There is a wall at our local fish house which displays various brands of hot sauce from around the world. It features sauces of many different flavors, styles, origins, and intensities. When I look at it, it makes me think of how the sharing of food and flavors from different regions and countries has a way of making the world a smaller place, bringing otherwise disparate people closer together, causing us to feel more connected to one another’s cultures and traditions.
If you want to understand someone better, share a meal with them. If you want to understand a place better, take the time to seek out and experience some of the local cuisine. If you want to feel closer to a specific person, cook something that is meaningful to you and enjoy it with them, and then let them do the same for you. Food can be so much more than just nutrition, so much more than just “filling up.” Food can play a very real role in both intercultural understanding and interpersonal relations, because it touches at the very heart of the human experience.