day 7: eat local

eat local thai street food

“Food to a large extent is what holds a society together, and eating is closely linked to deep spiritual experiences.”
– Peter Farb and George Armelagos, Consuming Passions: The Anthropology of Eating

There are few better ways to discover the new culture you find yourself in, than to start eating. And I don’t say that just because I love food, but because through your stomach lies important keys to understanding this new culture.

I studied social anthropology for four years, so humour me for a moment. Everything is connected. We don’t do anything in a bubble; instead every action or word is informed by our culture, either in conforming to its values and structure, or in rebelling against it (and even the way we rebel is often culturally-assigned).

So you can discover SO MUCH through eating!

  • What do they eat? Why do they eat this? Do they grow it nearby? Who grows it? Where are they on the social hierarchy? How do they interact with their environment?
  • Who cooks? Men, women, children, servants? Why are they the ones who cook?
  • Where do they eat and how? In homes, restaurants, at their work desks, in the car, on the street? Why there? Do they stand or sit at a table or sit on the floor or lie down?
  • And how do they practise hospitality? Who initiates hospitality? What does it look like?

And gracious, that’s just the tip of the iceberg!

But in case you’re starting to think this sounds awfully like hard work – hello, you get to EAT!

In South Africa, it was fresh corn bought from the woman with a big pan at the junction; greasy amagwinya torn apart and eaten with baloney; ujeqe bread steamed in a pot over the stove to soak up the meat stews; fresh barbecued goat meat at a wedding.

In California, it was tacos and fresh guacamole; in-and-out burgers with fried onions and a milkshake; Thanksgiving dinner with sweet potatoes and green beans; cherries bought from the side of the road in season.

In Belgium, is was chicons stuffed with meat and fried; a huge pot of mussels in white wine served with salty chips; Turkish kebabs with fresh hummus and warm pittas; sweet hot Liege waffles from the mobile waffle vans.

A feast awaits you my friends!! Dive in, and dare to try something you might have passed by at home. And always while you’re eating, keep your eyes open to what’s going on around your food. You might learn a lot.


This post is part of my 31 days to embrace expat life. I’m writing every day through October on this topic.

Yesterday’s post – Who do you think you are?.

Photo: Thai street food; source unknown (via pinterest)