Nov. 16 is International Tolerance Day. It was created by the United Nations (U.N.) in 1995 to inspire member-states to a spirit of peace and nonviolence. It began as a commitment to the U.N.’s Declaration of Principles on Tolerance, which outline the meaning of tolerance at a macro-level in policy and micro-level in society. Now the holiday is celebrated worldwide to promote both altruism and activism.
This year, Irina Bokova, director-general of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), published a message on the necessity of tolerance and diversity to peace: “We must again emphasize the extent to which cultures are enriched by mutual exchange. We must remember the historical facts, recall how peoples and identities have mingled, engendering richer, more complex cultures with multiple identities.”
We here at ing Magazine are dedicated to those principles of tolerance and inclusivity, even when it comes to food. Food has, throughout history, been a major arena of cultural exchange. America has adopted the cuisines of many nations, which in turn may have adopted foods from other nations. Through trade and migration — as well as through conquest and appropriation, unfortunately — food from one side of the globe has found its way to another, diversifying culture in small and large ways alike.
To provide readers with a few examples of how foods has been exchanged throughout history, we compiled a list of dishes that might surprise you.
Pasta. Although pasta is a hallmark of Italian cuisine, it did not originate there. There is some debate regarding the origin of noodles, but noodles were first introduced to Italy by foreigners, likely either Chinese or Middle Eastern travelers. In 2005, 4,000-year-old noodles were discovered in Lajia, an archaeological site in northwestern China. This was the earliest record of the food.
Ketchup. Though not a meal by itself, ketchup is a very popular condiment in the U.S. Before its evolution into the tomato-based sauce we know today, however, ketchup began as a fish brine, which later included fermented vegetables. This recipe was well-received by travelers on trade routes; it rarely spoiled during their journeys. During the American colonial period, the sauce was introduced by the British and soon changed to include the tomatoes we know and love.
Meatloaf. This dish was popularized during the Great Depression to make the most of ground meat by mixing it with another filler such as bread. This method of mixing dates to a Roman cookbook of the fourth and fifth centuries, wherein cooks were instructed to mix chopped meat, bread and wine.
Apple Pie. This celebrated American dish is not originally from the States. Though it bears similarities to the French tarte aux pommes, the recipe originates in Britain. When popularized in the 1300s in England, a lack of sugar meant that the pastry crust was generally not eaten, but used only as a container to bake the apples. Over time, and with greater availability of sugar in America, the recipe took on a different flavor to become this famous, sweet dessert.
Yuki Wan, a senior studying microbiology, is an international student from China.
“[American cuisine] is pretty great. I love American breakfast food, like bacon, scrambled eggs and tater tots. Mashed potatoes are probably my least favorite dish ever on Earth,” Wan said.
When asked about her favorite foods from home, she mentioned steamed fish.
“I miss it sometimes,” Wan said. “And the Americanized Chinese fish dish is usually deep fried, which is super oily compared to the fish at home.”
Alyssa Van Doornik is a sophomore studying education. Having worked for the International Academic Orientation Program and being closely involved with Bridges International — a ministry that connects domestic students to international students — she loves to cross cultural boundaries through food.
“Sometimes it appears as though I might not have much in common with someone from Malaysia, but we all eat. We laugh while trying to explain each other’s food and it’s an easy way to cross cultures,” Van Doornik said.
Van Doornik said some of her favorite foods come from India, a culture she doesn’t know but loves to learn about and share.
Meals unite people together to eat and can become places of powerful connections across cultures.