Food is more than just something to consume. Thousands of variations and dishes give people the ability to express themselves through food. You’ve likely experienced the power of a unique dish at least once in your life — you may have traveled home and had a parent make you one of their signature dishes, which instantly transported you back to a time and place, all with a few blends of flavor.
Or maybe someone cooked a dish for you that was special to them, and together you got to enjoy something deeply personal that bonded the two of you together. This sharing of food is not new — it’s something that has been constantly repeated throughout history, and it has acted as a way to intertwine various cultures.
It’s easy to see the impact of diverse cultural cuisine today, but often, we forget how significant that impact can be on an individual. Today, much of eating has become a tedious process, relegated to drive-throughs and hurried eating between events — often in solitude. Experiencing a new dish can help us slow down and enjoy unique flavors while we ponder how they relate to a larger cultural history. These dishes can open our eyes to new flavors, help us connect to other cultures and even improve our overall health.
Colleges and universities are often places of great diversity and culture, where people can share who they are and where they’re from. Ethnic menus and international foods are an ideal way to express various cultures and honor this diversity.
How We Connect With Others Through Food
From the dawn of humanity’s beginnings, food has offered a way to connect people. Ancient sculptures and cookbooks all reveal the act of sharing food and eating together. There is something sacred about the act that allows people to come together and bond.
It can often be challenging to express a certain culture to someone who’s never experienced it. An explanation can be counterproductive, and it’s hard to find the right words to capture where you’re from and how you grew up. Showing someone can offer an entirely new and engaging experience.
One way to show culture is through food — you can take someone on a journey with each flavor and spice, giving them a taste of your own life. Some may have never experienced those unique flavors before, and it will allow them to reach common ground with a culture they’re unfamiliar with.
Eating together builds trust. Historically, inviting someone as a guest to come eat was a sign that you could trust them, and today we routinely invite friends over and go out to eat to bond and reconnect over a shared meal. At points in history, food may have been scarce, and sharing was done only with close family and friends. Today, that notion has expanded and become less crucial, but a core value remains — we usually eat with those we care about and trust.
You don’t need to go back too far back in history to see food’s impact on society. From the Columbian Exchange to the introduction of Chinese food to the Americas in the 1800s, food has always had a central place in history for introducing cultures and connecting differing geographies through unique flavors.
Often, the first introductions of food come with consequences — Chinese restaurants were often under fire when they first opened in the West. And sometimes, cultural foods or drinks can become the targets of wartime boycotts — everyone knows about the legendary Boston Tea Party. And yet, these shadowy histories shed light on how far we’ve come since then. Today, millions of Americans enjoy Chinese food without hesitation and drink tea as a morning ritual.
Whether it be an expression of culture, a sign of trust or reflecting on historical significance, food is a sure way to connect people. A short meal can lay the groundwork for a fruitful relationship. Even aside from connecting cultures, a diverse menu has another benefit, as well — it’s good for your overall health.
Why a Diverse Menu Is Beneficial for Your Health
For students at college and universities, balancing a diet can be another added stressor. For many, this is the first time they’re on their own, and they may be used to their parents cooking meals and providing food. At college, a student has the responsibility to eat right and get the nutrients they need to stay healthy. With academics, social life and any other extracurriculars, this can be a challenging prospect, and students may neglect to eat right. But colleges can take steps to nudge students in a healthy direction.
Offering a diverse menu at a university can be the boost students need to eat right. Unique meals will introduce students to a whole new world of flavors, cultures and offer many health benefits, too.
Food diversity is essential for a healthy lifestyle. More people realize that a diet of processed foods and empty calories like soda, pizza and chips leads to obesity and various health problems. Eating healthier with organic options helps construct a healthy diet.
Many ethnic and international cuisines use fresh ingredients and multiple food groups, making them great alternatives to processed foods. Embracing a Mediterranean diet, for example, with a focus on healthy fats, whole grains and seafood can help prevent cardiovascular diseases and promote healthy aging.
By opening up your diet to multiple cultures, you can see what works for you. Every person is built differently, with various foods agreeing or disagreeing with their biological makeup. Finding some variety and getting a good combination of fresh foods will help you build a healthy lifestyle.
A healthy gut is essential for regulating digestion, keeping a healthy immune system and many other aspects of health. An imbalance in your gut could lead to weight gain, high cholesterol and other various disorders.
One of the best ways to improve your gut bacteria is to eat a diverse range of foods. Eating diverse foods can lead to a diverse microbiome, which will promote good gut health. The Western diet can sometimes be limiting, with a focus on processed foods and sugar. Digging into other cultures and finding unique dishes with fresher ingredients can help you build a healthy gut.
Researchers have proposed theories describing biodiversity as a reason for stability and the overall health of an ecosystem. When foreign invaders attack a certain food supply, the diverse ecosystem will flourish while the more limited environment will suffer. While this theory focuses more on environments at a micro level, it can also relate to eating as a personal experience.
A common argument against healthy eating is that sometimes it’s just easier to choose the drive-through or an unhealthy option. Processed foods are packaged and ready to go. However, If you have a variety of meals in mind spread out over various cultures, you’ll have a much larger mental cookbook to pull from.
Diverse menus offer easy ways for people to get the nutrition they need with added convenience. Instead of the usual packaged chips or desserts, unique meals with fresh ingredients provide students with the best choices that taste good. In that way, a diverse palate can help you gain nutritional stability, as you’ll always have something healthy to fall back on.
Eating a varied diet can have many more health benefits, including:
- Boosted immunity
- Protection from disease
- Healthy body weight
For students on a college campus, providing a diverse menu can help them build a healthy diet without sacrificing too much time and energy. Education, as well as health, points to the importance of international food options.
Learning From What We Eat
As was mentioned earlier, eating is about more than just consuming. Humans manipulate meals based on their geographic location, the resources at their disposal and the limits of their culture. This makes cultural foods a kind of window into how people live. For university students, their world is one where they’re constantly learning, taking in new information and creating a framework of the world. Eating from a diverse menu is a learning experience in itself, where one can take in different flavors and think about the circumstances that created the dish.
Enjoy the sweet and savory Indian flavors of chickpea curry or the famous Greek Moussaka and be transported to a new culture of different flavors and ingredients. In many cultures, you will find that various governments and political factions influenced food culture choices and foreign explorers bringing over new spices or crops. Going back in history, one can trace the rise and fall of great empires as the names of dishes changed to reflect the culture of their ruler.
The foods that appear to have no original home are interesting to look at, as well. Hummus, for example, the simple recipe made from chickpeas, tahini, garlic and lemon, is a food that’s popular worldwide. Various countries in the Middle East have all claimed that hummus originated in their homeland, though there is little proof to substantiate any of them.
In some cases — as in the case of hummus — foods act as a way to bridge an entire region together through one common food. While hummus may not be claimed by one specific country, that also means it belongs to a wider swath of people who — like a meal itself — must share its benefits.
When we eat cultural dishes like this one, we begin to see a bit of their culture through taste and flavors, and it acts as a stepping stone to understanding that world and its people. For many colleges and universities, this understanding is central to their core values.
International Menus Are Great for Everyone
For college students, eating healthy might not be their first priority. They have to worry about their grades and maintaining their social life, and eating right mall fall out of focus. But by instituting a unique international menu, you can offer healthy options that can also bring different cultures to light.
Here are some reasons why international dining options are great for everyone.
As was mentioned earlier, eating a diverse diet has various health benefits. The Western way of eating can often be unhealthy, with many processed foods and empty calories. Expanding your horizons and pulling from various cultures can help you find a healthier diet. Your biological makeup may be more attuned to certain foods, and you’ll never know until you try it out. A diverse diet can help you build better gut health and help defend against a number of different diseases.
Many people often lack essential nutrients in their diet — pulling ingredients from various cultures can help with this aspect, as well. For college students who are constantly on the go, offering varied options will allow them to build a healthy diet.
Aside from the health aspects, an international menu can give someone a greater understanding of the world, too. It can be easy to learn about a culture and read about its history, but the challenging part can be immersing yourself in that culture. Eating cultural foods is one way to do this. A simple meal made up of unique spices and ingredients can transport someone to a geographic location or an era in time.
Tasting these flavors and unique dishes can help bring a greater sense of understanding to someone who’s never experienced the culture. Offering these unique dishes is a simple yet powerful way to teach people about different areas of the world.
The world is going at a fast pace, and — especially at colleges — people are on their phones or thinking about the next thing they have to do. Eating is just another box to check off throughout the day. But the importance of eating right is starting to become mainstream, as healthy choices gain popularity and the health issues associated with processed foods grow apparent.
Something known as mindful eating — savoring a meal instead of rushing through it — is becoming more common. For those that have become accustomed to racing through meals, this prospect can be fairly challenging, as it takes a great deal of patience. Something that can make it a bit easier is offering a completely new meal with unique flavors and textures.
An international menu offering these kinds of novel foods can help people stop and really absorb what they’re eating. In turn, they’ll gain an appreciation for the dish and perhaps the culture that crafted it, as well.
Start Creating a Diverse International Menu With American Dining Creations
Instituting an international menu at your college or university brings many benefits — the only challenge might be finding the right company for the job. American Dining Creations is the company for you. Our expert team of hospitality and culinary professionals is dedicated to providing a unique and personalized experience to our customers.
We’ve become a proven leader in higher education programs across the country, collaborating with our customers to give the best service and using fresh, locally-produced ingredients. We design our menus with a healthy diet in mind so we can deliver healthy and flavorful food to your students. Contact us today!