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A typical Thanksgiving meal. SUR
Rituals

Rituals

Andrew J. Linn

Monday, 14 August 2023, 11:51

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Rituals play a pivotal role in shaping our eating habits. They extend beyond merely satisfying our appetites, and often embrace shared experiences, values, and identities that are deeply ingrained in our societies.

For instance, the Thanksgiving meal in the United States or the Chinese New Year's reunion dinner exemplify how rituals not only dictate what is served on the table but also emotional connections and memories.

When a meal is approached as a ritual, it invites us to slow down and savour each bite, and the act of setting a table and following sequences of dishes can encourage a deeper connection to what is being consumed. Ingredients, preparation methods and serving styles can hold deep meaning, passing down stories of ancestors, struggles, and triumphs. By maintaining and practising these customs, communities ensure the preservation of their cultural heritage.

One of the most important Spanish rituals involves the correct way to eat the typical Catalan breakfast of pa amb tomàquet, bread and tomato. If we are from Andalucia we will put the oil on the bread first, followed by the tomato, but in non-oil-producing regions like Aragon or Cataluña, they will slice the tomato onto the bread before pouring on the oil.

In the first method the taste of the oil is dominant, while in the second it is the tomato flavour that overwhelms. Obviously, when the oil is of good quality, we want its taste to be uppermost. The entire issue is not a matter of life and death but has allegedly been the cause of many quite serious arguments.

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