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On borders and food


Our previous mini-rant on how "Greek yoghurt" is really not Greek at all got the ol' cogs turning around discussions Team SpoCOOL has had on many occasions. Here in the USA people tend to strongly define anything by political borders. I'm sure we've all met people claiming to be "23% German, 12.5% Swedish, 1.734% Chinese, etc." There's an underlying problem with that, seeing that people lose quite a bit of their actual American identity, but that's a discussion for another time.

The jargon carries over to food, as we all know. Swedish pancakes. Belgian waffles. Canadian bacon. So on and so forth.

The thing, of course, is that these dishes really didn't have their origins in the countries their American namesakes suggest. For the most part it'd be impossible to trace the history of the dishes properly, largely because political borders have shifted significantly over time. And, of course, that the dishes have been around in some form or other for a long time.

Using Swedish pancakes as an example: These type of pancakes can be found in most of Europe, heck, even the world. Here in the US many differentiate between the Swedish pancake and the French crepe. They shouldn't, as they're virtually identical. The French crepe, the Greek krepa, the Norwegian pannekake, the Russian bliny... You'll find subtle differences, but for the most part they're the same thing.

It gets more complicated.

Indian food is something we all enjoy, but do we enjoy North Indian cuisine or South Indian fare? The two are very different, more so than a crepe from France and a pancake from Sweden. Yet they're inside the political borders of India.

Of course, it all comes down to giving things, anything, names. That's fine. We need names, and we're not saying there's anything inherently wrong using names like Belgian waffles, though it probably would be better if the names were either a bit less geographical. Or, when talking about a country's cuisine, possibly even more specific. 

Regardless, we do think people would benefit from doing some basic research on various dishes. Not just to figure out the foods, but to learn more about political and geographical history. Broaden your horizon and all that jazz.