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Thread: Food maturity index by country

  1. #1
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    Post Food maturity index by country



    After observing and analysing cultures around the world, it became evident to me that the cultural sensitivity and psychological acceptation towards food differed greatly from one linguistic group to another. More often than not the division was really by linguistic group rather than by country, so that, for instance, cultures as different as England, Scotland, the USA or Australia had fairly similar culinary predisposition when compared to Italian-, French-, Japanese- or Chinese-speaking people. Religion sometimes play a part in the acceptation of food. The Muslims don't eat pork, and most Hindus and Jains are vegetarians...

    I have thought of an index of "open-mindedness", if I may express it like this, towards food which would be a direct relation to culturo-linguistic groups around the world. The top of the list are cultures which have a greater "maturity" or "open-mindedness", meaning by this that their speakers have in average (the "average" factor is vital in cross-cultural comparison) a greater tolerance, liking or even crave for food which is considered as more or less disgusting in other cultures. Here is a concise ranking of culinary cultures I know well.

    1) French-speaking culture
    2) Chinese-speaking culture
    3) Thai-speaking culture
    4) Japanese-speaking culture
    5) German-speaking culture
    6) Italian-speaking culture
    7) English-speaking culture
    8) Muslim culture
    9) Jewish culture
    10) Hindu culture


    Explanation : I have ranked French speakers first because French cuisine has the greatest range of products and tastes of any cuisine. Among culture-specific food, we can cite snails, frog legs, pigeon, lamb, horse, all kind of game or wild animals (deer, pheasant, wild boar, rabbit, and recently also kangaroo, ostrich, antelope, etc.), all kinds of fish and seafood, but also cheese, including blue cheese, goat or sheep cheese, and smelly cheeses. Add to that offals and sausages. French speakers tend to be very accommodating of almost all other cuisines worldwide. Chinese, Thai and Japanese food are especially well appreciated in France and Belgium. No particular religious or culture taboo.

    The Chinese may use even more exotic animals in their cuisine, but like in other East Asian cultures they lack the culture of dairy products, and not just cheese, but also yoghurts, cream, butter, milk and all its derivatives (cakes, crepes, waffles, bechamel sauce, etc.). Even nowadays many Chinese have a relatively low cultural acceptance of dairy products, all the more if it is not from cow milk, but goat or sheep milk. The huge variety of meat in Chinese cuisine (e.g. crocodile, snake, scorpions) is also mostly limited to Cantonese cuisine.

    Thai culture ranks 3rd as it is similar in essence to Chinese food, with more spices, but less variety in meats.

    Despite the Japanese's passion for fish and seafood, and some very culture-specific dishes like natto and the consumption of raw horse or chicken, Japanese culture cannot be placed higher than 4th because most Japanese do not like lamb, pigeon or rabbit, and wouldn't try "exotic" meats like kangaroo, ostrich, antelope or camel (let alone snakes and scorpions). Like their East Asian neighbours the Japanese are not big fans of dairy products (esp. goat/sheep or smelly cheese), although it is changing among younger people.

    The German food culture is not so distant from the French, minus the most eccentric food (snails, smelly cheese...). It lacks the passion for food of the above to rank higher.

    The Italians tend to be among the most fussy eaters in Western Europe. Although they are food lovers, and will eat tripes, offals, or almost any kind of cheese, they are often more critical of anything that is not Italian, and even Italian food that is not done their way. An Italian once told me that nobody in Italy would eat pasta that was not properly strained.

    English-speaking food culture has long been associated with poor quality food, or fast-food (be it sandwich, fish'n chips or hamburger). It has long been a culture where people ate to live rather than lived to eat. It is changing and fusion cuisine has emerged from places like Australia and California, but mostly thanks to immigrants - not native English speakers. It is still harder for a lot of English speakers to be totally open-minded anc welcoming of all the above cuisines, especially their more unusual dishes. I have never heard anyone make remark like "how can you eat raw fish ?", or "frog legs seem so distgusting, I don't want to try", or criticise a nation as "cheese-eating monkeys" or the like among the French or the Chinese.

    Muslim culture ranks lower because it tends to be very closed to non-Muslim food, and fairly strict and traditional (e.g. no pork).

    The Jews are even stricter with their kosher preparations.

    The Hindus are the most self-centered for food, and indeed it is very hard to find non-Indian food in India (even French or Italian food).
    Last edited by Maciamo; 12-12-06 at 09:42.
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    Hmmm, maybe you're a tad hard on England. -- although I know of course that under "English-speaking cultures" that's including a wide range of different cultures, such as the US and Australia, as you say. :)

    In Britain itself, though, there is quite a good wide range of food and Britain does have a fairly rich "cultural heritage of food". The main thing that Britain falls down on these days, imo, is "exotic meats" - probably partly to do with the fact that we don't have so many "exotic" animals; no crocodiles, scorpions or kangaroos here! - although with the increased availability of imported foodstuffs that's not really an "excuse" any more. However, Britain used to be more eclectic in its tastes; in medieval times people ate a much wider variety of game and game birds, including more meat like venison, pigeon, partidge, pheasant, swan, rabbit, and most likely others I can't think of now! Medieval English cooking (I say English because I'm not sure about Irish, Scottish and Welsh >.<) also made a lot of use of imported spices as well as Mediterranean influence, and used a much wider range of herbs than is common today. Of course, I'm thinking of banquets for rich people, not the plain food of labourers and such... British cookery (I can include Scottish in this because of haggis, yum yum! ) also made a lot of use of offal. This did become out of favour, though, partly associated with being a dish for poor people because of it being "low quality meat", and I guess partly during the late 20th century as people became more fastidious about hygiene at the same time as... (ah, but I won't woffle on now... )... anyway, offal products such as tripe used to be pretty popular here, but less so now... but sausages and burgers are still popular, as is haggis.

    Personally, among the more "unusual" meats I've eaten partridge, venison, pheasant, rabbit and ostrich (there is a farmers' market in my small hometown where ostrich meat is sold every week! ), and as regards offal products I've eaten sausages, burgers, haggis, heart, liver and kidneys.

    All kinds of dairy products are also common here, with lots of different types of yoghurt, cheese and milk (including goats' milk). Cream is of course used in most sauces and in soups, to give it a good thickness. Dairy-based desserts such as egg custards, meringues and cheesecake are also very common here as well as milk- or cream-based sauces like custard, white sauce and (seasonally!) brandy butter. Cheese is also popular (my little old hometown is famous for its Blue Stilton! ), especially for special occasions. "Cheese and wine" parties are staple, as are cheese and biscuits as an option for dessert, and people like to experiment with different types of cheeses, particularly around Christmas time, when most delis stock a wide range of Stilton with various different fruits, nuts and even chillis embedded in it. ^^ Soft cheeses like Brie are also popular. I suspect dairy products might be getting a bit less popular recently, though, because of their reputation for being fattening. ... As for calling the French "cheese-eating", pfff, fine ones to talk!

    Britain's seafood diet is admittedly quite "boring" in comparison to somewhere like Japan; however it is also a bit limited as to what is actually found in the sea around Britain. Considering it is an island nation, fish and other seafoods don't feature as largely in our diet as you might expect. However, not surprisingly seafood is a lot more common and popular in coastal towns and cities where it is always on the local menus. The most popular are things like lobster, crab, shrimp and shellfish like cockles and mussels. Often, small seaside towns and even villages will have their own "speciality", for example Craster kippers. And with the availability of decent storage and transportation technology, people also enjoy occasionally other more "exotic" seafoods like octopus and sushi.

    For the average British people, perhaps there still is something of a "yuck factor" in the idea of some of the more "exotic" foods, but in fact, a lot of people are game to try it and the novelty appeals to about as many people as it puts off. Younger people especially are quite likely to be amenable to try all sorts of different things - mainly because of the "bravery factor".... XD

    Food from other cultures is very popular here; in fact, curry is almost our "national dish" now! Restaurants that are popular include Chinese, Thai, Japanese, Indian, Mexican, French, Spanish, Italian, Greek, Turkish, Jamaican, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, and Middle Eastern countries.

    Ummmm, it sounds like I'm trying to take issue with what you're saying, which I'm not, as I said in my first para, I realise that by "English-speaking" you're not only talking about England/Britain, but other English-speaking countries too - it was just my excuse to woffle about English/British food.

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    Kinsao, I know what you are talking about. However it is undeniable that British culture puts less importance on food than that of France, China or Japan. Traditionally British people only ate to survive, not as an enjoyment. There are still jokes about the French because they eat frog legs or snails, which is seen as disgusting by many Brits. I have never met a French-speaking person (except from Quebec) who had any problem eating frogs or snails. It is the kind of dish that we only eat once every few years, but I haven't heard anybody complain (actually less than Japanese people about their own natto or umeboshi). This is what I call "food maturity"; namely the state of mind of being able to eat almost anything edible as a delicassy without making much fuss about it. The Japanese eat some fish or crustaceans while they are still alive (well cutting them on the restaurant table while it's still moving) to be sure it is the freshest possible. This tends to shock much more English speakers than French or Chinese speakers. This is my point.

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    Very interesting read, thank you Maciamo and Kinsao.

    So, do you think there is a link between being open-minded about food and having spoken a certain language? This approach is so new and intriguing that I started to wonder if anything involved with a language even things such as speed and pronounciation can influence your food consumption.
    ~How could you eat your pudding if you don't eat your meat?!~

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    Yes, it is an interesting idea!
    I wonder whether it is more linked to language or to the cultures associated with the languages... or a mixture of both...

    I'm not quite sure I would have equated the idea of "maturity" with the concept "game to try eating more or less anything", but I see what you're driving at... !!

    Seriously... the idea of someone who is mature as being open-minded to trying new things seems perfectly feasible to me :)... but around food there are also issues of caution and health... y'know, not to risk eating something poisonous... perhaps English-speaking cultures are just more cautious?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post
    "cheese-eating monkeys"
    Cheese eating, surrender, monkeys is the correct expression.
    Actually the English do produce a lot of cheese themselves, and more extensively than most people think, although they are not as varied as the French when it comes to the soft cheeses.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mycernius View Post
    Cheese eating, surrender, monkeys is the correct expression.
    I know, I know... I still wondered why the Americans are so eager to brand the French like that, when they did not surrender (and won) WWI, while half of Europe "surrendered" in WWII, and only half France did.
    Actually the English do produce a lot of cheese themselves, and more extensively than most people think, although they are not as varied as the French when it comes to the soft cheeses.
    Cheese is one of the most specific food that Europeans share in common. Attacking the French because they produce/eat cheese, it is attacking all Europe. But the point in this thread is that the French have a lot of cheese that are less easily appreciated in other cultures (goat cheese, smelly cheese...).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post
    The Chinese may use even more exotic animals in their cuisine, but like in other East Asian cultures they lack the culture of dairy products, and not just cheese, but also yoghurts, cream, butter, milk and all its derivatives (cakes, crepes, waffles, bechamel sauce, etc.). Even nowadays many Chinese have a relatively low cultural acceptance of dairy products, all the more if it is not from cow milk, but goat or sheep milk. The huge variety of meat in Chinese cuisine (e.g. crocodile, snake, scorpions) is also mostly limited to Cantonese cuisine.
    Hmm I don't think other East Asians eat much diary products neither. The only Asians who do are the South Asians to my knowledge.

    However the younger Chinese (not necessarily from China) do eat/drink diary products like Cheese, cream, yogurt, milk and ice-cream. Italian pastas and pizzas and Ice creams are popular among younger Chinese generations.(not necessarily from China). There are also the ones who like cheeseburgers.

    Oh talking about trying new foods I tried raw oysters from France on New Years Eve, I love it!



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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post
    After observing and analysing cultures around the world, it became evident to me that the cultural sensitivity and psychological acceptation towards food differed greatly from one linguistic group to another. More often than not the division was really by linguistic group rather than by country, so that, for instance, cultures as different as England, Scotland, the USA or Australia had fairly similar culinary predisposition when compared to Italian-, French-, Japanese- or Chinese-speaking people. Religion sometimes play a part in the acceptation of food. The Muslims don't eat pork, and most Hindus and Jains are vegetarians...

    I have thought of an index of "open-mindedness", if I may express it like this, towards food which would be a direct relation to culturo-linguistic groups around the world. The top of the list are cultures which have a greater "maturity" or "open-mindedness", meaning by this that their speakers have in average (the "average" factor is vital in cross-cultural comparison) a greater tolerance, liking or even crave for food which is considered as more or less disgusting in other cultures. Here is a concise ranking of culinary cultures I know well.

    1) French-speaking culture
    2) Chinese-speaking culture
    3) Thai-speaking culture
    4) Japanese-speaking culture
    5) German-speaking culture
    6) Italian-speaking culture
    7) English-speaking culture
    8) Muslim culture
    9) Jewish culture
    10) Hindu culture


    Explanation : I have ranked French speakers first because French cuisine has the greatest range of products and tastes of any cuisine. Among culture-specific food, we can cite snails, frog legs, pigeon, lamb, horse, all kind of game or wild animals (deer, pheasant, wild boar, rabbit, and recently also kangaroo, ostrich, antelope, etc.), all kinds of fish and seafood, but also cheese, including blue cheese, goat or sheep cheese, and smelly cheeses. Add to that offals and sausages. French speakers tend to be very accommodating of almost all other cuisines worldwide. Chinese, Thai and Japanese food are especially well appreciated in France and Belgium. No particular religious or culture taboo.

    The Chinese may use even more exotic animals in their cuisine, but like in other East Asian cultures they lack the culture of dairy products, and not just cheese, but also yoghurts, cream, butter, milk and all its derivatives (cakes, crepes, waffles, bechamel sauce, etc.). Even nowadays many Chinese have a relatively low cultural acceptance of dairy products, all the more if it is not from cow milk, but goat or sheep milk. The huge variety of meat in Chinese cuisine (e.g. crocodile, snake, scorpions) is also mostly limited to Cantonese cuisine.

    Thai culture ranks 3rd as it is similar in essence to Chinese food, with more spices, but less variety in meats.

    Despite the Japanese's passion for fish and seafood, and some very culture-specific dishes like natto and the consumption of raw horse or chicken, Japanese culture cannot be placed higher than 4th because most Japanese do not like lamb, pigeon or rabbit, and wouldn't try "exotic" meats like kangaroo, ostrich, antelope or camel (let alone snakes and scorpions). Like their East Asian neighbours the Japanese are not big fans of dairy products (esp. goat/sheep or smelly cheese), although it is changing among younger people.

    The German food culture is not so distant from the French, minus the most eccentric food (snails, smelly cheese...). It lacks the passion for food of the above to rank higher.

    The Italians tend to be among the most fussy eaters in Western Europe. Although they are food lovers, and will eat tripes, offals, or almost any kind of cheese, they are often more critical of anything that is not Italian, and even Italian food that is not done their way. An Italian once told me that nobody in Italy would eat pasta that was not properly strained.

    English-speaking food culture has long been associated with poor quality food, or fast-food (be it sandwich, fish'n chips or hamburger). It has long been a culture where people ate to live rather than lived to eat. It is changing and fusion cuisine has emerged from places like Australia and California, but mostly thanks to immigrants - not native English speakers. It is still harder for a lot of English speakers to be totally open-minded anc welcoming of all the above cuisines, especially their more unusual dishes. I have never heard anyone make remark like "how can you eat raw fish ?", or "frog legs seem so distgusting, I don't want to try", or criticise a nation as "cheese-eating monkeys" or the like among the French or the Chinese.

    Muslim culture ranks lower because it tends to be very closed to non-Muslim food, and fairly strict and traditional (e.g. no pork).

    The Jews are even stricter with their kosher preparations.

    The Hindus are the most self-centered for food, and indeed it is very hard to find non-Indian food in India (even French or Italian food).

    And we are totally right! xD
    Sorry, it will be the only thing that I'm going to be chauvinist about. But when I go abroad..It's a pain. I really miss Italian cousine. I'm not saying that our food is the King and the other suck or are worse...But we have an attention to the preparation, to the quality...Cooking and eating is just love for us.
    As any other thing, it depends on tastes. But we know our reasons to be this way! :P

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    I was in France this summer and I was disappointed at the disappearance of butter fat from pastries. It was like being in America. What the hell has happened to Europe, the French and their famous nazi attitude on food? A big drop in quality.

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    Interesting thread it is useful

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