Nom Nom Taiwan: the Story of Dietary Culture
About the EXhibition
Eating is fundamental behavior, satisfying our hunger and thirst, as well as our needs for nutrition and flavor. "Eating" also possesses other intangible and substantial meanings.
This exhibition will lead us to explore the diversity of food cultures from Taiwan's prehistoric era to the modern day, covering different aspects of food production, from market to kitchen and then dining table. Traditions and customs interweave to form our food culture. At the same time, this exhibition gives attention to disputes over food, and new models of food production, as well as their influences on lifestyles and the environment. Let’s find out what and how Taiwanese people eat, and how food transforms the culture.
According to a local idiom, "Those in the mountains eat from the mountains; those near the ocean eat from the ocean." Nature provides vital materials for our survival, and every ethnic group incorporates different foods, dietary preferences, cooking styles and taboos. These are not only related to the local environment, but also to cultural beliefs, world views, views on classification, and concepts of the body.
From prehistoric times, food culture has depended on natural resources. Through archaeological recovery of prehistoric tools, and plant and animal remains, we can be certain that prehistoric peoples obtained food by fishing, hunting, gathering and cultivating, and cooked by using open fires, boiling and steaming.
A Small Market: The Epitome of a Big Society
The history of food trading has been known since ancient times. Food is transported from one place to another via land or sea all over the world. Every choice that we make in the marketplace not only affects our health and the environment, but also impacts social-justice issues of food supply and marketing.
The best way to understand Taiwan's local lifestyle is to visit a traditional market. In every city and town, there are traditional markets of various sizes where fresh fruits, vegetables, meat and fish, as well as cooked foods and other goods, are sold. They are a unique combination of sounds, sights and smells, as well as friendly interactions among buyers and sellers.
Grandma's Kitchen: From Kitchen to Table
Cooking is one of the most important tasks in a Taiwanese home. In Chinese, the place where cooking is done is said to be "the foot of the stove," and it is here that grandmothers pass on their skills and love. They use various ingredients and equipment to prepare meals with love for families. Over time, foods become imprinted on tongues, taste buds, and memories. They form part of life history that is passed down through the generations.
Dietary Remedy: Culture on Daily and Special Occasions
Han people eat not only for taste and to satisfy hunger, but also to remedy health problems. In different seasons, social situations and special occasions, Han people pay attention to the appropriate intake of food, in order to maintain an internal balance of body functions and to achieve harmony between the environment and the individual. Especially in pregnancy, the postpartum period, the teenage years - or when aging, ill, recovering from surgery, or in another specific physiological state - Han people have traditionally partaken of special tonics, as they also tend to at the beginning of summer, when the spring rains commence, at the beginning of winter and other special points during the year.
In traditional society, the daily diet was relatively simple. But during the Lunar New Year, no matter rich or poor, every family prepared sumptuous dishes.
Original Flavors: The Eating Customs of the Austronesians in Taiwan
Millet, taro roots and sweet potatoes are the main foods of Taiwan's Austronesian indigenous people. The indigenous people also collected wild vegetables, hunted and fished to obtain food. They cooked food by boiling, grilling, steaming and salting, and made special cuisines for festivals.
Most of their cooking tools were also made from items found in nature. In addition to the common use of bamboo, wood and other natural materials, the Amis living near the sea used seashell spoons; the Tao used coconut-shell spoons; and the Paiwan and Rukai created unique carving pattern decorations on their eating tools to reflect their cultures.
Food and Utensils
Eating tools are cultural connections between humans and nature, and show the character of individuals and cultures. They are also identity symbols within society.
An eating tool is a utensil for the purpose of handling, cooking and serving food, as well as feeding. Among them are items of cooking kits, tableware and drinking ware. As time goes by, the materials, shapes, decorations and functions of eating tools have changed. They reflect daily life, as well as the technology of each era.
Sustainable Environment and Future Diet
Each time you eat, do you wonder how the waste and leftovers affect the environment?
We could integrate new eating ideas by buying and eating only what we need, eating local food and the food we grow ourselves, and making proper use of leftovers, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from landfills and incineration. Let’s show more care for the environment, put an end to improper hunting and fishing, stop excessive consumption, and avoid the depletion of natural resources!