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Intercultural communication as defined in Intercultural Communication by Fred E. Jandt is communication between people and groups of diverse culture, subculture, or subgroup identifications. (Jandt, G-4) How we communicate is different within each culture. There are several components of the communication process and knowing the components helps us better understand communication itself. These components are source, encoding, message, channel, noise, receiver, decoding, receiver response, feedback, and context (Jandt 23). When we understand how different cultures communicate it helps us better understand how and why they act in the manner that they do, and how they understand the world around them.
Culture and and communication can only be understood together (Jandt 4).
People communicate in different ways using different means. The way that they communicate can express their morals, values and identity. Food can be a form of communication. Food tells us stories (Goswami). How it is prepared, who sits on the table strengthen bonds between individuals, families and communities (Goswami). Family bonds are the strongest and food plays a crucial role in defining this (Goswami).
It defines culture and traditions (Goswami). The main reason one can view food as a form of communication is because of its direct linkage to culture and rituals (Goswami). The aim of this paper is to research Italian and Japanese cultures to explain the impact cuisine has within the culture and how it communicates their moral, values and identity to our nation.
Italian cuisine has influenced food culture around the world and its viewed as a form of art, for Italians food isn’t just nourishment, its life (Zimmermann).
Italian dishes are based on simple ingredients like cheese, pasta, eggplant, olives and olive oil, as well as other items that Italians could make themselves or get inexpensively due to being a historically poor country (Grabianowski). The most well-known Italian dishes are pasta and pizza, but Italian cuisine varies tremendously from one region to another (Grabianowski). The popular Italian-American dishes generally come from the southern region of Campania and the island of Sicily (Grabianowski). Italians are often as proud of their regional heritage as they are of their nation (Grabianowski). Family plays a central role in Italian traditions, and a large family meal is customary in Italian households (Grabianowski). The meals are relaxed affairs with several courses (Grabianowski). The goal of the meal isn’t just to eat, it’s time for the family members to converse and enjoy each other’s company, and may take hours (Grabianowski). This was especially true to my experience in Italy. Last summer we went to visit my mother’s side of the family in Naples, Italy. With each family visit, food was the main connection to our communication. The meal consisted of at least a three-courss and hours of talking at the table. We always started with an antipasto which could include fresh mozzarella and prosciutto. Next would be a plate of pasta, very al dente. Once I had spaghetti and was asking for a spoon to use to twirl it, but our family friend said Italians frown upon that. She said, “you are not Italian if you use a spoon!”. After the pasta, there was a meat dish like fried meat cutlets and then a salad of some sort (like tomato salad).
Cheese and fruit was offered toward the end of the meal followed by a dessert or fruit. The family was constantly trying to persuade us to have more. They always made sure we were first in receiving our plate, drinks or portions. Wine was a staple. Toasting “Cin,Cin” to us and good health was always a must at each of our family visits. At the end of the meal, espresso coffee was always served and constantly being offered even if you did not accept the first offering as was with the rest of the meal. They all wanted to accommodate us to their fullest. I remember when I was little, going to my grandparents’ house for Sunday dinner. The meal at their house also consisted of more than one course. All the family would gather at the table to eat and talk very much like we did while we were in Italy. Food is central to socialization in Italy. The meal gathers family, friends and sometimes strangers to the table contributes to a welcoming atmosphere. The type of food eaten, how it is eaten, where it is eaten and the welcome it shares, gives the Italian culture their identity and communicates who they are.
Japanese cuisine is appreciated, respected and most of all, enjoyed (Taboola) just as the Italian cuisine. Japanese cuisine traditions are very different from the Italian traditions. They include a wide variety of products with rice at its center (Taboola). According to Buddhist religion meat was forbidden; therefore, fish and vegetables were the main ingredients for any type of hot pot dishes (Cedillo).
The Japanese also emphasize on seasonal produce, and use many fermented foods such as miso, natto and soy sauce (Taboola). Those products are shared with other Asian countries like China and Korea, but also have their own special Japanese style and taste (Taboola). A traditional Japanese meal, especially dinner, tends to be low-fat but high in sodium (Freeman 4). Breakfast in Japan used to include rice, fish and other foods that we don’t think of as traditional for a morning meal (Freeman 4). Seasonal food is important for society, because the diet is based on each season of the year (Cedillo 9). It is rare and uncommon in Japan to eat winter food when it is summer or summer food when it is spring (Cedillo 12). During winter time, temperatures in japan often get below freezing and in order to get through the winter, people tend to consume hot pot dishes (Cedillo 12). Abundant ingredients in Japan such as clean water, plenty of fish and vegetables helped to developed hot pot cuisine (Cedillo12).
Special tableware and utensils are extensive and the hospitality and manners of a shared meal remain special (Taboola). In the Japanese culture manners are very important. The proper use of chopsticks is very important to the Japanese culture (Cedillo 16). They play an important role in Japanese cuisine because most of the dishes in Japan are made and arranged in a way to make it easy to be consumed by chopsticks (Cedillo 16). The visual presentation of food is an art form with great attention for even the smallest mouth-watering detail (Taboola). The size of the food is significant in Japan and is served in a portion that can be picked by chopsticks; therefore, it is important to be familiar with the right way to use them (Cedillo 16). Using them the correct way demonstrates good etiquette.
Showing gratitude for the meal is another way to demonstrate good manners. At the beginning of each meal the guest will say a “itadakimasu” which basically shows appreciation and gratitude to nature and people that prepared the meal (Cedillo 17). At the end of the meal, it is expected to say “gouchisousama deshita” which shows respect and appreciation to the person who made the dish (Cedillo 17) A Japanese meal is much more than just eating; it’s socializing and communicating (Taboola). Japanese cuisine contributes to the physical wellbeing, the symbolic cohesion and daily pleasure of the country (Taboola). Traditional food is an important aspect of the culture and it is considered a world heritage (Cedillo). A traditional meal is not only aiming for the taste, but also aiming to protect the nature and transmit knowledge to future generations (Cedillo 8).
Although Italian and Japanese food cultures may be very different, they both communicate something about their culture. Each have their own identity and their own traditions. In the end, they both communicate who they are and how and why they behave the way they do. These traditions are passed down from generations to generations which continue the culture.
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