Colonialism, globalization have helped to shape culinary 'traditions' around the world

Corn is considered to be a "traditional" food staple for many
indigenous communities throughout the Americas. Pictured
here are Haudenosaunee white dent, Glass Gem and Peruvian
morado corn cobss in a basket at Slow Food Terra Madre
and Salone del Gusto in Torino, Italy, on Sept. 22, 2016.
Photo Credit: Lauren J. Mapp
I have spent a lot of time in my adult life studying traditional foods from cultures around the world, but my Geography of Food class that I am taking this semester at San Diego State University (and the required readings for it) have started to change my views on what it means to be "traditional."

As Harriet Friedman discusses in her piece “Remaking ‘Traditions’: How we eat, what we eat and the changing political economy of food,” the idea of what foods, culinary practices and agricultural methods are "traditional" for a culture are constantly evolving – especially in our increasingly globalized world.

According to Beth Timmers (a PhD candidate at the University of Waterloo in the school of Environment, Resources and Sustainability), a food system that is dependent on outsourcing foods from other countries is not compliant with what is considered to be the traditional, Rastafarian food culture. "Rastafarian cuisine, or I-tal, epitomizes the localness of Jamaican food culture. It’s based on the belief that food should be natural - no chemicals, fertilizers, or seasonings – and from our surroundings." The U.S. Department of State’s website regarding Jamaica states that there are 24,020 Rastafarians among the 2.7 million people living in Jamaica.

Friedman’s “Remaking Traditions” discusses how mangoes (originally grown in southern Asia) have become a part of Jamaican culinary practices after being introduced to the island via indentured workers from India (Friedman 40). This is another example of how outside political, economic and societal interests have shaped the food system in Jamaica. Indentured workers from India (and other places in the world) were brought to Jamaica during the mid-1800s, bringing their food traditions along for the ride. Mangoes were then grown on the island and curry dishes, among other “traditional” Jamaican foods, were created. Beef patties (thought of as a traditionally Jamaican food) also have roots in colonialism – Cornish pasties from Cornwall, England were brought to Jamaica, and then adopted and altered. Most Jamaican beef patty dishes include turmeric, another ingredient that originated in India.

As the world becomes more interconnected and various cultures gain access to foods that originated in other countries, the idea of what is “traditional” for any one culture will continue to evolve. This constant state of evolution means that describing foods as such is, in fact, misleading. An article from The Daily Meal states that Jamaican food “has influences from the Taino Indians, the original inhabitants of the island, and from Europe, Africa, and Asia,” making it a melting pot of culinary styles and ingredients.

Hundreds of years after the introduction of colonialism and a massive influx of other cultures to Jamaica, who is to say what is or isn’t “traditional?”

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