Food does so much more than provide needed nourishment for the body. Across the world, people associate pleasant memories with certain types of food and tend to feel nostalgic every time they eat it. This can also be true for the way people prepare food, which is often deeply rooted in cultural tradition. Below are three examples of food rituals and culinary traditions from different parts of the world.
Lavash is a type of bread in Armenia prepared by kneading water and wheat flour. While that might sound simple enough, the kneading must be precise and takes practice to get right. Preparing lavash is a social activity among Armenian women who come together to bake bread for weddings or for everyday meals. After kneading and rolling the water and wheat flour, the next step is to stretch it over a cushion made just for this purpose with hay or wool stuffed inside of it.
The ingredients for Lavash bread take less than one minute to bubble up and finish cooking. How long Armenian women bake the bread and the type of flour used affects the final color and texture. It has long been a tradition in Armenian culture to place sheets of Lavash bread on the shoulders of the bride and groom at weddings as a symbolic gesture for their future prosperity.
Icelandic natives hold a mid-winter festival each year known as Thorrablot from mid-January to mid-February where they enjoy many unique food traditions. The purpose of Thorrablot is to prepare a feast reminiscent of that from the Orkneyinga saga where the Norse presented sacrifices to Thorri.
Icelanders read speeches and poems during dinner served at Thorrablot. A typical menu includes foods many Westerners have probably never consumed such as a type of schnapps called Brennivin, cured ram testicles, and singed lamb heads. Icelanders continue to enjoy Thorrablot even in modern times, especially those who live in the countryside beyond the area of Reykjavik. Live performances, music, and dancing also takes place once everyone has had a chance to enjoy their dinner.
Peking duck is a popular dish in China that requires special skill to prepare correctly because the preparation methods have not changed since the Imperial Age in China hundreds of years ago. The perfect meal of Peking duck starts with sourcing the duck meat and then marinating, roasting, and serving it according to Chinese tradition.
After securing a White Beijing duck, the chef must pluck its feathers and then push air between its flesh and skin. The chef also makes an incision to remove the duck’s innards. Next, the chef thoroughly cleans the duck and spears it with a wooded rod. This allows for placement over an open flame. The final preparation steps include:
- Soaking the duck in boiling water to tighten the skin
- Fill the skin with water again
- Marinate or brush the duck skin with sugar or another ingredient after it has hung and dried for the appropriate time
- Suspend the duck over a large oven heated to 500 degrees Fahrenheit for approximately 40 minutes
As with the other foods described, it is essential that the chef does not miss any preparation steps with Peking duck to avoid a disappointing experience for diners.