Staple food is food that is routinely consumed and constitutes a significant proportion of the calorie requirements of a standard diet in a community. People usually consume these staple foods daily or multiple times a day. Culture, climate, and trade are all important factors that determine the popularity of a certain food.
On an individual level, we grow up eating the food of our cultures. Many of us associate food from our childhood with warm feelings and good memories with our families. It holds a special and personal value for us. On a larger scale, food plays a key role in our culture. Traditional cuisine, often including the staple food, is passed down from one generation to the next. It also operates as an expression of cultural identity. Immigrants bring the food of their countries with them wherever they go, and cooking traditional food is a way of preserving their culture when they move to new places.
The overwhelming majority of global staple foods are grains. Corn, rice, and wheat together make up 51% of the world’s caloric intake. Nearly every typical Mexican dish revolves around corn in some ways, and it is the main ingredient in maize tortillas. With international trade, corn has been spread throughout the world and now makes up a major source of food in Africa, Europe, and the US. People boil and eat it whole, dry and pulverize it to make flour, and cook it in sweetened milk for dessert. Rice is the predominant source of nourishment each day. China, Russia, India, and France are the largest producers of wheat in the world. Wheat is typically dried and pulverized to make flour. This flour is used to make bread, crackers, pasta, breakfast cereals, and pastries. Its nutritional value is higher when it is consumed whole.
Making food from our culture for family meals is a symbol of pride for our ethnicity and a way to cope with homesickness. Instead of limiting yourself to have the foods of your own culture, it is a great idea to try out foods from other cultures, especially from a young age. You might be amazed by how tasty the “foreign food” is and how effective it is to deepen your connection with your friends from different cultures. Happy Nutrition Month!