Hi from Chester, U.K.
Food is inherently linked with cultural identity. Consequently, migrants will always carry their cuisine with them wherever they go. In the case of sizeable migration, as inevitably as the new communities expand the society of the host country, so their food choices infiltrate native eating habits.
This can be seen in Britain today in the prevalence of multicultural cuisine in the restaurants and takeaways of our high streets, and in our homes via exotic ingredients from supermarkets, and the plethora of international cookery books and TV programmes. International cuisine has moved from the exotic to the prosaic, a fact that reflects the impact of and assimilation into British society of the waves of immigrants since 1945.
‘Acculturation’ is where both the host country and migrant populations adjust to the customs of each other’s culture . Ordinarily, this is a two-way approach dominated by one cultural group, usually that of the host country; as a rule, migrants adapt their food habits to those prevailing in the new homeland. However this suggests a conflict between the diffusion of cuisine into an alien culture, and the importance of retaining authentic cuisine in reinforcing cultural identity.
The adaptation of migrants to host cuisines can take many forms. Migrants may recreate their traditional cuisine in the host country but purely through necessity have to compromise ingredients as to what is available. This is evident in the migrants from the Indian subcontinent having to substitute fresh chillies with ground chilli powder. Migrants may also bring important food and cooking equipment from their home countries. The early Afro-Caribbeans arriving from the late 1940s onwards, smuggled food aboard in their luggage, whereas in the 1970s traditional tandoori cooking ovens arrived from the Punjab.
There are many other significant migrant contributions to British cuisine; the Chinese in particular. Even a provincial town such as Chester shows considerable multiculturalism in offering Japanese, Spanish, Cuban, French, Greek, Turkish, Thai, and Indonesian food within a few short miles. Young generations now tend to think of pizza and curries as British food. It will be interesting to see how new waves of migrants, such as those from the recently expanded EU, make their mark on British cuisine in the future.
Today, international cuisine is part of everyday life in the UK’s multi-cultural society. The acculturation of cuisine between the British and Italian and Indian migrants does appear to have been dominated by the migrant cuisines. Why was this? Is British cuisine not a significant part of its culture?
Migrants have contributed more to our cuisine than we have to theirs. This is not to underestimate the cultural importance of British cuisine; perhaps it just lacks appeal to migrants. If the British appear to have embraced many migrant cuisines, why has no one embraced ours? There is little evidence to suggest that migrants have adapted to British cuisine.
Did (and does) Britain have an identity reflected in its cuisine anyway?