30 Pages

Food as an expression of National Identity

I was a schoolgirl in Paris then. Every Sunday I was invited together with my brother and a cousin to eat ful medame§. with some relatives. This meal became a ritual . Considered in Egypt to be a poor man's dish, in Paris the little brown beans became invested with all the glories and warmth of Cairo, our home town, and the embodiment of all that for which we were homesick

Introduction Associations between food and national identity are not hard to find. 1 We only have to look at the uncomplimentary names that one nation uses to ridicule another. The word Eskimo, for instance, is a derivation of eskimantsik, the derisive word meaning "eaters of raw meat", that neighbouring Indians used to refer to the Inuit (Farb & Armelagos 1 980:97) . North Americans make metapho­ rical reference to the supposed eating habits of the French, the Germans, and the Ital ians in speaking of "Frogs", "Krauts" and "Macaronis" and the French, in turn, call English people "rosbif". To this might be added the less widely known reports that Dhor, i . e . eaters-of-beef, is the name given to a subdivision of the Katkari caste of Bombay. And in the Congo, the Western Lange, who eat dogmeat, are known by the other Lange peoples as Baschilambua, i . e . dog-people . It has even been claimed that stereotypes of national character are couched in terms of typical national diets .