Symbolism of food

In the article “Symbolic Systems and Meanings,” we learnt about the symbols of different things in different cultures. As culture varies from one another, the symbol of same things varies as well. We learnt about the symbolism of food, symbolic and social meaning of space, and the symbols of politics and authority in various cultures.

In the article, it is said that the consumption of food is determined by the culture. In our culture, food plays an important role. The way we eat, we serve and the food itself has its own significance. Especially in Newari culture, which I belong to, each festival contains its own food items. The food items symbolize the festival; for instance, a food called Quati, made of different types of beans, symbolizes the festival Janai Purnima. Moreover, the food cooked in festivals, in rituals, during mourning and in usual days represents their meaning and significance. In addition, the way of eating together, as described in the article, symbolizes the unity of the family. However, in my family, the person who cooks is the one who eats at last when everybody else is finished. When guests are invited, the children and the male people eat first. Then, the female guests are served followed by the other female members. I have a small family. The eldest member of my family is my grandfather, and he usually eats first. It symbolizes our respect towards our elders and guests. Furthermore, often we eat sitting on the dining table, but in festivals we eat sitting on the floor, especially during Dahsain and Tihar. While serving food, we serve the food items in different plates and bowls made of leaf. The plate made of leaf symbolizes purity and is considered the purest one to eat. Similarly in some homes, leaf of banana tree is used while eating during festivals. Similarly, in our culture food is also the symbol of God. We worship food, especially rice during the festivals. That is why, throwing and wasting food is considered to be immoral.

While the culture of eating and serving food may differ from one culture to another culture, these small symbols of practicing things adds significance in all culture. Every culture has its own importance. We should follow and respect our culture while at the same time should not undermine other’s culture. In fact, we must respect them as much as we do ours because their culture is also the part of human culture.

Digya Shrestha

One Response to Symbolism of food

  1. dorjiom says:

    As a saying goes “Small things make big differences,” I agree with you Digya. We should respect and practice our culture. Thank you very much for sharing about the symbolism of food in your Newari culture. I found it quite interesting especially about banana leaves used as plates during festivals. I too love to sit on the floor while eating food.

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