In the words of the famous American chef and restaurateur Thomas Keller, “Food should be fun.” Well as much as food stands for individuality in different countries of the world, what also contributes towards that fun and legacy is the assortment of food customs across the world. Over the years different nationalities have come to be known for their uniqueness with respect to their food. Let’s see who likes their food hot and who likes it cold!
Italy: For those who do not know, coffee is an integral part of the famous Italian cuisine. The trendy ‘Cappuccino’ was born in Italy – coffee, milk and delicious milk foam on top! While across the world one can have a cup of coffee any time of the day, Italians drink coffee only for breakfast. Don’t be surprised if you get some serious looks of disapproval if you are caught sipping on a cup of Cappuccino in the evening or at night in Italy. In fact, meal timings are considered the essence of food there. Almost all restaurant kitchens close at around 2:30 p.m. and it is even alleged that if Italians miss the lunch time while travelling, they are liable to give lunch a miss since the lunch time for them is over!
Mexico: Despite ample options of official meals, snacking remains a national Mexican pastime. Breakfast or ‘Desayuno’ is the lightest meal of the day. In the countryside, breakfast is usually traditional tortillas with frijoles refritos with mild grated cheese washed down with hot chocolate or coffee. In the city tortillas may be replaced with fresh bolillas or other breads with the addition of the morning paper. The main meal of the day, ‘Comida’, is a leisurely affair, usually from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., including the rest time. Most Mexicans prefer comida at home with their family. Being foodies, Mexicans also have a mid-meal called ‘Almuerzo’ at around 11 am, which usually consists of a substantial dish like sopa seca or tacos or enchiladas. Now if Almuerzo or Comida still left some hunger pangs, there is a meal called ‘ Merienda’ in the late afternoon that usually consists of sweet rolls or small pastries with coffee or chocolate. The evening meal Cena, consist of tortillas and frijoles and may include vegetables seasoned with garlic, onions, tomatoes, and Mexican chillies. It’s usually taken between 8 – 10 p.m. and is not heavy. Mexicans usually like to go out for social gatherings and if they’re at home, the food is usually served buffet style.
Lebanon: In the Arabic culture, food and hospitality is everything and guests are treated with the best of the foods! Bread is the most important part of the meal and womenfolk are known to travel all the way to the village bakery, the ‘Foorn’, to bake breads for their families, and to share some good gossip! Lunchtime is around 2 p.m. and it is the largest meal of the day. ‘Mezze’, a serving of several appetizers is the first serving. Warm bread, hummus, olives, cheese and pistachio nuts are also an important part of lunch along with the national dish called ‘Kibbeh’. Kebabs (cooked skewered meat) and Kefta (ground seasoned meat) are popular dishes in Lebanon cuisine. As for dessert, the traditional sweet dish Baklava is served with or without a fresh bowl of melon. Most adults consume beer, wine or ‘Arak’, which is liquorice-flavoured liquor while children like lemonade, fresh fruit juices, or ‘Jellab’ - a soft drink made from raisins served with delicious pine nuts.
Japan: In Japan, natives begin their meals with the phrase ‘itadakimasu’ which means "I humbly receive"; like saying "bon appétit" or grace before a meal in Western cultures. It is mainly to express their gratitude towards everyone who helped in preparing, cultivating, ranching or hunting for the food. Upon finishing a meal, the Japanese use the phrase ‘Gochisosama-deshita’ or ‘Gochisōsama’ meaning “Thank you for a good meal”. One normally joins hands while saying these phrases as a physical gesture of saying thank you. In Japan it is considered impolite to waste food. Normally soup and rice bowls are lifted to the mouth to avoid spilling food. Interestingly, it is appropriate to slurp certain foods, especially ramen or soba noodles! The staple food is rice, which is generally eaten plain or sometimes with dried-pressed seaweed called ‘Nori’, furikake (various seasonings), raw eggs, fermented soy beans called ‘Nattō’ or ‘Tsukemono’ (pickles). Normally, soy sauce is poured into a small dish and the food dipped into the sauce instead of pouring sauce over food like in the West.