ones.
For others, food means preserving balance and harmony; for example, eating “yin/yang” foods2. In Asian culture, “yin” foods are believe to cool and moisten the body and are low in calories. While, “yang” are foods that are believed to warm the body and are characterized as high in calories. Some “yin” foods include: vegetables and fruits. Some “yang” foods include: meat, poultry, fish, eggs and alcoholic beverages. In addition, food represents strength, vitality, and health.
Food ties us to our culture and is a portal to experience new cultures when you are far away from home. Immigrants have provided us accessibility to different cuisines and adventures. It is important to be mindful when trying new cuisines and take into consideration the history and special place it has for the person who prepared the meal.
By: Kalelys L Calero
1. Largest U.S. immigrant groups over time,1960-present. Migration Policy Institute website. https://www.migrationpolicy.org/programs/data-hub/charts/largest-immigrant-groups-over-time?width=900&height=850&iframe=true. Accessed October 19, 2018.
2. Goyan P, Sucher K, Nahikian-Nelms M. Food and Culture. Cengage Learning, 2016. Print.