Now that everyone’s Fourth of July celebrations are over and the hangovers are out of our systems, it feels like a good time to discuss food and nationalism. It is not uncommon for people to associate food and identity, as I’m sure the phrase “you are what you eat” rings a bell, but in the modern world, do food preferences really play a role as an anchor of personal and national identity, and should they? In a recent eater article called “Why Food has Become a New Target for Nationalists” the author, Tove Danovich, delves into how European cities, like Florence, feel their culture is being watered down through the rise of foreign food. European governments are even going as far as barring foods from different countries because they do not want their culture to be “diluted or Disneyfied.” To me, and many others this notion of banning foreign foods seems ridiculous, and at the end of the article Danovich makes a great point that no culture has just one history or one food, and if we try to isolate food culture we are just going to keep it from evolving.
Clearly places like Italy and France have very distinct food identities which is why they want to preserve this idea of their “food nationalism,” but in a place like the United States, which is a country built from different cultures and cuisines, it’s hard to pinpoint one specific food identity. Although something like 88% of Americans eat turkey on Thanksgiving, which is a pretty large percentage, this once-a-year event hardly constitutes as a full identity. Personally, I don’t think having a lack of food identity is a bad thing at all. In the modern culinary world we see fusion restaurants, and all types of new trends that allow us to explore other communities and cultures through food. I’m not saying that food doesn’t play a big role in who we are and what we are as a nation, but in the United States I don’t view food as simply the glue that bonds individuals to their community, I view it as a bridge that brings different communities together.