FOOD FOR THOUGHT BLOG | ‘Do you like cooking?… Enjoy gastronomic cultural diversity too!!’, by María Verónica Paredes

Jan 26, 2022

FOOD FOR THOUGHT BLOG | ‘Do you like cooking?… Enjoy gastronomic cultural diversity too!!’, by María Verónica Paredes

For some days now, I have been thinking about a lovely experience I had when I invited my friends from South America living in St Andrews in Scotland for tea. Meeting friends at the weekend is always lovely but this experience was different because the idea was to share “tea” with scones, biscuits, …  and additionally, my husband and I cooked some delicious cheese-filled pastries from Syria we learnt to make with Rawia in a “Cookalong” from Heart & Parcel. We love this pastry dish and it is fantastic to share with friends. 

Everyone was enchanted with the appearance of the pastries with their distinctive shape and colour, filled with mascarpone cheese encrusted with pistachios, and a delicate aroma of blossom water – and they tasted better than they looked! I started to realise how interesting the history is behind each food we taste. Each dish is a great start for a discussion about cultural diversity because it gives an insight into the origins of its unique geography, cultural traditions, family traditions, personal experiences and much more.

My friends and I ate the delicious pastry and, for one moment, we imagined how the dish had been created and passed down over the generations. Diffusion of gastronomic cultural diversity is important because it brings knowledge, reveals culture, and allows us to understand how it is possible to experience flavours and aromas from other continents. Cooking and sharing is synonymous to travelling around the word!

Probably now, it is easier enjoy different cuisine because some countries are more international than others – unlike some years ago when the internet didn’t exist, and people didn’t travel too much. How was it possible to find international flavours in other continents back then?

Last year, my family and I were in Cyprus, an island in the eastern Mediterranean sea. My husband and I were at a local restaurant in Polis for lunch and I saw “Stifado” on the menu. I immediately thought of the Peruvian version “Estofado” and during my meal I was enjoying every bite and feeling like I was in my parents’ house in Peru – the meals were the same beef stew! After this experience, we ate “Stifado” to remind us of home.

I wondered how is it possible to have the same lovely meal in two different far-away places in the world? It must be to do with migration, and we still are getting this lovely cultural diversity happening today! I learnt that “Stifado” is an Italian word for oven the where the stew was cooked. Apparently, the Peruvian “estofado” came with the Spanish Conquest and Cyprus “Stifado” has Turkish influences… incredible!

The similarity of flavours is amazing because in Peruvian traditional cuisine we use bay leaves, garlic and yellow chili pepper mixed with fresh ingredients. The simplest dish can take time because we like cooking at lower temperatures to have a nice flavour and a lovely smell is in the house too. The Stifado from Cyprus is cooked differently but has such a similar taste!

My friend Lynette is from Scotland. When she tasted “Peruvian chicken stew”, estofado de pollo, she said: “It is delicious, fresh and light”

It is amazing much one can learn from recipes. If you like to eat delicious dishes and know more about other cultures, then please enjoy the gastronomic cultural diversity of the UK. You can watch the Cookalongs from Heart & Parcel where students show traditional cooking from their countries made in the UK! Often, the ingredients are different but the hosts know where to find them and they will share with you different tips to make lovely meals, pastries and teas – each one with its own insight into the rich cultural diversity of the world brought to us by making and sharing food!!

By María-Verónica Paredes

Heart & Parcel