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Every day, people from all over the world have to procure, select, prepare, and consume food in order to sustain life. The manner in which they do that reflects complex relationships and interactions among individuals, their culture, and the society in which they live. M.L. Axelson Factors influencing the foods served and eaten in various parts of the world include the geography and climate of the land, as well as the race, ethnicity, traditions, income, education, gender, and age of the people living there. All of North America consists of just 3 countries: the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Resources of food are diverse, and settlers of these lands came from all other parts of the world, with a wide variety of cooking styles. Native Americans ate wild game and berries, corn, beans, and squash. Maple syrup came from the Northeast, beef, pork, and cheese from the Midwest, cornmeal, grits, okra, and peanuts from the South, barbecue, chiles, and beans from the Southwest and West, seafood from Alaska, Hawaii, and Canada, river and lake fish and wheat from Canada. This area of the globe takes in Central America, all the islands of the Caribbean Sea including the Bahamas, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, and Cuba, and South America. Geographic features include volcanos, tropical islands, desserts, rain forests, the heat of the equator, and snow-covered mountains. From Central America came the chili peppers mixed with tomato or lime, garlic, onion, cumin, and cilantro (leaves of the coriander plant), sour oranges, and seafood wrapped and cooked in banana leaves. The islands contributed seafood and shellfish, with tropical fruits, rum, and mollasses. The vast areas of South America are a melting pot of cuisines, including coffee and a variety of fruits and vegetables such as purple potatoes. Western and Northern Europe encompasses the countries of England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, France, Switzerland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, the Scandinavian countries of Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Finland, as well as Iceland in the northwestern Atlantic Ocean. Fish and chips were standard fare, along with scones in Britain, Scotland, and Ireland. World famous cheeses include Edam. Germans ate pork sausages and ham, and cooked with bacon fat. The aristocracy of France introduced artichokes, fancy pastries, and butter-rich sauces. Meats and fish were salted, smoked, dried, and pickled. Berries were made into jams, jellies, preserves, and syrups, and added to puddings and tarts. In Southern Europe we find the Iberian Peninsula where Spain and Portugal are located. The boot-shaped country of Italy, the islands of the Mediterranean, and the Balken Peninsula where Greece is located is also part of this area. Paella, a rice, vegetable, and seafood dish is a favorite in Spain and Portugal. Italian cooking uses wines and vinegars from the many wineries, as well as green herbs in pesto and tomato sauces served over pastas and risotto. Capers, olives, and olive oil are used widely in the entire area, as well as feta cheese, phyllo dough, eggplant, and lamb in Greece. Nuts are widely grown and used. Eastern Europe takes in many small countries, including the Czech Republic, Poland, Croatia, Latvia, Hungary, Bosnia, and Romania. Russia is a large continental expanse, and includes western Russia, the Ukraine and Georgia, Siberia, and far east Russia. Covering more than 11 time zones, this area is vast is size and cuisine. Stews of Hungary are spiced with paprika and mushrooms. Russia is a large producer of root vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, and beets, as well as barley, oats, and rye used in hearty breads. Foods are wrapped and cooked in cabbage leaves. Stroganoffs and other foods using sour cream are popular. Southwest Asia, the Middle East, includes countries of Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Afghanistan. The African continent is home to over 50 nations. Northern Africa is home to Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, and Libya, and is separated from southern nations by the Sahara desert. Breads and unleavened breads are dietary staples in the Middle East. Lamb and chicken, duck, dates, rice, and nuts are also common, although meatless meals may be required by the Muslim religious faith. Yogurt, cheese, and eggs provide much of the protein. African cooking tends to be very spicy, and includes curries and kebabs. Dry areas grow drought-tolerant grains and lentils. Meat may be scarce, so thick stews stretch the supply into hearty meals. South Asia is the location of India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Bangladesh. China dominates eastern Asia in land mass, neighboring countries such as Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Mongolia. Southeast Asia includes Viet Nam, Thailand, and the Philippines. Large segments of the population are vegetarian or vegan due to Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam religious food laws. Tumeric spice colors food bright yellow. Mint and other spices are also used heavily. A wide array of condiments are used, including chutneys and pickles. Japan deep-fries food, called tempura. Rice is a staple. China cooking styles include simple Canton, sweet- sour Hunan, delicate Peking, and spicy-hot Szechuan. South of the equator and Southeast Asia is the country of Australia surrounded by water. This and another 70 million square miles of ocean in the Central and South Pacific includes the Polynesian islands of New Zealand, New Guinea, Tahiti, Fiji, and Samoa. Sheep, chicken, duck, quail, and turkey are raised for food in Australia, although kangaroo (tastes similar to venison, but less gamey) is legal to eat in some states. Emu, crocodile, and crayfish are also eaten. Wild and farmed mussels and oysters are common on the islands, as well as other fish, bananas, coconut, breadfruit, kiwi, and taro.
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