The one thing which everyone, anywhere in the world can bond over is food. Food is a universal language we all speak, and just like real languages, our first language is the one we grew up sharing with our families, friends and the communities we were raised in. The food we know best is the food we grew up eating. It’s an integral part of who we are – and if you’ve ever been to another family’s house with a different culture, you’ve seen how their culture is represented by the food they make and eat in their homes.
Superfoods, a niche part of the food we’re familiar with, carry a lineage of cultural identity which tells the story of the cultures who depend on them. The superfoods we know and love – acai berries, turmeric, cacao – each have rich cultural histories, which often get missed by those who fall instantly in love with their health benefits. We’re striving to re-discover these foods, and unlock the cultures behind them.
Acai berries, a familiar superfood all over the world, found most often in smoothie bowls, energy bars or as a dried fruit snack, have a rich cultural history stemming from their roots in Brazil and the Amazon Region. In the Indigenous language Tupi Guarani, the word acai translates to “fruit that cries”, due to its nature as a fruit that expels water. Rich in health benefits and plenty of vitamins, acai was also traditionally known as an energetic food, used to power the communities who depended on it. Traditionally, acai was converted into acai juice or wine, used in drinks, super juices, sweets and jellies. Now, acai is more familiarly known as the base of main dishes called acai bowls which are used to provide energy before and after work outs and act as an easy, nutritious treat. Without knowing it, populations across the world have been injecting a small piece of Brazilian heritage and cultural history into their everyday breakfast. By re-discovering acai, Brazil and the Amazon region have been unlocked.
Turmeric, also known as the Golden Spice, has been used for nearly 4000 years, originally for medicinal purposes as well as religious ceremonies. Turmeric, or “Indian saffron”, was first used in the Vedic culture of India, and eventually trickled into China, and East and West Africa by 800 AD. Ayurveda relied on Turmeric in 250 BC as a key ingredient to relieve the effects of poisoned food. Now, in the 21st century, more than 3000 publications have been published on the benefits of Turmeric in the last 25 years, and now more than ever we can access the amazing benefits of this superfood through cooking, healthy snacks and superfood drinks. By re-discovering Turmeric, ancient Indian culture has been unlocked.
Cacao is the plant used to make the world’s favourite treat: chocolate. Chocolate originated in Latin America where the cacao fruit tree is tied to the culture of the region. As early as 400 BC, the Elite members of Mexico’s Mayan society were drinking chocolate beverages. In Aztec times, cacao was considered a gift of the gods, and even became a form of currency. At the time, it was only consumed during religious ceremonies or special occasions. Now, nearly 2500 years later, Colombia is home to some of the finest chocolate in the world, according to the International Cacao Organization, and remains one of the largest producers of cacao in the world. By re-discovering cacao, Colombia has been unlocked.
These well-known superfoods represent some of the richest, most culturally potent regions in the world. Trying these superfoods which carry a piece of their cultural identity is a privilege we’ve been gifted by those who sought out to re-discover these foods for us.