Food plays a decisive role when you first visit a country.
I remember when we moved to Holland, my parents were utterly bafflled when they were taken to an Indonesian restaurant there. Rijsttafel- one of the most delicious things ever to cross a border, freaked them. "How can they eat that?" my mother said. I don't think we ever went out a restaurant in Holland after that...
Ethnic sterotypes and prejudices are based on what a nation (conceivably) eats:
- France: Garlic and froglegs ("Frogs")
- Germany : Sausage and sauerkraut ("Krauts")
- Germans call Italians "Spaghetti Gobblers", and the French call the English"Les Rosbif"
Local food makes you query your relationship to the other country: "How can they eat THAT? There must be something wrong with them..."
So food defines nations – at least in the eye of the beholder. And it isn't neutral, there's always an element of "Says it all really" in the observation.
Have you had food experiences that made you re-define your attitude to a new country? That shocked or delighted you? - I'd love to hear them!