What is the future of foreign food experiences?
This article considers the impact foreign food experiences can have on an individual. Food can be transported across the globe and be a catalyst for understanding and integration, but it can also be used to emphasise the “otherness” that sets people apart from those around them. This may lead them to “gaze” on foods they are unfamiliar with distaste, or with a desire to understand and appreciate new culinary experiences. Using groups of international students who are in a “host” country, a live research project was created where they were asked to discuss their experiences of “foreign” food since arriving in New Zealand. Through a series of focus groups held as part of a research methods class, researchers sought to understand how students perceive and respond to “strange food”. Five themes were identified: universal foods; great discoveries; things they will never like; benchmarking; and home foods. Apart from the value of involving students as co-creators in a live research project, this study noted the importance of food in hospitableness and feeling “at home”, and raised the students’ awareness of what it felt like to be confronted by strange experiences. It also discovered that while foreign food experiences can break down barriers in a global village, it can also serve to highlight, emphasise and reinforce a feeling of “otherness”.
Keywords: food, foreign student, New Zealand, otherness, strange, word cloud