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Food, Identity, and Resistance

2014 July 2
by Frank Saunders III

Goodmorning everyone! Terrible loss yesterday, but I still believe!


I want to start of this post by asking everyone if they have ever felt the need to eat differently due to the geographic region that you live in? (i.e. eating gumbo in New Orleans, barbecue in Memphis, lobster in Maine etc.)

The ‘Delta’ area of the United States is described as the geographically flat, cotton field rich area bounded by the Mississippi river below the Mason-Dixon. Basically we are talking about the heart of the South. The Delta Diaspora refers to the influx of Jewish Americans in this particular region and their pressure to fit in with the society in the Delta.

The Jewish cuisine far differs from the cuisine of the South. However, due to the regional influence of the Delta on the Jewish inhabitants, their may be a bit of a give and take between the two. Food is a major part of most any culture, and same holds true for people in the South, and Jewish people. The Jewish people in the Delta have conformed to the culinary standards of the Delta and made it their own. Aside from the extreme orthodox Jews who follow strict dietary mandates, the Jewish in the Delta now indulge in classic, Southern comfort food while enjoying traditional Jewish cuisine as well.


How many of you have ever volunteered at a soup kitchen? What was your experience like?

Shroeder raises a unique comparison to the soup kitchens present in America and how they differ from the soup kitchens in Latin American country. They both strive to aid those in the disadvantaged economic class. However, the American soup kitchen is typically hidden, almost as to hide away the homeless from society, whereas in Latin America, soup kitchens, or community kitchens, have prominent place in the community and usually are a source of civic pride. So what causes this difference? Politics and Community involvement. Latin American community kitchens are used as a platform to sway votes for politicians, and the women in these kitchens are prominent in their community and act a major influence on others.

Community kitchens act as an aid to get people, and women especially, on their feet and the necessary skills to enter the world. However, not all women are accepted with open arms in Latin American country. As the old saying goes, only the strong survive, but why is that? Why are the women who are more prominent in their societies more welcome in the community kitchens than ones who are one the outskirts? To me this is a bit of a paradox after reading what these community kitchens stood for in the first place.


Taylors piece highlights one of our favorite topics, food and identity! She brings forth ideas about food consumption and how we regulate it due to various ethical and self-constituted reason. Everyone eats for different reasons. Some eat to be skinny, some eat to enjoy various cuisines, some eat for religious reasons etc. Do you feel like you eat a certain way, or does it vary from time to time?

There is an idea of sex and food in this article, and the changes that have occurred over time. According to Probyn, “bodies that eat connect us more explicitly with limits of class, gender, and ethnicity than do the copulating so prominently displayed in popular culture.” (76) Is food consumption more of an identity clause than our sexual orientation?


9 Responses leave one →
  1. Maggie Roth permalink
    July 2, 2014

    To answer Trey’s question, I have definitely eaten things solely because of geographic region. My mom is from Chula Vista, San Diego, and whenever we would go back and visit my grandparents we would go and get “authentic” Mexican food because of its proximity to the Mexican border. I think geography plays a huge role in food and food consumption–before international trade existed, people had to make due with what they had, which is why regional cooking is so good- each region has mastered the resources available to them.

    I really like Shroeder’s point about soup kitchens and the different social contexts they have in different cultures. In high school I used to volunteer at a soup kitchen, and I always felt uncomfortable because we served people out the back door or the church, instead of inviting them or being open about it. I think the American culture should change the negative connotation associated with soup kitchens or food banks because they are put in place to help people not to hurt them.

    I think food has such a huge impact on our identity. What we eat reflects who we are as a person or rather, who we want to be perceived as.

  2. Lindsay Kagalis permalink
    July 2, 2014

    I have to say that my experience in soup kitchens was very different and in the open compared to Maggie’s response and the norm that was depicted in Shroeder’s essay. I would serve lunches and have raffles and other games for the entire homeless community of Baltimore in one of their huge parks every Sunday. The business was located a city over and every one knew about it and loved going there. I definitely agree with you though that we need to shift the terms and contexts associated with soup kitchens, and we need to embrace more public uses of these services to those who cannot afford to have a meal.

    I also agree that I have felt the need to eat a certain way because of where I live. For my example, it is with eating seafood, especially crabs. I’m from Maryland, and close to the Chesapeake Bay with that said. Therefore, I sometimes feel the need to only get crabs and crab products (crab cakes, sushi with crab, etc.) from places in Maryland. I’ve also told myself that I would only get a lobster roll from Maine because, to me at least, that would be the best place to get it. I agree with you completely Maggie, I think that it’s really interesting that different geographical regions have perfected their own type of food. Because of that, it makes me want to try certain foods from places that have supposedly perfected it simply to have the best quality of whatever product it may be.

    • Alina Clark permalink
      July 3, 2014

      Lindsay, I couldn’t agree with you any more!!! I’m from Rockville, Maryland about 35 minutes south of Baltimore. While I do not have any experience volunteering in soup kitchens [I tutored at my high-school on the weekends instead], I do think that geographic region plays a role in the ‘openness’ of caring for the homeless. It seems to me that upper-middle class areas attempt to brush the existence of homeless individuals ‘under the rug’, so to speak, and therefore these shelters might be hidden from plain sight so as not to taint the upper-middle class image (im exaggerating a bit here, but not really). In some areas of Baltimore, poverty is so common that homeless shelters are a place that instill community among people living in the area.

      As far as the points you made on the regional food, Lindsay, I completely agree. You eat certain things in different regions because those regions have perfected their food. Maryland does crabs. I looooveeeeee me some crabs.

  3. Brooklyn Steele permalink
    July 3, 2014

    Food culture is very interesting. Every time I go to the beach I eat seafood and I think its a part of the culture. Going to the beach I expect better seafood, compared to a none beach area. I think the culture of my home town is very traditional southern foods, with many mom and pop restaurant’s that all serve country food. In my town majority of the time if you go out to eat it is at a restaurant that cooks country food because its what we expect in my town’s culture. I’m sure if you went to somewhere such as Mississippi there would be lots of BBQ restaurants and so forth.

    I have never been to or volunteered at a soup kitchen. I feel like if you need help in America it is very frowned upon and can be seen as an embarrassment to go there, where in other countries it is way more acceptable. Soup kitchen are usually not talked about and are usually held at like a church or something rather than something in the middle of the community and well heard about. In Latin America soup kitchens seem almost complete opposite. Soup kitchens aren’t as frowned upon and more prominent people are accepted compared to more needy people.

    In my personal opinion food is more of an identity clause rather than sexual orientation. Most people that are together have similar eating habits. If you are a vegetarian and believe that eating meat is wrong, than you probably wont be with someone who is a meat lover. Also, if someone eats extremely healthy and exercises a lot they will not be with someone who eats unhealthy and is a couch potato because their lifestyles don’t match up.

    • Stephen Klier II permalink
      July 3, 2014

      I agree with your last point. Food as an identity is very “hip” now and if you are a vegan it seems like everyone has to know about it. Food identity encourages interaction but also fuels healthy discourse. I, a meat eater, can have great conversations with my best friend, a vegan, and through those conversations our identities remain but we are able to learn from each other as well instead of shutting each other down.

  4. Stephen Klier II permalink
    July 3, 2014

    Geography makes a huge difference in what I want to eat. If I’m on the bay or at the beach its only seafood. Northern VA, fine dining. When I went to Indy, White Castle 🙂 Food plays a huge part in tying a culture together, but also a community. Its gives locals a sense of pride to display their culinary delights. For my small town, the farmers market is that place. I can tell the pride that is welling up from these farmers turned merchants as they describe what is on the table in front of me and how they have cared for each and every piece.

    The soup kitchen article was intriguing. Its weird how Americans will travel halfway around the world to help impoverished communities, but while people in their own town go hungry, they are overlooked. Soup kitchens and the like are see as a last resort to most because of the pride inherent within American culture that makes us tell ourselves to pick ourselves up by the boot straps and keep on moving; other cultures do not see it as shameful to accept help, and food plays a huge role in expressing that.

    • Robert Bamsey permalink
      July 4, 2014

      Stephen, you make an interesting point about geography influencing your food choice. I too can see how geography can affect food choice — whenever I am at the beach, I tend to want fresh seafood or to eat somewhere that is either really nice, or really touristy, depending on the place we go. I think places like tourist friendly restaurants at the beach help to define the culture of that area or represent what that geographic region has to offer. I definitely agree with you that the Farmers market in small towns are a place of commerce, culture, and local pride. I also think the point you make about the culture affecting soup kitchens is spot on. I definitely think that our culture might make us feel bad for needing help, and could be the reason people aren’t ready to outwardly thank a volunteer for feeding them when they may be ashamed to be there in the first place.

  5. Frank Saunders III permalink
    July 3, 2014

    To be honest I despise going into soup kitchens these days. Like Maggie said, they aren’t very inviting and I feel like people don’t even want to be there to help. Also, people are generally becoming less thankful for the food and service they receive. For example, I volunteered for an 8 hour shift at a soup kitchen in Norfolk, VA and I received 7 “Thank You’s” during an 8 hour span. 7. That is ridiculous and by the end of it I didn’t want to be there anymore and never wanted to volunteer at a soup kitchen in that area again. I know that I should have looked at the positive side of the whole experience and felt thankful but it was hard. There was way too much complaining from both parties for my liking.

    Enough of my rant, I don’t like soup kitchens. There needs to be reform from those who run soup kitchens, but it is hard when you’re dealing with ungrateful people.

  6. Robert Bamsey permalink
    July 4, 2014

    For myself, I tend to just eat to not be hungry essentially. I try to eat healthy at every meal, but sometimes I don’t have enough money so unhealthy fast food is my choice. I would say I eat to stay alive, but also eat to be skinny, since I try and eat healthy. I choose the foods I eat that are usually low in fat and high in protein as to keep myself healthy and fit. I have personally never worked at a soup kitchen, but I think the gesture of volunteering your time is worth it, and just because people don’t say thank you, doesn’t mean they aren’t thankful.

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