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Why Food is the Ultimate Communicative Feast

international cuisine
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Food has always had the power to bring people together, whether it’s at Christmas, Thanksgiving, Eid or simply in an evening at the end of a long day. Even amid the COVID-19 pandemic when social distancing was enforced across much of the globe, the act of eating a meal continued to bring people together – albeit over video conferencing platforms such as Zoom.

We know that food can cross a generational divide, with many of us preparing recipes handed down to us on special occasions, but food also has the power to transcend cultural and geographical barriers. Let’s take a look at how.

A Smorgasbord of Cross-Cultural Communication

The act of breaking bread or sharing food with someone else has long been one of the simplest ways to communicate, regardless of any language barriers, wherever you are and however little you might have.

Sharing recipes is a way for different cultures to begin to integrate, and they’re a way to show that we have much in common, despite the distances and language barriers between us.

Take the regional English scouse, the Greek stifado, a French ragout and a Hungarian goulash, for example; each contains meat and vegetables in a gravy or tomato sauce. The only differences between them are the local herbs and spices that flavour them, as well as any local cooking techniques used.

Fusion Food: The Creation of New Communities

Fusion food is born out of the sharing of recipes, ingredients and cooking techniques, fuelled by more widespread travel and immigration. Tex-Mex is arguably the most widely known example; once, beef and wheat flour were scarce in Mexico, but less so in Texas, hence the creation of dishes such as chilli con carne, and steak fajitas.

The fusion of food from different cultures has transcended into everyday living in the Western world; in the UK, particularly among the younger generation, it can be rare for people to eat multiple traditionally British meals over the course of one week, with pasta, curries and noodle dishes all being adopted as staple dishes in many households. And with this comes the associated language, words such as ‘pasta’ itself, ‘spaghetti’, ‘conchiglie’, ‘penne’, ‘biryani’ and ‘chow mein’, which have all passed into the English language lexicon.

Food: A Love Language

Food is also regarded by many as an international language of love; just picture the iconic image of the Lady and the Tramp sharing their spaghetti and meatballs – no words or accompanying music are needed to convey its meaning.

Feasting has long been a key part of wedding celebrations around the world, with cakes studded with fruit, nuts and marzipan to symbolise fertility presented to brides and grooms in England since medieval times. In Brazil, cookies known as Bem Casados, which translates as ‘happily married’, are traditionally enjoyed at weddings; they comprise two mini sponge cakes married together with dulce de leche or jam. While the food itself may differ, its meaning transcends language and cultural barriers.

In the UK, for example, establishments with a romantic or sophisticated atmosphere may have a menu written in French or Italian, showing that the languages associated with food can be linked to status too. Where and what you eat can communicate a lot about you in itself – something for brands to think about when food or drink features in their marketing materials.

How Food & Drink Marketing Speaks for Itself

Food and drink brands are behind some of the most powerful brand logos in the world, such as the famous golden arches; so famous, we don’t even need to mention the brand name here. However, in different parts of the world, the logo can conjure up images of different things; in the UK and US, this may be a cheeseburger; in India, masala wedges; in Canada, poutine.

This is an example of why localising marketing materials is essential – in the food and drink industry and beyond. Speaking to your audience and finetuning your communications to meet their cultural expectations and to respond to local trends is key for effective international marketing.

At Language Connect, we work with an experienced team of multilingual translation and transcreation experts, who can support your business to meet its global marketing goals to make sure your audience is presented with a tasty, digestible, memorable feast.

Get in touch today to find out what we can do for you!

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