Malaysiakini Letter

Food as peacemaker

Hajar Halil
Published:  |  Modified:

Every nationality has its own food, what kind of food that they bring; of course will taste different, made up from various type of ingredients and coming from all different places.

However, what we want to know here is that, it is not about the taste, spice and herbs made up of the food and its originality but, have we ever wonder on how does full play a role in individual ethnicity? How about one same food is being shared by two or maybe multiple ethnicity can bring a fight over on another? With that, it leave out a question on whether food help to become a peacemaker or a warmaker to our humanity?

The role of food may represent a significant sign of what kind of group does a person belong to. It can be seen through tastes, different way of cooking, eating habits and ingredients of the food. In most food, it can actually explicit one cultural and societal group identity.

Like in In the French-speaking regions, red cabbage is used in salad, they consume soup in the evening, and a regional cheese (cancoillotte) is typical. Meanwhile, in German Alsace, red cabbage is cooked as a vegetable, soup is a midday item, naveline and onion tart are typical foods for them, as adapted in the book, ‘Food in Society in 2001'.

This example shows that food not only reflects people’s preference on taste to customise their food but also how one group’s eating method prevails. They customise the food with their own way and preferred flavour, and at last that’s how they eat with their own community .This will give a sign of their identity.

However, in the middle of food interpreting an individual’s identity, food is slowly being politicised for some issues such as its place of origin.

But what is wrong with the origin of a food? This is where it triggers a question. It is because where the food is exactly came from is vital, as every ethnic group uses different ingredients and methods to make a recipe, even though they might share the same type of food. Accordingly, people might have the same image of food but differ in methods of production.

Like Falafel, a Palestinian croquette, is still under threat from the Israelis who also claim it as their most favourite national dish. Till today, we know that not only has Israel occupied the West Bank, but there have also been attacks towards the Palestinians, including women and the community. Yet it seems that they are also in favour of another Israeli appropriation of food, as shown in the Falafelism Film 2013.

This is despite the Palestinians making 80 percent of the original falafel for its own community. A taste that can differentiate between a Palestinian or an Israeli can been recognised through falafel, which correlates with what Tim Lang said, (1999:218) “Ultimately, food is both a symptom and symbol of how we organizs ourselves and our societies.”

In view of this, it can be said that these two community are sharing the same type of food but they might not produce the same taste as both may use different recipes and culinary methods. Regardless of the tension between these two countries, yet they also at war over food. Both are claiming to be the original makers of falafel.

From this falafel issue, it can also be related to the communities in Malaysia, where lots of us share the same tastes. Just name it, teh tarik, nasi lemak, roti canal and cendol which I think Malays, Chinese and Indians will definitely love. However, we still smell some racism among us that sometimes come from a radical group which does not tolerate other racial minorities. Would you ever think that the May 13 incident will repeat itself?

Then, why don’t you sit back with your Chinese, Indian or Malay friends and enjoy the same food together without thinking of the different ethnic cultures, views and political differences among us? Hence, let us go for a teh tarik as a peacemaking medium for us.

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