Hospitality and Food

Oxajil

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In many cultures, serving food is seen as an act of showing respect to whoever is visiting, however throughout the years this idea has sort of become misunderstood and internal consideration has become the result. The following excerpts are taken from the research article ''Cultural and Social Influences on Food Consumption in Dutch Residents of Turkish and Moroccan Origin: A Qualitative Study" (bolds by me)

Tradition of Hospitality

Participants argued that Turkish and Moroccan cultures are characterized by a tradition of hospitality, within which food plays a central role.

"You know what it is? Food is hospitality, it means your guest is welcome, that's how it should be and that's what we do." - Moroccan woman

During the interviews, it was expressed that guests are welcome at any time and will always be offered food. Guests themselves anticipate that they will be served a variety of different food items, while hosts expect that their guests will indulge. Not meeting these expectations leads to dissatisfaction from both sides.

''I don't like it when people don't eat what I've prepared for them. The same counts for me, if I'm going to visit someone then I try not to eat too much beforehand, I eat there so that the hostess can see that I appreciate her food.'' - Turkish woman

It was suggested that given the relevance of food as an expression of hospitality, it is customary to prepare an abundance and variety of food to emphasize the value placed on the visitor. It is customary in both Turkish and Moroccan cultures for the host to insist that their guests eat. Moroccan participants reported that it is even expected that guests will initially refuse food; etiquette allows guests to refuse up to 3 times before giving in to the host's pressure. This negotiation between host and guest emphasizes their mutual respect. The participants mentioned that is is considered impolite to refuse food; it may be considered as an insult to the cooking skills of the hostess and may even create the impression that the guest considers himself to be above the hospitality being offered. There are few 'legitimate' reasons to limit food intake, and dieting for anything other than a medical condition such as diabetes or heart disease is not taken seriously.

[...]

Participants discussed that within their cultures, [hospitality] is a highly valued concept that is promoted and rewarded by their shared religion, Islam. The present study suggests that food plays a central role in expressing hospitality, resulting in a social context where food is abundant and difficult to refuse.

[...]

The present finding that these Turkish and Morrocan groups place great emphasis on the tradition of hospitality is not unexpected. Hospitality is generally valued by traditional societies, and in particular by Middle Eastern cultures. Within a human evolutionary context, the culture of hospitality is likely to have evolved as a response to physical challenges; in a context of food shortage, sharing resources by welcoming guests and serving them food may have ensured group survival. Serving physical needs also helped create bonds within groups, promoting the development of social networks.

[...]

Although hospitality ostensibly promotes cohesion within the group, it is also a medium for distinguishing individuals. [...] serving an abundance of challenging dishes may enhance the image of the hostess as an accomplished and successful woman. The cooking skills of women are highly valued in Middle Eastern cultures. The result is that an abundance of food is prepared and served to guests. Focus group participants talked extensively about the difficulties of declining food in social situations. [...] Therefore, as social norms make it difficult for individuals to decline food, the traditional culture can be seen as contributing to overeating and ultimately overweight.

[...]

The tradition of hospitality helped to promote cohesion between tribal groups. The existing tradition of hospitality is likely to have been adopted and encouraged by Islam to help create a wider community based on religious rather than tribal connections.

Now, of course this only talks about Turkish and Moroccan people, but I think that in every culture, in a more or less same way, the wrong use of hospitality is practiced.

I was wondering, what are your thoughts on this subject, and on the above? What is a more considerate way of practicing hospitality towards guests regarding food? How do you cope when you visit relatives/friends, with regards to your diet?

Here is my own example. I have an aunt who lives about an hour away from where we live, and every time my parents would visit them, I didn't come along. So once, when she and her husband visited us, she was sad that I didn't come to visit her. I told her that I can't really eat other kinds of food besides my own. She was very understanding and she told me that she will have the meat at home and that she'll prepare it for me. I thanked her, but I told her I'd rather please prepare the food myself. So when I visited her I brought my iron pan with me, along with duck fat, salt, some herbs and black pepper (also brought clean water with me), while she had the meat at home. When I went there, and prepared my food, they were very suppportive. We had a good time and everything was alright. I had no problem refusing any of the cookies and other things she put on the table, though my aunt was a bit sad when I kept refusing, but she understood.

My aunt's husband made a joke when we were eating and said ''So, you're basically being your own guest here, yes?'' He also mentioned once that other people from my culture would probably totally disapprove the fact that I'm refusing prepared meals by the host, and that they'd probably be as mad as to kick me out of the house, to which I replied that they must be crazy people then... So yea, but we had a good conversation on food and stuff. And in the end, I observed that my way of being more conscious towards subjects on health affects others too. Because my aunt's husband came up to me and asked me if I know of any brand of good quality tobacco, one that would be healthier than the one he uses.

My experiences overall have been that many of my family members are having problems with me refusing what they prepare. But when they know that I am consistent and that I'm not like a ''Okay, only this once''-person they will eventually take me serious, and hopefully become a bit more supportive. Even if they shake their heads often and probably think me as crazy. (I would have played the allergy-card if I could, but since they're relatives and have known me for a long time, plus the fact that my parents tell everyone that I'm following a diet, it becomes hard)

I'd be interested to hear about your thoughts and your experiences.
 

bngenoh

The Living Force
Oxajil said:
My experiences overall have been that many of my family members are having problems with me refusing what they prepare. But when they know that I am consistent and that I'm not like a ''Okay, only this once''-person they will eventually take me serious, and hopefully become a bit more supportive. Even if they shake their heads often and probably think me as crazy. (I would have played the allergy-card if I could, but since they're relatives and have known me for a long time, plus the fact that my parents tell everyone that I'm following a diet, it becomes hard)
For me since my family comes from a more or less traditional culture. When i had read and understood enough to change my diet, they were all abhorred. Things like "OHH MY GOD! ALL THAT CHOLESTEROL. :D You know you're gonna get a heat attack right."

When they would react like this i would say no, to my current understanding, it won't it's the corn flour you eat that creates the conditions whereby heart attacks, diabetes, Alzheimer's, etc have a greater chance of developing. They would hit me with, "then why does the government tell us to eat exactly the opposite of what you are eating." I would laugh and say that is the question.

Changing the way i eat has been one of the practices i have took up that have rained the most fire down on my head more than anything else i have done up to this point. It is through my family members that the attacks have been coming through, always with a variation of "this is not how we eat, this is not how you were raised, we eat rice, etc, etc," or the oft repeated "you are crazy." Just programs running a muck.

A question has come to mind. As a host, wouldn't one serve the food for one's guest that is the best and most optimal fuel for the human body to the hosts knowledge? and if the guest refuses, what does it matter it is their choice, there is no need to take offense, i would still converse with them. In the conversation i would try to understand the reason for their refusal, so that if possible i can accommodate them at a later time.
 

Approaching Infinity

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bngenoh said:
A question has come to mind. As a host, wouldn't one serve the food for one's guest that is the best and most optimal fuel for the human body to the hosts knowledge? and if the guest refuses, what does it matter it is their choice, there is no need to take offense, i would still converse with them. In the conversation i would try to understand the reason for their refusal, so that if possible i can accommodate them at a later time.

I think part of the problem is that any good practice (e.g. hospitality) easily becomes a habit, and people are habitually black-and-white in their thinking: no third force or true external considering. Sure, you can teach a child to be polite, but that doesn't mean they've internalized the value behind it, or the contexts when it is NOT appropriate. Same with hospitality. It becomes a social custom and the true value gets lost in the process. It gets mixed up with pride, self-importance, the tendency to take offense, internal considering, etc. It stops being about the guest, and starts being about the host.

Personally, I've rarely experienced the type of hospitality mentioned in the article, mostly because of the culture I was raised in and those I've interacted with. But a part of me is attracted to at, and amused by it. I think the idea of 'going through the motions' of refusing to eat 3 times before caving in is hilarious, like some strange animal mating ritual. And I wonder if I would have a problem with it if everyone were eating Paleo. In that case, like one of the women quoted, you come prepared: with an empty belly! So, if people KNEW that the foods they are feeding their guests are evil, I think that would have an effect on their behaviors, perhaps. But without knowledge, hospitality as it is currently practiced seems little more than one more bar in the prison of social influences, making sure people stay sickly.
 

bngenoh

The Living Force
Approaching Infinity said:
I think part of the problem is that any good practice (e.g. hospitality) easily becomes a habit, and people are habitually black-and-white in their thinking: no third force or true external considering. Sure, you can teach a child to be polite, but that doesn't mean they've internalized the value behind it, or the contexts when it is NOT appropriate. Same with hospitality. It becomes a social custom and the true value gets lost in the process. It gets mixed up with pride, self-importance, the tendency to take offense, internal considering, etc. It stops being about the guest, and starts being about the host.
You've hit the nail on the head there AI, couldn't have described it more perfectly
Approaching Infinity said:
Personally, I've rarely experienced the type of hospitality mentioned in the article, mostly because of the culture I was raised in and those I've interacted with. But a part of me is attracted to at, and amused by it. I think the idea of 'going through the motions' of refusing to eat 3 times before caving in is hilarious, like some strange animal mating ritual. And I wonder if I would have a problem with it if everyone were eating Paleo. In that case, like one of the women quoted, you come prepared: with an empty belly! So, if people KNEW that the foods they are feeding their guests are evil, I think that would have an effect on their behaviors, perhaps. But without knowledge, hospitality as it is currently practiced seems little more than one more bar in the prison of social influences, making sure people stay sickly.
I would fast for a whole week if i knew i was going to eat a paleo meal afterwards. :D

It is hilarious, just observing the way people act. Gurdjieff described it so perfectly, the falsity of it all.
 

Muxel

Dagobah Resident
Hospitality is a carryover from the past, and the past was generally very f____d up across all cultures and peoples. (Monotheistic cults, mass starvation, bad Neolithic food, cataclysms...) Hospitality has lost its original context and is now the pride and glory of authoritarian-personality cultures.

Actually, most of present-day "culture" is complete rubbish. Flip through a National Geographic magazine and all you see is two classes of people:
[list type=decimal][*]Hobo survivors living in post-cataclysmic stasis : the Uncivilized Peoples[*]Industrially-farmed humans : the Civilized Peoples[/list]
(I suppose the secret enclave of Alchemists in the Pyrenees refused to have their pictures taken for Nat Geo.)

But I think Earth's hospitality is marvelous! And Her food is indeed healthy. Perhaps that is the true definition of hospitality: showing it even to the most ungrateful of guests.
 

bngenoh

The Living Force
Muxel said:
Hospitality is a carryover from the past, and the past was generally very f____d up across all cultures and peoples. (Monotheistic cults, mass starvation, bad Neolithic food, cataclysms...) Hospitality has lost its original context and is now the pride and glory of authoritarian-personality cultures.
Actually it was a process, all the apples in the cart didn't go bad at once. It was that one bad apple (psychopaths) which spoiled the rest of the apples in the apple cart, simply because the rest of the apples didn't know a spoiled apple, maybe because they had never seen them before.

BTW your understanding of the past is very conventional. Mass starvation, from the archeological data seems to be a consequence of agriculture. When people were hunter gatherers, the likelihood of mass starvations was much lower. Hospitality probably began way before the advent of agriculture, but like everything else in this world has become corrupted steadily, almost imperceptibly.
Muxel said:
Actually, most of present-day "culture" is complete rubbish. Flip through a National Geographic magazine and all you see is two classes of people:
[list type=decimal][*]Hobo survivors living in post-cataclysmic stasis : the Uncivilized Peoples[*]Industrially-farmed humans : the Civilized Peoples[/list]
That is only the perspective that National Geographic which is an arm of the propaganda machine that is MSM wants you to see. Never forget that the lies are everywhere, even the most innocuous of places. Perception management as always is the name of the game.
 

Weller

Padawan Learner
I wonder if what is being discussed here, i.e., food-serving customs, do not really involve a true spirit of hospitality as much as a means to validate cultural norms.

I have a friend in the restaurant business, and he has long said that his greatest joy of being in the business is the opportunity it provides to "be of service." For him, his skills in preparing and presenting food for guests is simply how he sees himself best suited to be of service. External consideration, honoring the guest's needs, to the extent that he can understand or perceive them, is the prime motivation and brings him great satisfaction. The barrier is ignorance of what his guest might (not) like.

By contrast, my family ignores individual needs entirely, they serve what they themselves like and await the obligatory compliments at the end of the meal. If a guest chooses not to eat something (or--gasp!--brings their own food), this is considered poor behavior of the guest. This is not extending hospitality; this is reinforcing and seeking validation of tribal/family custom.

Seems to me that hospitality is scarce where the host puts his needs above his guest, and/or does not see his guest's needs as at least equal to the needs of himself/herself. It's not really about the food (even if it's poor quality food) but the motivation behind who is serving it...if it's the wrong food, this is more a question of lack of knowledge than poor hospitality.
 

curious_richard

Jedi Master
Weller said:
I have a friend in the restaurant business, and he has long said that his greatest joy of being in the business is the opportunity it provides to "be of service." For him, his skills in preparing and presenting food for guests is simply how he sees himself best suited to be of service. External consideration, honoring the guest's needs, to the extent that he can understand or perceive them, is the prime motivation and brings him great satisfaction. The barrier is ignorance of what his guest might (not) like.
It seems that he is a very considerate person. I hope that he does well.

By contrast, my family ignores individual needs entirely, they serve what they themselves like and await the obligatory compliments at the end of the meal. If a guest chooses not to eat something (or--gasp!--brings their own food), this is considered poor behavior of the guest. This is not extending hospitality; this is reinforcing and seeking validation of tribal/family custom.
Yes, they are using food as a weapon. They want to control. To this extent, they are evil.

Seems to me that hospitality is scarce where the host puts his needs above his guest, and/or does not see his guest's needs as at least equal to the needs of himself/herself. It's not really about the food (even if it's poor quality food) but the motivation behind who is serving it...if it's the wrong food, this is more a question of lack of knowledge than poor hospitality.
Agreed. What kind of host DEMANDS that his guest eat this or that? When a host DEMANDS obedience, that is a clue that the host is a Nazi/Fascist. A worthless person. A dangerous person. A snake.
 

SeekinTruth

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The whole issue is connected, as AI said, with the problem of any good practice becoming just a habit (and disconnecting with context and the original essential meaning and function). Then it becomes a mindless "tradition" that reinforces other mindless traditions and is enforced by most or all participants through internal considering, black and white thinking, easily being offended, etc. It becomes a self-reinforcing vicious circle.

In my culture, I've dealt with this issue of food and hospitality in different ways over the years. It can get quite annoying sometimes, not only because you don't want to eat certain foods, but the issue can become about being full.... There are some real or less distorted aspects of hospitality left in my culture (it is very highly valued), but the connections to food are mostly corrupted, distorted, and make little sense anymore.
 

cassandra

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FOTCM Member
I've heard a few stories about Italian hospitality. We all know they are very proud of their cuisine, and if you can't cook, you're a loser.
Anyway, my husband as invited by an Italian family when he was a kid and course after course was served with Mama hovering anxiously to check her guests were enjoying their meal. The food tasted excellent, but my husband and his brother were absolutely stuffed after about 5 courses and whispered desperately to their dad that they couldn't eat another thing without being sick. Rather than offend their hostess, they were told to go to the bathroom and stick their fingers down their throats and carry on eating.
I've heard the same thing from others.
 

bngenoh

The Living Force
cassandra said:
I've heard a few stories about Italian hospitality. We all know they are very proud of their cuisine, and if you can't cook, you're a loser.
Anyway, my husband as invited by an Italian family when he was a kid and course after course was served with Mama hovering anxiously to check her guests were enjoying their meal. The food tasted excellent, but my husband and his brother were absolutely stuffed after about 5 courses and whispered desperately to their dad that they couldn't eat another thing without being sick. Rather than offend their hostess, they were told to go to the bathroom and stick their fingers down their throats and carry on eating.
I've heard the same thing from others.
Know that is truly just insane, your husband's dad probably said that to his children without a single iota of doubt as to the "rightness" of that advice to his children. Is it any wonder that humanity finds itself where it is at the moment, we treat our children, the future given form in the present with such callous disregard.
 

cassandra

Dagobah Resident
FOTCM Member
bngenoh said:
cassandra said:
I've heard a few stories about Italian hospitality. We all know they are very proud of their cuisine, and if you can't cook, you're a loser.
Anyway, my husband as invited by an Italian family when he was a kid and course after course was served with Mama hovering anxiously to check her guests were enjoying their meal. The food tasted excellent, but my husband and his brother were absolutely stuffed after about 5 courses and whispered desperately to their dad that they couldn't eat another thing without being sick. Rather than offend their hostess, they were told to go to the bathroom and stick their fingers down their throats and carry on eating.
I've heard the same thing from others.
Know that is truly just insane, your husband's dad probably said that to his children without a single iota of doubt as to the "rightness" of that advice to his children. Is it any wonder that humanity finds itself where it is at the moment, we treat our children, the future given form in the present with such callous disregard.
Yes, absolutely sick, and the same happened to a friend of mine as well. Luckily, I've always been very creative; a born actress and liar when under pressure to eat.
 
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