Friday is Couscous-Day – Dialogue through Food

[I wrote this post a while ago. Today I translated it for the Blog Action Day 2011 on the issue „Food“.]

It is a tradition in many Moroccan families: On fridays there is couscous on the table. Eating traditions are as many as there are individuals. Certain meals, table manners and traditions are typical for certain regions. Roast goose for christmas in Germany. Chopsticks in China. Couscous in Northern Africa.

Eating traditions might be different, but joint meals have a strong integrative effect. Common meals are one of the things, all education advisors rely on. But this phenomenon not only has an effect on family life, but also on intercultural dialogue.
The German philosopher Georg Simmel wrote on the sociology of the meal:

„Hence, of all things, that people have in common, the most common is that they must eat and drink.“

Every individual, no matter where it comes from or which religion it belongs to, has to eat.

Simmel continues:

„Persons who in no way share any special interest can gather together at the common meal – in this possibility, associated with the primitiveness and hence universal nature of material interest, there lies the immeasurable sociological significance  of the meal.“

Examples from Germany show that joint meals can contribute to dialogue: Through a kaffeeklatsch, migrant women feel at home in Germany. At a dinner, members of different religions sit at one table and talk about everything under the sun. In Germany it becomes common to break the fast together with Muslims. (You can find reports about it here or here).

In the elementary need to eat we find the first common ground with strangers. With a common meal as the starting point we can go on a journey to find more similiarities. For that it doesn’t matter, whether the stranger came from a different country or just from the other end of the street. Also, it is of no importance, whether the strangers who share a meal belong to different religions or political camps or are even enemies in war. One thing they always have in common: they have to eat. And eating together is connecting people.

So, enjoy your meal! At best with a stranger.

 

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