As the classic saying goes, we are what we eat. It defines us, our culture, and the traditions we follow.But does that determine how the story of a civilization is told? In truth, food holds a great deal of weight e are what we eat. It defines us, our culture, and the traditions we follow. But does that determine how the story of a civilization is told? In truth, food holds a great deal of weight in the interpretation of a community, and how they are judged. To outside eyes, a meal may appear “weird” or “gross”, while it actually contains the history of a tribe or people. This is a classic example of how we judge the unknown, only by comparing it to our traditions. Food brings a community together, but the culture and heritage differences that separate us are also evident once dinner is served.

A culture where food has shown its incredible influence, is the Ibo tribe. The African Yam holds a material value, through which they survive physically and economically, but also in a spiritual nature. This type of yam is much larger than we typically expect, so to understand the importance of the yam the photograph below shows the distinct size of the African Yam. The Yam serves as an offering to their gods and goddesses, portraying the religious meaning this food also holds. We see how important this item of substance actually is in Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe. “The new year must begin with tasty, fresh yams and not the shriveled and fibrous crop of theprevious year. All cooking pots, calabashes and wooden bowls were thoroughly washed, especially the wooden mortar in which yam was pounded.”(Achebe 23) . While a feast may offer many different foods, the yam holds precedence over all of them. As in Things Fall Apart and today’s culture in Ghana and Nigeria the Yam is celebrated with its own festival at the end of August. The 3 day festival includes a cleansing day to honor deceased family members, then the farmers will give thanks to the gods for giving them good harvest, and the festival ends with a large feast with yams and lots of music and dancing.


Food is not just simply a substance, it has a soul, a heritage, and strictly follows tradition. This can been seen in the wordle below where we provide the words we associate with food, whether it relates to the meaning, or just the flavor. The importance of food is seen also in other cultures. One main community that relies highly on food is that of the Southern United States. The south has a general association with comfort and soul food, where grits and cornbread bring people together as much as religion or a crisis. Below, there is a recipe for genuine North Carolina Pulled Pork. While the Southern United States may have foods that they call comforting, it may be interpreted differently by someone from a different background. Judgement forms when we witness something unfamiliar. If I ventured to Medieval time period where they were eating dog, I would be disgusted, and judge their food choices, while it may be completely normal to their community.


(There is supposed to be a wordle here, dealing with food)

North Carolina Pulled Pork

1 tablespoon mild paprika2 teaspoons light brown sugar1 1/2 teaspoons hot paprika1/2 teaspoon celery salt1/2 teaspoon garlic salt1/2 teaspoon dry mustard1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper1/2 teaspoon onion powder1/4 teaspoon salt8 pounds pork butt roast
2 cups cider vinegar1 1/3 cups water5/8 cup ketchup1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar5 teaspoons salt4 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes1 teaspoon ground black pepper1 teaspoon ground white pepper2 pounds hickory wood chips, soaked
In a small bowl, mix mild paprika, light brown sugar, hot paprika, celery salt, garlic salt, dry mustard, ground black pepper, onion powder, and salt. Rub spice mixture into the roast on all sides. Wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate 8 hours, or overnight.
Prepare a grill for indirect heat.
Sprinkle a handful of soaked wood over coals, or place in the smoker box of a gas grill. Place pork butt roast on the grate over a drip pan. Cover grill, and cook pork at least 6 hours, or until the internal temperature reaches a minimum of 160 degrees F (71 degrees C). Check hourly, adding fresh coals and hickory chips as necessary to maintain heat and smoke.
Remove pork from heat and place on a cutting board. Allow the meat to cool approximately 15 minutes, then shred into bite-sized pieces using two forks. This requires patience.
In a medium bowl, whisk together cider vinegar, water, ketchup, brown sugar, salt, red pepper flakes, black pepper, and white pepper. Continue whisking until brown sugar and salt have dissolved. Place shredded pork and vinegar sauce in a large roasting pan, and stir to coat pork. Serve immediately, or cover and keep warm on the grill for up to one hour until serving.

The story and interpretation of certain food items is told by the dominant culture. One who can enter a country, and perhaps colonize it to their “normal”. The inhabitants could be viewed as savages, while they are doing only what they know, and have grown up with. They are unfairly examined as crude, and might possibly be forced to discontinue the use of their heritage recipes, to conform to the standard of their colonizers. Through this, a massive amount of culture can be lost, simply with the loss of certain foods. While the culture of Southern cooking is somewhat iconic now, it originally was developed and based on African American food styles, when they were used by slaves. The development of Southern cooking with origins in Africa is featured in a video below.What may have been foreign, was then stolen and adopted as new American traditions, that have become iconic.

Some foods are not eaten just to fill our stomachs, but as part of a ceremony to show respect or hospitality. The giving of a Kola Nut is a gesture of friendship and good tidings, as described in Things Fall Apart “He who brings kola, brings life.” (Achebe 4.). When visitors enter a home the Kola Nut is offered in a ceremonial way, where they break it apart and chew the pods. A bag full of kola nuts is presented to the parents of the bride by the groom at wedding, bringing good luck to the couple. In modern culture an example of ceremonial foods would be the Tea Ceremony in Japan, as shown below (insert video of tea ceremony), this act is done to bring a better feeling to the drinker, deepen their mind, and created harmony in the relationship between the drinker and the person who prepares the tea.

In America we are spoiled with the variety of food that we get to choose from for our meals. We can choose Indian food, to Chinese food, to Mexican food by just walking across the food court. This vast number of choices that we are given demonstrates the variety of food supplies that we have in America, but not all of these foods are grown here. The US has a large percent of their imports as food, but what do the nations that don’t have the wealth to import as many goods do? Well like the Ibo tribe in Things Fall Apart , they eat very basic foods with few ingredients. This is the reason that the yam is so important to the Ibo tribe, because it is their main crop, and their main source of food and money. Americans would view their food as very bland, plain, and they would quickly get tired of it. But the only reason that we judge their foods, is because of we have so many choices that don’t even represent our geography. In the less wealthy countries the food that their eat, almost directly represents where they live.
Not only does food nourish our bodies and suppress our appetites, but it tells a story of who we are and where we come from. A culture can very easily be defined by the foods they eat and how they eat them. Our traditions and customs are heavily impacted by the foods that used to be available before all the intermingling of cultures occurred. When we sit around the table to eat dinner, we are not only enjoying the company of those around us, but we are taking a quick history lesson learning about the different cultures in the world.

Works Cited
Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart. Colombus, Ohio: Glencoe Mcgraw Hill, 2002. 4,23. Print.

“Africa- Yam Festival.” n.p. Pongal. Society for Confluence of Festivals in India, n.d. Web. 7 Dec 2010. <>.

African Yam. 2009.U University of New Orleans. 89.9 WWNO. Web. 9 Dec 2010.

< er's.Market/Farmers.Market.Minute.Yamboree>.

“Chanoyu- Green Tea Ceremony.” You Tube. Web. 9 Dec2010.

Smith, Doug. "North Carolina Pulled Pork." All Recipies. All Recipies, 11/8/2009. Web. 9 Dec 2010. <>.

“The Meaning of the Japanese Tea Ceremony.” Tsubaki American. Tsubaki American, 1988. Web. 9 Dec 2010. <>.

"West African Origins of Southern Cooking." YouTube. Web. 9 Dec 2010. <>.