The purpose of this project is to familiarize you with the culture and food habits of an unfamiliar
culture through an interview with a recent immigrant to the United States, and
compare/contrast it to your own food culture. You will discuss the immigrant’s food
choices/preparation, behaviors, symbolism and traditional cultural celebrations or ceremonies.
You will also learn how the experience of immigration has affected the food culture of the
immigrant. Through the assignment, you will broaden your knowledge of food culture and how
immigration and contemporary life in the U.S. can affect food culture, and you will reflect on
your own food culture in comparison, using your self-evaluation of food culture.
You will then write a 4 page report of the information obtained from the interview, and
your reflections on your own experience, in narrative format.
You must interview someone from a culture with which you are unfamiliar, and not your
own culture. The person you interview must be an immigrant to the U.S. You may choose a
classmate, a co-worker, a neighbor, a friend of a friend, or other acquaintance. It’s best to choose
someone who is a fairly recent immigrant, interested in food culture, and eager to share
information with you. When interviewing the person, ask the questions on the next page,
which are non-threatening, concrete, but in-depth questions about their cultural background. If
your interviewee can’t answer all the questions, you are expected to find the answers yourself.
The data for your reflections on your own culture will come from the Self-Evaluation of
Food Habits as well as asking yourself these same questions as you will ask the interviewee.
You are to write a minimum 4-page typewritten (double spaced) report on the interview. In
your report of the interview you are to summarize the results of the questions. Do not include
the questions! The report should be in sections in a narrative format, written in the style of a
magazine or newspaper interview, and should include the date, duration, and place of the
Section 1: Summarized information about the
interviewee’s background. Described food culture in
terms of food choices/preparation
Section 2: Included information about behaviors and
Section 3:Described food celebrations or holidays
Section 4: Summarized interviewee’s thoughts on
the experience of immigration and food culture’s
adaptation in U.S.
Section 5:Reflected on own food culture and
similarities or differences from that of
You should ask the following questions directly or indirectly. If the person you are interviewing
does not know some of the answers, you should do your own research on the subject.
Section 1: Background, food choices and preparation
1. What is your ethnic background? (if multicultural, explain, but pick one for report)
2. When did your family immigrate to the United States?
3. Do you have a religious affiliation? Does this affect your food habits?
4. What foods are indicative of your culture? For this question, find out about 2-3 foods and
describe what it is as well as what it’s cultural name is (if there is one).
5. What are the flavor principles of this food culture? In other words, what spices
combinations are used to create the distinctive taste of this culture’s foods—what spices
would you find in the kitchen of someone who cooks this food often?
6. What are the core foods of the culture? Core foods are foundational foods that are
typically eaten everyday.
7. What are the typical cooking or preparation methods for the food culture? Is this a food
culture that bakes or broils or steams or sautees,etc?
Section 2: Behaviors and Symbolism
8. How many meals do you eat every day?
9. When is food usually eaten?
10. What food items are needed to make a meal for you?
11. Who usually shares meals? Are certain family members served first? Who cooks for the
12. Where does your family normally consume food? At the dining table? Or in front of the
13. What is considered proper mealtime etiquette in your food culture? For instance, are
meals eaten with the hands or with utensils? Are meals eaten family style or individually
plated? What else would your interviewee advise a person visiting their home to expect
as far as mealtime etiquette?
14. What are some other symbolic foods in your culture, and what do they symbolize? Ask
about at least two symbolic foods and their meanings. If they don’t know, do some
outside research to find out about symbolic foods. Remember symbolic foods are foods
that have some other meaning to the culture besides just the nutrition it provides.
Section 3: Holidays and Celebrations
15. What are the major holidays you and your family celebrate each year? Choose and
describe one major cultural ceremony or celebration with symbolic associations.
16. What does your family do to prepare or celebrate this holiday?
17. What foods are associated with this holiday? Why is this cultural tradition significant?
Section 4: Experience of Immigration and Effect on Food Culture
18. How has the experience of immigration to the United States changed your food culture?
How has your food culture changed specifically? Do you eat out more often? Are you
cooking more? Are you eating more foods from outside your culture?
19. What outside influences impact the consumption of your cultural foods? Work? Time?
Ingredients availability? Other factors?
20. How has the American culture influenced your cultural habits and traditions? How often
do you eat food that you consider “American” food, as opposed to the food of your own
21. Do you feel your cultural habits and traditions have influenced American culture?
22. Do you believe the changes in your food culture since coming to the U.S. have more to
do with the experience of immigration, or are they reflective of modern life?
23. Is the food culture changing in your own native country? If so, how is it changing? What
evidence can you point to indicate that it is changing?
Section 5: Compare and Contrast your food culture to that of your interviewee
Using the information you have gathered about your interviewee’s culture, now is your
opportunity to reflect on what you have learned and do a compare/contrast with your own food
culture. This section should be about a page long because I expect you to comment on all of the
questions you have asked your interviewee and describe how your food culture is the same or
different. You can do your compare and contrast after each section if you would like rather than
doing it all at the end of the paper.
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