Memories of a Dish: Personal and Cultural Identities Expressed Through Food

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Food practices (cooking and eating) are a reflection of a culture or country. Food is born out of available ingredients and is therefore tied to a geographical location and its established societies. Seattle attracts people from all over the world who bring with them their food culture creating diverse neighborhoods and populations. I explore diverse communities in Seattle through the lens of cooking and eating. I interviewed Seattle residents and university students whose cultural identities differ from the dominant white American one. Based on these narratives, I put together a cookbook made up of first-person stories and corresponding recipes. By documenting diverse food memories into the form of a story-based cookbook, I hope to understand the importance that culinary traditions play in the identity of an individual. I aim to celebrate diverse food narratives through story-telling and the tactile approach of cooking, eating, and sharing food. Through interviews, I found that individuals connect to their culture and identity via food practices. The experience of immigrating or growing up in a culture that is different from one’s own drastically changes a person’s cultural practices, and food is a way to express past and present identities. A dish cooked today may date back 30 or 300 years, holding historic memory. Food is a political, public expression of where people shop, where they choose to eat, and what their tastes and preferences are. In some cases, communities are known primarily for their cuisines in mainstream American culture. In a country of so many divides, perhaps food can help us heal.