Ritual and Tradition

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In this section, you can investigate the many diverse food rituals and traditions that are practiced within the UK, and investigate the ways in which these traditions shift and adapt over time. You will be able to listen to the extracts and access both a transcript and background information for each recording.

Bianca

Bianca is 13 years old and goes to a school in north London. Here, she talks about the ways in which school dinners have changed since the success of Jamie Oliver's school dinner campaign.

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Read more about 'bad' school dinners and government measures, as well as personal campaigns, to make them better.

Elaine Hallgarten

Here, cookery writer Elaine Hallgarten talks about the importance of chicken soup in Jewish culture and remembers her mother's cooking. Jewish chicken soup is famously celebrated for its healing powers and is eaten at traditional Jewish holiday meals including Passover.

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Read more about the traditions behind Jewish food cultures.

Shezad Hussain

Shezad Hussain, cookery writer and food consultant, was born in Pakistan and moved to England aged 11. Here, she describes foods eaten by her family on the morning of Eid. The festival of Eid marks the end of Ramadan, a month in which Muslims fast from dawn until dusk.

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Read more about the festival of Eid and other Islamic food traditions.

In this extract, Shezad Hussain describes the importance of cooking 'from the heart'.

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Read more about the connections between food and our emotions.

John Lowery

Here, John Lowery describes the 'traditional' English food cooked by his mother during World War II. He explains why he thinks people were healthier then than they are today.

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Read more about government measures and rationing during World War II.

Neil Sachdev

Neil Sachdev was born to an Indian family in Uganda in 1958. His family moved to England in the 1960s. Here, he remembers the typical Indian food eaten by his family during his childhood.

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Read more about the history of Indian food in the UK.

Frances Soar

Here, Frances Soar reflects on the changes that have taken place during her lifetime in eating habits in the home. Born in Sheffield in the 1950s, Frances describes how dining room eating has been replaced by eating in front of the T.V.

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Read more about the ways in which our food habits shape our everyday life.

Paul Wilgos

Paul Wilgos was born and raised in England in the 1960s. He had an English father and a French mother. Here, Paul describes childhood memories of his mother's cooking.

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Read more about traditional, and changing, associations between food and gender.

Background

Food traditions and rituals play a central role in all our lives. Some of these are the particular, repeated patterns that we build into our days - hot milk before bedtime, for instance, or biting the chocolate from the edge of a Kitkat. Others are the more mundane, automatic parts of our everyday lives - mealtimes, manners, table-laying, grocery shopping - all of these are ordinary rituals that mark out our waking hours.

Food time travel

But food traditions and rituals go beyond the everyday and the personal. Food takes us back in time, connecting us to the recipes and customs that our families or communities have practiced for generations. Many of us will enjoy family cookery tips that have been handed down through our families by our grandparents and great-grandparents - unique recipes for jams, breads or pickles for instance. Food customs can also play an essential role in binding us together as communities. It is impossible to imagine an Indian wedding, a Jewish Friday night, a Chinese New Year, an English birthday tea or Christmas day without the inclusion of particular foods. In all these traditions, foods plays a central role in bringing people together to commemorate a special part of the year.

Changing times

However, it is important to remember that traditions do not stay the same forever, but change and adapt over time. For example, many people in England now consider going out for a curry on Friday night a 'tradition' and see Indian food as part of the British way of life - but this is a new part of British culture that has only come about in the last few decades. In Britain, a traditional 'turkey' is eaten at Christmas, but this tradition has only existed since Victorian times. Food can also be a powerful way to break with tradition - to eat food that is taboo for your elders, or reject the food your family cooks in favour of a takeaway for instance, to put our elbows on the table while eating or to lick our knives clean. Rebellions against tradition continue to force our cultures to evolve and adapt, helping us to try new things and to forge new habits.