By Shawn Simpson
The sweet and savory smells of food will transport most people to a memory of friends, family, good times and comfort. Cultures throughout history have been built around the sharing of food. Sharing a favorite meal may create a lasting bond that transcends distance and time.
“For centuries, people have turned to foods they loved as children … Oftentimes, those ‘comfort foods’ are what parents or guardians fed their children,” said Dr. Andrea Broomfield, English professor and food historian. “After all, in a loving family, the feeding of children is interpreted by children and parents alike as a gesture of love. So it makes sense that positive feelings become associated with certain foods.”
Ethnic and geographic boundaries seem as important to what people consider their favorite foods as age and station in life. Raised in Marysville, Don Lee, 70, works in the campus bookstore, and his favorite meal is steak and potatoes.
“I grew up on a farm, and it’s what my grandparents raised, so that’s what we ate and I still love it,” Lee said.
Carrie Ngou is a 26-year-old woman from Shawnee, but her parents were born in Southeast Asia. She enjoys khao piak sen, a noodle/rice/chicken stock dish “because mom’s is the best ever.”
Even within regional dietary trends of the United States, certain foods will become a favorite because of migration. Ashawnte Thompson of Salina enjoys traditionally deep south fare like cornbread and fried chicken with hot sauce. Like Ngou, Thompson’s tastes grew from his mom’s home cooking, originating from her roots in Flora, Mississippi.
Although food tastes may often follow certain trends, Broomfield is careful to caution against generalizations regarding food choices.
“The nation is so large and so diverse, and thousands of families in this nation DO appreciate and maintain their ethnic foodways. Indeed, they might cling to those foodways all the more tightly to remind themselves where they came from,” said Broomfield. “What has had the biggest effect on American cuisine is the rise of franchises (that) make a certain type of food available just about everywhere.”
Cassidy Brandt said her favorite food is tacos because it’s “what mom craved when she was pregnant.”
Dhikr Muhammed loves tamales with her family because “we always eat them on Christmas. I don’t even care about the gifts — just give me tamales!”
“Most importantly, as a nation made up primarily of immigrants, Americans are by and large fairly liberal when it comes to the way that they approach food,” said Broomfield. “If it tastes good, then let’s eat it.”