Cultural Identity and the Language of Food Essay example

Cultural Identity and the Language of Food Essay example

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Cultural Identity and the Language of Food

Food is integral to cultural identity and is as much a part of culture as religion and language. Indeed, some cultures elevate food to a level nearing, if not exceeding, the status of their religion. Because I love to cook, to combine flavors in a way that results in something unexpected and wonderful, this paper will discuss various words related to food. Not actual food words, but words surrounding food. Interesting words like “gastronomy” and “feast.” Often there is much symbolism related to these words; from the fundamental idea that to eat is to live to the possibility that there are religious connotations to the etymology of some of these words.

Given their reputation for affairs of the heart, as well as being the purveyors of cuisine, it is not surprising that many of our food words come from the French -- such as gastronomy, saute, banquet and garnish. “Gastronomy,” refers to the art or science of good eating. It comes from Greek French gastronomie, from Greek gastronomi, gastro-, + -nomi, -nomy. Its Indo-European root word, gras, (Shipley, 133) simply means to devour.

According to the American Heritage Dictionary (AHD), the word banquet has been fluctuating for a long time. The Old French word banquet, the likely source of our word, is derived from Old French banc, “bench,” ultimately of Germanic origin and originally from the Indo-European *bheg (Shipley, 31). The sense development in Old French goes from “little bench” to “meal taken on the family workbench” to “feast.” The AHD cites the English word banquet as first recorded in a work possibly composed before 1475 with reference to a feast held by the god Apollo, and it appears to have been used from the 15th to ...


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...w York, NY. 1983.

Davidson, Alan. Oxford Companion to Food. New York: Oxford University Press, Inc., 1999.

Elkort, Martin. The Secret Life of Food: A Feast of Food and Drink History, Folklore, and Fact. Los Angeles: Jeremy P. Tarcher, Inc. 1991.

Foley, Tricia and Catherine Calvert. Having Tea. New York: Clarkson N. Potter, Inc., 1987 Jaspers, Karl. The Great Philosophers. New York: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1993.

Kiple, Kenneth F., and Kriemhild Conee Ornelas, eds. The Cambridge World History of Food. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

Oates, Whitney Jennings. The Stoic and Epicurean Philosophers. New York: Random House, 1940.

Shipley, Joseph T. The Origins of English Words: A Discursive Dictionary of Indo-European Roots. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1984.

Tannahill, Reay. Food in History. New York: Random House, 1988.

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