Does the culture we are raised in influence what we remember about our favourite childhood food? Would the Dutch differ in this from Expats? And if so, how?
We discussed these questions with participants of an event in Amsterdam on ‘Taste, Memory & Culture’.
What is it that makes a certain type of food from our childhood so special to become unforgettable; is it the food itself, the situations surrounding it, or both? In those discussions, it was obvious that everybody was recalling very special and nostalgic moments. The participants were both Dutch natives as well as Expats living in Amsterdam.
The key term nostalgia, a ‘sentimental longing for the past’, always includes ourselves in a central position, whether it refers to family meetings, reunions, birthdays, or scenes from holidays. Nostalgia invariably prompts a wave of positive and warm emotions!
A traditional or a globalised dish?
When I asked ‘which is your favorite food from your childhood?’, a slight but clear smile appeared on all faces. Was the `favorite’ a traditional food from one’s ‘own culture’, or rather something ‘from abroad’. Would these memories be different for Expats than for the Dutch, and if so, in what sense?
After welcoming our participants with a drink, they were asked to write-down their answers on 3-4 food memory related questions, like ‘which is your favourite food from your childhood’ and ‘what is so special about this memory’.
Analysis of the answers after the event revealed cultural differences as well as universal trends. It was e.g. striking that as many as 68% of the Dutch, who by the way were between 19 to 26 years old, named a non-traditional type of food. For example, a French dish (boeuf bourguignon), an Italian (spaghetti Bolognese) one and even a Japanese one (sushi). The remaining 33% of the Dutch, from another generation now mostly in their 50ies, did recall a typical Dutch ‘delicacy’, like ‘boterham met pindakaas’, ‘boterham met spek’ or ‘draadjesvlees’.
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