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As we are exploring in lectures and readings, what we eat is about far more than survival and getting nutrition. It defines us. It is central to how we want to see ourselves and seek to relate to others. Food doesn’t only connect us; we also use food to demarcate and separate ourselves from other groups, identities, and roles that we don’t want to be associated with.
For the observant anthropologist, ritual meals — important social or religious events marked by gathering together for food — are especially rich with these types of cultural information. If you look closely and objectively, our family ritual meals reveal much.
In this assignment, you are asked to reflect on and analyze a family ritual meal in which you participated from an anthropological perspective. You may choose any major ritual meal to analyze, EXCEPT for Thanksgiving. You might choose a meal that your loved ones prepare to signify a religious holiday, a birthday or coming of age celebration, a special family get-together, or any other special meal event or occasion where people come together to mark an event that follows some basic social/cultural rules about how (when, why, who, what) the event is meant to happen. The ritual needs to include a meal that is mostly home-cooked, not a meal that you go out for in a restaurant. While the ritual meal may include items purchased pre-prepared, you will need to choose a meal that you and your loved one mainly prepare and serve themselves. Some examples (depending on your own family background) include: Easter, Christmas Day or Christmas Eve, Passover, coming-of-age feast (e.g., quinceañera), Midsommer, Chuseok, New Year, Superbowl Sunday, July 4th BBQ, Mother’s Day, Día de Muertos, Eid al-Adha, Karamu, or shraadha. Note: traditions that are only practiced in your family are not ritual meals because the underpinning of what the event means is not shared more widely within society. Also a food is not a meal. (So, for example, turkey is not a ritual meal, and so on. It is just an element of a Thanksgiving ritual meal).
If you do not have a ritual family meal to draw on, you can also select a ritual meal with friends or roommates, as long as it is prepared at home or outside of a restaurant and is a special event with expectations of what will be prepared and eaten.
To be clear: this should not just be an average meal that you eat every day, but rather a special (i.e., “ritual”) meal of some type that holds larger cultural and societal meanings than just eating.
*****Be sure to include 3 or more references, and cite those references in your analysis to explain points. For example, don’t just tell us what roles each of your family members play in the cooking and cleaning up of the meal. Use a reference to explain why it is important to consider the gender of those doing these tasks.