The modern world is full of a great deal of strange oddities and amazing wonders that would scarcely be imaginable a mere century ago. Mass transportation and mass communication have brought the human race closer together than ever; indeed, even a small event in one remote part of the world can quickly make an impact across the rest of the planet. The cultures of distant lands are now accessible to people very far away, and in less time than it takes to order a pizza. And one unquestionable element of any culture is their food. Indeed, modern mass communication has allowed people across the world to try to the foods of their distant global village neighbors in ways that were unfathomable even half a century ago.
How the internet helps us experience food from all over the world is something of a complex question. With the sheer amount of information about other cultures that is now easily available in no time at all, as well as the complexities of mass shipping across the world, the internet actually allows people to experience new kinds of food from across the planet in multiple ways. Still, what it boils down to is information and shopping.
Information about other cultures is more readily available than ever before. What would once be an hour’s worth of research in books and encyclopedias is one a matter of five minutes unless an answer is incredibly obscure, and even then the answers tend to come quickly. Recipe e-books are growing in popularity and you can easily find one on the type of world food you are interested in.
Among this information is knowledge about a culture’s food. Indeed, information about foreign foods is all over the internet. From the domestication of maize that formed the backbone of ancient Mexican cuisine to the nutritional content of Vegemite, it’s easy to learn all kinds of things about a foreign culture’s food with next to no actual effort.
This includes the history of food. Some history of food is pure speculation, such as when cattle were domesticated to allow for the regular production of beef or the exact origins of all American chop suey. Other times the information is quite concise, if occasionally unclear, such as the origins of Egyptian ful medamas or Japanese instant noodles. Sometimes it can be quite fascinating to learn about the social, technological and cultural situations that lead to the development of a specific meal. Romanian mamaliga could never have become a dietary staple without maize being introduced to Europeans by Mexican traders, while speculations about the developments of the art of distillery being a motivating factor behind the development of agriculture can be a good way to fill dead time while learning.
Another place where we can appreciate food over the internet is through recipes. Whatever one wishes to cook, be it an all-American Philly cheesesteak or an elaborate French filet mignon, there are likely hundreds of recipes for it, all freely available on the internet. Brave home chefs with the right ingredients can print out these recipes and attempt to cook them for a new culinary sensation in their homes. While results can, of course, be mixed, the fact is that the information to cook anything from pad thai to menuedo can be found easily and freely, a situation that has quite frankly never existed before.
Getting the ingredients, however, can be something of a hassle. While supermarkets are getting more and more international with each passing decade, some ingredients are harder to find than others. Through the internet, however, one can easily find a place to buy specific ingredients, such as halal meats or pickled ginger. It may be a long trip, but for some truly dedicated connoisseurs, it is more than worth it.