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Interview of a Person from Kenya

I interviewed a person named Joseph and aged 27 from Africa. His ethnic background is the Meru community in Kenya. He stated that his family did not consist of the United States immigrants. I asked him whether he had any religious affiliation, and in response he confessed being a Roman Catholic Christian, since he was born 27 years ago. He also added that his last three generations were committed affiliates of the Roman Catholic belief, and he himself was not ready to convert to another religion.

I further wanted to enquire about the types of food his culture is identified with. In response, he mentioned such mains dishes as ugali, fish, lentils, rice, beans and local vegetables. Concerning the ingredients of a complete meal, he explained what it takes to prepare ugali and fish for five people. Two kilograms of maize flour, two liters of boiling water, two fish of at least one kilogram each, half a kilogram of tomatoes, two onions, two tablespoons of salt, and five grams of cooking oil would be needed.

I asked him about the number of meals he takes every day and whether he snacks. In response, he claimed to take three meals per day without snacks. The first meal comes immediately after waking up at 6 am in the morning, then there is one during the day and the last one in the evening. Based on the information he provided me with, I further wanted to know who prepares the meals for him and who he shares them with. In response, he said that the mother prepares and shares his the meals, except for the morning meals, where everyone in the house serves him/herself. I also wanted to know where the food is normally consumed. In response, he said that it is normally consumed in the kitchen or outside of the house. He has also added that the food is normally served on individual plates to specific persons who will consume it with clean bare hands.

After a little walk around the household, I asked whether he had any food habits that differed from his family’s norms. In response, he has mentioned such behaviors as talking while eating, slurping of drinks while seeping and the use of vulgar language, all of which are not acceptable in his family as well as culture. I further needed to know the symbolic meanings of food in his culture. He responded by classifying various meals consumed during different social and cultural events. For instance, ugali is commonly eaten during strenuous events, such as digging. This dish symbolizes the need for more energy. During such events as weddings, beer, rice, and indigenous cereal are normally consumed as a manifestation of jubilation and celebration of the communities’ culture.

Additionally, I was eager to know whether there were any food taboos in my interviewee’s culture. In response, he mentioned several types of meals that the members of the community were forbidden from consuming. For instance, snake and other crawling organisms’ meat, donkeys, pigs and all other mammals that feed on flesh are forbidden, because they thought to bring a bad omen onto the society. I also enquired about the major holidays they celebrate each year and the special foods served during these holidays. In his response, he mentioned Easter, Christmas and New Year. During these holidays, they prepare such special meals as Chapattis and rice and slaughter such domesticated animals as chicken and goats. This act symbolizes joy of the society.

After he told me that he was a Roman Catholic, I needed to know whether he fasts and what kinds of food he avoids. In response, he said that he fasts before Easter. The foods he avoids include meat, especially on Fridays.

I also wanted to know what types of food are taken to improve strength, endurance, and vitality in his culture. He talked about ugali and meat that are normally eaten during vigorous exercises. In addition, milk, fish and indigenous legumes are needed for a balanced diet. Later, I asked him whether there were some meals he avoided to prevent illness. He aims to bypass fatty foods such as milk cream, fried potatoes, and sugary meals. Instead, he told me that he prefers a lot of cereal, green vegetables, and fruit to keep himself healthy.

Regarding illness control, I needed to know what kinds of food his mother or caregiver fed him when he was sick, what food he craved for while he was sick, and the types of food he would take to cure an illness. In response, he remembered being fed porridge while ill, even though he prefers chicken soup. Normally, he makes a mixture of milk, raw eggs and salt to cure a common cold. Afterwards, I needed to know whether he had any home, popular or traditional therapies involving food, herbs, vitamins and minerals. He was very elaborate when he talked about boiled croton metacarpus bark and bone soup that cure amoebic dysentery.

My curiosity did not end there I wanted to know what outside influences impacted his consumption of cultural foods and beliefs concerning the therapeutic uses of food. In reply, he has said that imported and genetically modified food contains toxic substances that pose a threat to good health making his society stick to the indigenous foods. He also added that indigenous food, such as honey and milk, contains useful minerals in their natural states. Finally, I asked him how the American urban practices influenced his cultural habits and traditions, and vice versa. Particularly, he appreciates that the American culture emphasizes time-saving habits, which mean overreliance on fast foods, the use of generic drugs and reduction in the social time. He confessed to not have seen any effect of his culture on the Americans. It was the last interview question, after which we parted.

I later had a chance to interview Kelly Tana (a family member) aged 22 from New York. He stated that his family had immigrated to the United States from Britain. I asked him whether he had any religious affiliations, and in his response he confessed to be a Protestant in the Anglican Church. I further wanted to enquire the types of food his culture was identified with. In response, he mentioned such main meals as oat, rice, wheat flour, corn meal, eggs, beans, fish, and vegetables. He explained what it takes to prepare a full meal that consists of rice and green beans. One would need half a kilogram of rice, one kilogram of green beans, half a kilogram of tomatoes, two onions, two tablespoons of salt, and five grams of cooking oil.

Furthermore, I have asked him about the number of meals he consumes every day and whether he snacks or not. He usually has three meals per day with snacks distributed throughout the day. I further wanted to know with whom he cooks and shares his meals. In response, he said that the maid prepares his food and he shares it with her. I also wanted to know where the food is normally consumed, and in his house it is the dining room. After a little walk around the neighborhood, I asked whether he had any food habits that differed from his family norms. In response, he has talked about using hands instead of forks and spoons, which is not acceptable in his culture. I further needed to know the symbolic meanings of food in his culture. He responded by classifying various foods for different social and cultural events. For instance, turkey is commonly consumed during Christmas. It symbolizes the joy of the birth of Jesus Christ.

Moreover, I was eager to know whether there were any food taboos in my interviewee’s culture. Interestingly, he could not recollect any taboos of his culture related to food consumption. I also asked what major holidays they would celebrate each year and what food would be served during these holidays. In response, he mentioned Easter, Christmas and New Year. During these festivities, a lot of various dishes – both cultural and modern – are cooked and family members gather to honor the holiday as well as everyone’s presence. Liquor is consumed during the major holidays as well.

I further wanted to know whether he fasts and what kinds of food that he avoids. He said honestly that he did not fast and did not avoid any meals. I also wished to know what types of food he eats to improve strength, endurance, and vitality. For this reason, he consumes oatmeal, meat, milk, fish, and legumes for a balanced diet. I asked him whether there were any meals he avoided in order to prevent illness. He thus avoids foods that are rich with carbohydrates and sugar. Instead, he prefers green vegetables and fruit as they keep them healthy and fit.

Regarding illness control, I needed to know what kinds of food his mother or caregiver fed him when he was sick, what types of food he desired during illness and what sorts of food he would consume to cure an illness. He responded by recollecting that his parents preferred porridge, but he prefers hot soup. Normally, he drinks fruit juice and eats vegetables to prevent common illnesses. After a while, I needed to know if he used any therapeutic recipes involving food, herbs, vitamins and minerals. He only referred to coffee as a mild stimulant.

We proceeded by discussing the outside influences that impacted his consumption of cultural foods and beliefs of therapeutic uses of food. He has answered that he has great fear of genetically modified products, since they cause major health threats. Finally, I asked him how the American culture influenced his habits and traditions, and vice versa. In response he stated that the Americans had always retained their culture and it had never been influenced externally. Afterwards, I thanked him for his cooperation during our interview and we parted.

When the two cultures represented by the interviewees are compared, both of them acknowledge such common types of food as milk, meat, and vegetables. In addition, they both celebrate Easter, Christmas and New Year holidays in their culture. It is also evident that both backgrounds are affiliated to the Christian religion, even though to its different denominations. However, there are a few differences in the two cultures. First of all, the African culture seems to have taboos concerning certain types of foods, unlike the American and English cultures. Moreover, in the African culture, food can be eaten anywhere within the household, but in the English culture, all meals are usually eaten in the dining room. Thirdly, under the rules of the African culture, mothers prepare and serve meals, while in England food is often prepared and served by housekeepers. Finally, in the African culture, there is a strict schedule of daily meals, but in the English culture, even though such a schedule exists, snacks are common.

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