Food cultures of the Middle East and Asia

Exhibit Location: The Joseph Regenstein Library, Fifth Floor
Exhibit Dates: October 1 – December 31, 2018

For their second joint exhibit, five area-studies librarians on the fifth floor of the Joseph Regenstein Library celebrate the diversity of food cultures from across their areas of expertise.

Collage of paintings with food being served

Jee-Young Park on Korean cuisine

With a rich and long history, Korean cuisine has evolved through centuries of social and cultural change. From royal court cuisine to the food of commoners and regional specialties, the main ingredients of Korean food are constant: rice, meat, seafood and vegetables. Today, an everyday meal typically includes one or two main dishes, short-grain rice and a number of side dishes (panch’an) including kimchi. For many, food is inseparable from cultural and historical identity. As methods of harvest and preservation gradually took shape over centuries, seasonal customs spread across the peninsula and dining etiquette grew more elaborate. Korean scholars have turned to food as a medium through which to interpret history and culture and likewise has played an important part in the works of artists and writers across time.

Laura A. Ring on historical foodways in South Asia

The Library makes available a wealth of primary resources for the study of historical foodways in South Asia. Shown are verses in praise of food in the Rigveda, a collection of ancient Hindu hymns in early Sanskrit (circa 1500 to 1200 BCE.); food and diet therapy in the Suśruta Saṃhitā, the earliest known treatise on Ayurvedic medicine (circa mid first millennium B.C.E.); and pictorial representations of food in the Niʻmatnāma, a 15th-century manuscript of recipes, remedies, and aphrodisiacs of the Sultans of Mandu (Madhya Pradesh, India).

Marlis J. Saleh on coffee in the Middle East

From the time of its first cultivation in the fifteenth century, coffee has played an important role in the culture of the Middle East. Shown are a sixteenth-century text discussing religious controversies relating to the permissibility of coffee; a seventeenth-century report (and translation) on the social upheaval caused by the appearance of coffeehouses in Istanbul; a nineteenth-century Englishman’s description of coffee as the center of Bedouin hospitality; and a modern scholarly work on the history of coffee and coffeehouses in the Middle East.

Jiaxun Wu on Chinese cuisine

Chinese cuisine is not only renowned by its taste, but also is part of culture. The history of Chinese cuisine can be traced back to pre-Qin period. Through the thousands of years, it has continuously developed. In the meantime, it is marked by both variety and change, including cooking styles, methods, ingredients, and recipes. It also shows continuous absorption of diverse foreign influences. The book, Encyclopedia of Chinese Cooking, first discusses the beginning and development of cooking on Chinese food, and imperial cuisine through the ages. The book further introduces the different schools of Chinese cuisines, and cooking and cuisine of minorities.

Ayako Yoshimura on condiments in Japanese culture

Selected from the Japanese collection are books that introduce the effect of condiments in Japanese cuisine, and that feature the culture of railway dining cars (one often-overlooked area in which to trace how Japan adopted “Western” cultural elements).

 

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