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General Discussion

The Meaning of "Ethnic" Food

schoenfelderp | Feb 6, 201110:23 AM     71

"I love ethnic food", and the inverse, "I dislike ethnic food", are two statements that I have been hearing more than usual. In my head, I have always thought of ethnic food as non-traditional cuisine from from lesser known countries, but, upon some thought, I entertained the question, "Isn't all food ethnic food?"

The Random House Dictionary definition of ethnic is:

Pertaining to or characteristic of a people, especially a group (ethnic group) sharing a common
and distinctive culture, religion, language, or the like.

If we apply this definition to the term ethnic food, we lump every single style of cooking from every single region of the world. Whether it is popularized cuisine from countries like France, Italy, Spain, or China, or lesser known cuisine from countries like Ethiopia, Columbia, or Vietnam, they are forced together under "ethnic food".

Now, using common sense, we know that when people use this term they are not speaking about every single food preparation in the world. My question is this: What are people referring to when they say "ethnic food"?

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