So there’s the finished product: my quesadilla with a side of apple slices. Not much to say in regards to how my lunch reflects my identity from a social, cultural, and economical standpoint right? Think again!
Our everyday food choices actually do reflect our identity in several ways, including social, cultural, and economical aspects. Here I will discuss how that food image relates to my identity in those three ways and also explore what factors helped cultivate that identity.
Social Identity: Food and Creativity
I tend to be a creative person, and I express that creative side of me in a number of ways including but not limited to drawing, sewing, and even cooking. Making quesadillas is fun for me because I can be creative and experiment with them. How would it taste with this spice instead of that one? Should I use a different cheese?
My enjoyment of being in the kitchen started when I was very young. At just 2 ½ years old, my mom would sit me up on the kitchen counter and I would help stir the icing and ice the cupcakes… actually the icing was already mixed, but I didn’t know that. When I was 3 and 4 years old I would stand on the kitchen stool and help make biscuits and other things. (I probably made more of a mess than anything else, but I had a great time “helping” and being with her in the kitchen). She always made it an enjoyable experience, and she encouraged my creativity. I believe these quality experiences at a young age (even if I don’t remember all of them because I was so young) influenced and formed my view of cooking as both an enjoyable activity and an outlet for creativity.
Culture Identity: Where I’m From and the Choices I Make
I was born and raised in the South, and I’m an American all the way through. How is that reflected by my meal? How did a dish with Mexican origins get on my plate?
First, other countries have influenced food in America. There are even ethnic aisles in grocery stores devoted to the different types of food from various countries. When I make quesadillas, I know they are of Mexican origin, but I have “adopted” them into my American identity.
Also, living in America has afforded me freedom and several opportunities that I am very grateful for. For starters, my pantry and fridge aren’t empty, and I don’t have to walk miles to find food and water. I can just hop in my car and drive to a nearby grocery store where hundreds of food items are readily available. I have the freedom to choose what I want to eat. I’m not limited to what I find that day, or only what I grow in a garden.
This convenience and freedom to choose anything off the grocery shelf reminds me of the salad bar in Melissa Salazar’s photo essay “Salad Days: A Visual Study of Children’s Food Culture.” At lunchtime, the school children choose anything they wanted from the salad bar to construct their salad. After the children went through the line, the researchers snapped a photo of their salad. They were quite creative and made some rather “usual...combinations of food.” Like the children, I go through the fridge or “salad bar” pick what I want, and create something with what I’ve selected.
Economical Identity: Working with What I Have
When I make my quesadillas, I work with the ingredients I have on hand in the fridge and pantry. And I don’t like to waste food, so at times I use leftovers in my quesadillas. In the one shown in the picture, I used the extra meat and black beans leftover from a Mexican casserole made for dinner the night before. This quesadilla then reflects my economic choices when it comes to food.
That’s how my meal reflects my identity socially, culturally, and economically. Have you thought about how your meal choices reflect your identity lately??