“Food and identity are intimately connected, not only at the individual level, but in terms of group identity as well” (Molz 65).
The chapters from Culinary Tourism gives a huge perspective that I don’t think has ever really been seen before. The piece grapples with the perception of authenticity and the thought that a person does not have to leave home to experience exoticism or tourism. The two chapters really illuminate what it means to find identity, and how anyone can experience culture without leaving the house.
As the quote stated above, this piece emphasizes the importance of food with identity. It’s not only what a person produces that gives them identity but also what they eat that groups them in with a larger culture. As Lucy describes it: “food plays a prominent role in the manipulation of the natural environment and serves as a window into the histories, ethos, and identities of the specific cultures tied to that environment” (Long 24). However, it is intriguing how much this identity can be manipulated in order to give the perception of authenticity. The second chapter depicts how the concept of what Thai restaurants are, or what Thai food is, becomes the expectation for Thai restaurants everywhere. The need for people to connect with the Thai identity from an outside view, forces changes in the actual culture; “The Thai restaurant’s menu, then, is self-contradictory, claiming authenticity on one hand, but adapting to the Western parameters of culinary acceptability on the other” (Molz 57). I also found it ironic how the hotter the Thai food was the more authentic the food became. It points to the irony of changing the way one person identifies with their culture, so an outsider can feel as though they are properly identifying with it.
While people do often travel to see the world, culinary tourism is a whole other facet of traveling. Culinary tourism is an all-around experience that people can find anywhere. More than sightseeing, it encompasses all of the senses offering a “deeper, more integrated level of experience. It engages one’s physical being, not simply as an observer, but as a participant as well” (Long 21). This description really points to why people don’t have to go abroad to experience “other-ness.” People have all of their senses with them wherever they are, which means that you can take anything and experience it anew or taste something familiar as odd, as if for the first time. As Jennie Molz puts it: “eating is tourism,” allowing us to negotiate the four quadrants of eating: exotic, familiar, edible and inedible, wherever we go, allowing each dish to shape or sense of self and culture however we feel it applies to us.
I really hope that I can start looking at familiar things as foreign, and be willing to try the foreign foods as if I had them my whole life. This piece illustrates that the food experience is truly in the eye of the eater and I think that’s the best culture there is.