by Lola Aquilar

Food is an essential part of most cultures. It is away to bring people together, celebrate special occasions and maintain relationships. Food brings joy to many people who find comfort in the memories that it elicits. There are many positive aspects of planning, preparing and eating food. People often enjoy food at social gatherings, where it is a central part of the celebration. Beloved dishes can even enhance somber occasions. Families often pass recipes down through generations. It is an excellent way to bring the past to the present and introduce children to their culture. In nearly every culture, food brings people together in many ways.

Encouraging Social Interaction with Friends and Family

People often get swept up in everyday life and don’t make time to spend together. When people gather, they usually do so around food. After all, even the busiest person has to make time to eat. Friends go out for a happy hour with tapas. Families share a meal and a conversation about what is happening in their lives. Eating together gives people an excuse to get together.

Learning to Cook with Loved Ones

Children often enjoy meaningful experiences with loved ones in the kitchen, whether they’re baking a cake with a parent or learning a cherished family recipe from a grandparent. Learning to cook also    helps them learn math and science concepts like measurement and chemistry. This bonding and encouragement from loved ones helps young people grow socially and emotionally. Cooking together also creates happy memories.

Celebrating Special Occasions

Nearly every culture around the world celebrates special occasions with traditional foods. Americans often barbecue hotdogs and hamburgers for the Fourth of July. The Mexican Christmas season often features menudo and tamales. People often celebrate special occasions with food they don’t get to eat regularly. Who doesn’t look forward to a Thanksgiving ham or favorite Christmas dessert?

Learning About History and Culture

Not only can people learn about their own cultures through food, but they can learn about other cultures and their histories, as well. Certain dishes often have distinctive meanings and purposes. For example, Mexicans offer sugar skull cookies to their lost loved ones during the Day of the Dead. Learning the reasons behind customs promotes tolerance and respect for the cultures to which they belong. Many cities hold festivals celebrating their local traditions or traditions that have immigrated. For example, Oktoberfest is part of German culture ,but Americans also celebrate it. While people may come to enjoy the food and drinks, they often walk away with positive feelings about the culture they celebrated.

Providing Comfort for People Who Need a Pick-Me-Up

One of the best ways to make someone feel better is through food, whether the food provides comfort or is used medicinally. For example, herbs, garlic and other ingredients in hot chicken noodle soup can offer relief from a stuffy nose. Food may elicit positive feelings due to more significant customs, but sometimes, it’s as simple as the cookies person’s mom used to make, reminding them that things will get better.

Special Foods Can Evoke Positive Emotions and Beneficial Social Interaction

When people gather, they typically highlight foods that bring positive emotions and encourage social interaction. Holidays usually have their own staple foods. Whether it is home-cooked or purchased from a favorite restaurant, people often form traditions and happy memories around special foods. Many people are proud to share the dishes that make up their history and evoke memories. Food encourages positive interactions while helping people learn about one another.