Lunar New Year Brings Opportunities for Cultural Studies

Ringing in the Year of the Earth Pig!

Chinese New Year (also referred to as the Lunar New Year and Spring Festival) takes place this year on February 5, 2019.  By exploring art, food, music, and traditions, families can gain background knowledge to support participation in regional celebrations of the lunar holiday. Getting curious about the associated zodiac can lead you to discover the mythology behind the calendar while learning how other cultures, like Vietnam and Thailand, adapted the zodiac to reflect the values and habitat of their communities.

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Spread Kindness and Explore World Cultures Through Holiday Baking

Spread Kindness and Explore World Cultures Through Holiday Baking

‘Tis becoming to season to pay special attention to spreading kindness to those around us! Families can spread kindness by sharing homemade foods with neighbors, and can expand this activity to include studies of world cultures by baking foods enjoyed internationally!

While kindness should be spread all year long, the approaching holiday season presents an opportunity to share kindness more than ever! One way to accomplish this goal is by sharing food, which not only spreads kindness throughout your community but promotes non-commercial celebrations of the holidays and provides families with opportunities for hands-on learning about foods in cultures around the world.

Folks aiming to spread kindness in the form of homemade edibles can certainly choose any easily shared foods, but the best foods for sharing (and easiest to store and transport) are baked goods. In order to make the experience of kindness-sharing truly interdisciplinary, experiment with unfamiliar recipes whose origins lie in foreign cultures. Rather than whipping up a batch of chocolate chip cookies, peruse the pages of an international baking or cookbook for recipes whose roots lie in another part of the world.   Read the rest of this entry »

Culinary & Cultural Education via Local Resources & Events

Nutritional Anthropology and Culinary Education

Every culture has its own set of values, rituals, and traditions surrounding food. The staple ingredients, indulgences, and forbidden fruits of a given culture are influenced by agricultural systems, habitat, ethical concepts, and religious beliefs. Holidays and celebrations around the world are associated with traditional and ritual foods. Have you ever wondered why birthday cakes are round? Or why latkes are fried during Hanukkah and Buche de Noel’s are baked at Christmas? Food traditions from fish on Friday to turkey on Thanksgiving are rich in history and a delicious lens for learning about culture.

In western Massachusetts, community meals and culinary workshops offer opportunities for learning about culture through food. The Italian Cultural Center of Western Massachusetts, for example, periodically offers culinary classes, teaching participants to make traditional Italian foods such as gnocchi and tortellini. You can also learn about nutritional anthropology through other culinary art traditions by attending cultural events like the Greek Glendi in Springfield, dining on authentic Tibetan cooking at Lhasa Cafe in Northampton, or shopping at Tran’s World Food Market in Hadley can also expose you to new cultures via food.

Pair your interest in culture via food with a documentary on Israeli cuisine on Sunday, June 5 at 2pm at the Yiddish Book Center. This documentary will teach viewers about the culture of Israli cuisine at a community film screening. The 2016 documentary In Search of Israeli Cuisine poses the question: What is Israeli cuisine? Israel is made up more than 100 different cultures. This film profiles chefs, home cooks, farmers, wine makers, and cheese makers of Jewish, Arab, Muslim, Christian, and Druze faiths. Watching this film can help you connect with your heritage or learn about a new culture through food. 413-256-4900. 1021 West Street. Amherst, MA.


Related archived posts:

Local History Through the Lens of Food: Nutritional Anthropology in the Pioneer Valley

Exhibit Chronicles Northampton History Through Food

Interested in the history of food? Take a peak at the new exhibit in Northampton. Come see how people produced and sold food and how people cooked and ate it, through the years. The exhibition is curated by Barbara B. Blumenthal, a member of Historic Northampton’s Board of Trustees. Barbara was a museum guide and hearth cook at Historic Northampton in the 1980s and early 1990s. Her passion for local history and food history led her to poke around in our collections looking for tasty tidbits to share with the public.

Historic Northampton offers a food-centric take on the city’s history through Table Talk: Food, Cooking, and Eating in Northampton Then and Now, an exhibit chronicling the production, purchase, and preparation of the foods enjoyed throughout two and a half centuries of Northampton’s history. With its focus lying on the city’s food-filled downtown, the exhibit offers a new take on the history of local food : rather than sharing the history of farming in Northampton, the exhibit emphasizes the role that local businesses – especially restaurants – have played in the local food chain.

On view from now until May 1, 2016, Table Talk: Food, Cooking, and Eating in Northampton Then and Now has much to offer. Made up of a collection of photographs, food-related objects and tools, and historical information and anecdotes, the exhibit speaks to more than just food history.

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The Symbolism of Food on New Years Eve

The Tradition of Food Has a Major Part to Play in Celebrations All Over the World

Families can celebrate the beginning of Japan’s new year by enjoying toshikoshi soba – a dish that symbolizes long life and good luck in the coming year.

On December 31st, most of the world celebrates the coming of a new year. Throughout the last day of the year, many countries mark the new beginning with different cultural celebrations. Food, in particular, plays an essential role in these celebrations and is thought to serve as a  symbol of things to come in the new year. This year, learn about cultures around the world while adding fun and delicious customs to your family’s traditions for marking the new year.

Countries on Asia’s Pacific coast celebrate the new year hours before we do here in western Massachusetts, and families can mark the beginning of Japan’s new year by enjoying toshikoshi soba – a dish that symbolizes long life and good luck in the coming year. In English, the dish’s name means “year-bridging,” and it’s imperative to slurp entire noodles (rather than biting them in half) to ensure that toshikoshi will, in fact, guarantee a long life. Since Japan’s new year begins about fourteen hours before ours does, make toshikoshi for a New Year’s Eve lunch!

On New Year’s Eve in Spain, tradition dictates that everyone eat grapes at the stroke of midnight. Grapes are devoured – one for each stroke of the clock – and symbolize the twelve months of the upcoming year. Taste them carefully, though – while each sweet grape symbolizes a sweet month to come, a sour grape signifies a month to watch out for! Begin your dinner with grapes to celebrate along with the Spaniards, whose midnight comes six hours before ours… Read the rest of this entry »

Seasonal Baking Contests Highlight Creativity and Family Culture

Seasonal Baking Contests Highlight Creativity and Family Culture

Food and culinary arts provide a vehicle through which families can examine world cultures, history, science, math, and even creative arts – and as the holiday season approaches, opportunities to engage in such learning abound! During this time of year, seasonal opportunities to engage in baking-centric community-based learning intersect with ongoing opportunities to explore the culinary arts – making for a deliciously fascinating learning landscape.

The food that we make tells a story, and nothing illustrates this better than family recipes. Whether handed down for generations, carefully honed over the course of a few years, or recently chosen as a family favorite, family recipes stand as a glimpse into the unique culture of the family from which they emerge. Historic Deerfield offers families a chance to showcase their own family recipes this month – the third annual King Arthur Flour Heritage Recipe Cookie Baking Contest calls for families to enter cookie recipes paired with stories that illustrate why their recipe is special to them. The deadline for entries is today (Monday, November 2nd), and fifteen finalists will be chosen to bring a batch of their special cookies to Historic Deerfield on Saturday, December 5th, 2015.  Read the rest of this entry »

Four Foods for Good Luck & Prosperity in the New Year

Noodles, Grapes, Beans & Cake
Food to Bring Good Luck & Prosperity to the New Year

Here in the United States, Hoppin’ John is a food eaten in the southern states on New Year’s Day, thought to bring prosperity in the new year. If you don’t finish the whole batch on New Year’s Day, called it Skippin’ Jenny when you enjoy the leftovers – thought to symbolize frugality and further prosperity.

On January 31st, most of the world celebrates the coming of a new year. Throughout the last day of the year, many countries mark the new beginning with different cultural celebrations. Food in particular plays an important role in these celebrations, and is thought to serve as a  symbol of things to come in the new year. This year, learn about cultures around the world while adding fun and delicious customs to your family’s traditions for marking the new year.

Countries on Asia’s Pacific coast celebrate the new year hours before we do here in western Massachusetts, and families can celebrate the beginning of Japan’s new year by enjoying toshikoshi soba – a dish that symbolizes long life and good luck in the coming year. In English, the dish’s name means “year-bridging,” and it’s very important to slurp entire noodles (rather than biting them in half) in order to ensure that toshikoshi will in fact ensure a long life. Since Japan’s new year begins about fourteen hours before ours does, make toshikoshi for a New Year’s Eve lunch!

On New Year’s Eve in Spain, tradition dictates that everyone eat grapes at the stroke of midnight. Grapes are eaten quickly – one for each stroke of the clock – and symbolize the twelve months of the upcoming year. Taste them carefully, though – while each sweet grape symbolizes a sweet month to come, a sour grape symbolizes a month to watch out for! Begin your dinner with grapes in order to celebrate along with the Spaniards, whose midnight comes six hours before ours… Read the rest of this entry »

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