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Embracing Cultural Identity in Children Through Food

Safer food, better health” is the moto of the World Health Organization for World Food Safety Day 2022 celebrated on June 7th, 2022!  Providing access to safe food is one of the key reasons why Our Little Roses in San Pedro Sula began 35 years ago.  Food also has a much deeper role to play in our lives beyond simple sustenance. How does food shape culture? What role does food play in our cultural identity? These questions have become increasingly relevant today, with ethnic identities becoming a prominent feature of society. 

Food plays a significant role in shaping cultures. It reflects personal beliefs, values, and customs. For instance, some believe certain foods are sacred or that certain dishes can only be eaten under particular circumstances or holidays.

Each country has traditional foods that reflect their cultural heritage, often passed down in the family from parents to children. Traditional food practices can link us to our cultural roots and give us a sense of belonging through that cultural heritage. In celebration of World Food Safety Day, we wanted to take a deeper look at how food can help young children embrace their cultural identity.

Cultural identity in children

Culture is an integral part of our development. It helps us differentiate ourselves from other social groups and gives us a sense of belonging to our environment. Cultural identity refers to values, ideologies, and customs that make us recognize ourselves as part of a community.

Having cultural identity helps us recognize others, encourages curiosity about other cultures, and fosters creativity. It is essential for children to develop a cultural identity early. Introducing them to traditional foods from their culture is a great way to embrace their cultural heritage.

In a multicultural society, in a world that tends to be increasingly global, children must learn to recognize and value the richness of their traditions and their cultural roots as citizens and future leaders of the world. 

Cultural identity and food 

Eating habits are related to cultural identity and are influenced by cultural and social background. Religious traditions, social class, income, dietary restrictions, and prohibitions are characteristic elements of each culture. Social transformations introduced new food habits and consequently new identities that became part of everyday life, generating new needs that arose due to economic, social, and technological changes.

It goes without saying that food is an essential part of culture everywhere in the world; some even say that if you genuinely want to understand a different culture, eat how they do. Food often reflects a culture’s traditions, the produce they harvested and consumed, how they celebrate and honor people, holidays, and even culture itself.

Honduras is a perfect example of how food is closely related to cultural identity. From popular street food to traditional dishes, the Honduran gastronomy holds excellent value to the people, who take pride in their cooking and have passed down the recipes from generation to generation, making it a tradition that connects people throughout time.

The kitchen, or la cocina, is very much the center of most homes, especially in Honduras.  At Our Little Roses, the girl’s call their kitchen “La cocina de Abuelita”. Abuelita is English means “Granny”, Miriam, the head chef at Our Little Roses is truly an Abuelita to our girls and the kitchen is her domain! Food safety at Our Little Roses is a serious business that Abuelita Miriam teaches to our girls daily. 

OLR girls and our cook, Miriam making tortillas

The girls at Our Little Roses call the kitchen “La Cocina de Abuelita”
(Granny’s kitchen) as they call our cook Miriam  “Abuelita” or “Granny”

OLR’s Cultural Identity Education Program

At Our Little Roses, we strive to promote Honduran cultural identity in our girls through food; that’s why cultural identity is an integral part of our education program. A primary focus of our programming is to provide a wide range of extracurricular activities for the girls to have a well-rounded life. We’re very excited about these  programs as they help our girls learn about Honduras’ rich history.

Our teachers and staff have been working on this integration for some time now. We have created a series of workshops that teach girls the importance of eating local foods, respecting the environment, and learning about their culture and folklore. This type of cutural identity education is also supported by the short-term mission groups who visit Our Little Roses throughout the year.  As part of their trips we encourage them to accompany the girls to visit sites such as the historic archeological ruins in Copan. The girls love to teach our visitors from other cultures about their countries unique history and the cuisine of Honduras. 

By teaching children about both local and global cuisines, we can promote cultural identity and root them in the rich culture of Honduras. The key lies in having children explore and discover their culture through food. They can also develop critical thinking, creativity, communication, collaboration, and problem-solving skills.

Our program teaches girls how to cook in an environment where they can enjoy learning together and share their knowledge. This will allow them to enjoy cooking while developing their own style and taste. We hope that these experiences will encourage them to become more aware of their surroundings and develop a greater appreciation for Honduran cuisine.

Honduran gastronomy

Honduran gastronomy is very varied, as it contains pre-Columbian indigenous, Spanish, Creole, and, to some extent, African elements, as is typical throughout the Central American Atlantic coast.

Traditional Honduran cuisine is strongly dominated by seafood and corn, an indigenous crop that is part of the food base of the pre-Hispanic peoples of Mesoamerica who inhabited the region.

Typical Honduran food is based on seafood, meat, poultry, fish, tortillas, beans, rice, vegetables, fruits, and local dairy products such as cheese and butter. Coffee as an aromatic beverage is always present throughout the country to accompany breakfast, dinner, or any time of the day.

Honduran Dishes

Honduras has a variety of traditional dishes: La Baleada is one of the most representative dishes of Honduran Gastronomy. It is composed of a flour tortilla, which is folded and filled with fried beans, dry cheese, and cream butter. Others add roasted meat or scrambled eggs to taste, sometimes, avocado or chorizo is also added, but it is very delicious with any of these ingredients.

Besides baleadas, also popular are carne asada con chimol, chicken in corn rice, fried fish with pickled onion, and the typical Garifuna dish, which is fish fried in coconut oil. There is another very popular food called macheteada, made of a fried sweetened flour dough to which three slits are made, hence the name macheteadas, which in spanish means cut with a machete.

Tajadas with meat or chicken are also very popular in Honduras, and chicken with slices is better known as pollo chuco by Hondurans and is sold on many street corners as well as baleadas. People make them from home and do very well selling them.

Carne asada, another typical dish, is made of grilled meat and served with chimol (tomato, onion, bell pepper or sweet green chile, parsley all chopped into squares and seasoned with lemon, salt, and pepper) fried beans, cheese, and corn tortilla. You can also add chorizo (Olanchano and Comayagua are popular options), avocado, butter or cream and if you are very hungry and your stomach can take it, a fried ripe plantain for a sweet and savory sidedish.

Other dishes are montucas, enchiladas, corn nacatamales, “mondongo” or tripe soup, and an abundant selection of tropical fruits such as mango, papaya, pineapple, plum, sapote, and passion fruit (maracuya). Grilled meat, pork chops, and chicken are frequently prepared with tortillas, red beans, rice, and fried plantains as well.

In the coastal areas and the Bay Islands, seafood is prepared in various ways, and some dishes are cooked with coconut. The tourist areas have restaurants with international cuisine and American-style dishes.

Helping OLR’s girls embrace their culture 

Education is fundamental to achieving success in life. It provides young women with employment, financial stability, and self-determination opportunities. These opportunities are essential for breaking free from poverty and creating a brighter future for themselves and their families.

In addition to providing educational opportunities, we also aim to empower Honduran girls by giving them access to healthcare services, nutrition programs, and safe spaces where they can explore their talents and develop their potential. Through these efforts, we hope to create a positive impact on the lives of Honduran girls and encourage others to join us in making a difference.

Contact us to learn more about how you can sponsor a girl in Honduras.