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Internal Touch

Cuisine – as – Language

It’s a common that food is a way of communication, however, I’m interested in exploring a possibility of cuisine as a language which potentially leads to an alternative tool of publication.

Language is described as a tool which helps in the transmission of feelings and thoughts, from one person to another trough symbols or sounds, such as words (spoken or written), signs, sounds, gesture, posture, etc., that convey a certain meaning. As a system of communication, different languages are used by people residing in different areas or belonging to a different community. While communication is described as an act of interchanging ideas, information or message from one person or place to another, via words or signs which are understood to both the parties.

The ritual around food and cuisine; such as an act of serving, providing or eating food together, then became an act of communication while food itself is a language that has been communicated. The idea of cuisine as a language then became clearer and perhaps can open doors to learn more about such an untranslatable language. Looking at food from many lights, ingredients in each cuisine could be a way to read landscape, some could indicate a political relation between nations and other might reveal issue of gentrification, colonialism and so on.

Just like each word in a language relies on other words to give it meaning and, in turn, gives them meaning. This specific “meaning” are lost, or perhaps changing through time and being recontextualized because of globalization and nowadays cultural elements are being transported from and to another land.

a potato served sitting on the ground by local indigenous people with local herbsis a different statement than Peking guinea pig dressed with rocoto and purple corn crépe 

“…steamed potatoes served sitting on the ground by indigenous people with local herbs is different, semiotically, from French fries eaten at a fastfood joint during a short lunch break in a huge c­ity.

Mr. Gastón Acurio Jaramillo, Peruvian chef and “ambassador of Peruvian cuisine”

Modiano market in Thessaloniki, 2018. Photo: Areumnari Ee


‘But it is not permitted to them (i.e. the priests) to taste of fish. […] and of fish also they esteem that which is called the lepidotos to be sacred, and also the eel; and these they say are sacred to the Nile.’ 1
—Herodotus, Histories II (aroud 440 BCE)

1 kilogram Nile Tilapia (Bulti) fish
4 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cumin
½ teaspoon chili
juice of 1 lemon
½ cup flour
radda (bran)
oil for deep frying

Prepare fish by removing scales with a sharp knife. Gut fish and remove gills. Crush together garlic, salt, chili and cumin. Add lemon. Stuff fish with the mixture. Cover fish with radda. Fry in oil untibrowned.2

‘Today, farmed tilapia remains an important food source for Egypt. It is the cheapest source of domestically produced animal protein in the country, which is the worlds thirdlargest producer oftilapia.. 3

1 whole Nile Tilapia
2 lemongrass stalks
5 branches galangal
6–10 Kaffir lime leaves
300 grams salt
100 grams rice/wheat flour
½ cup water

Prepare fish, cut open, scoop out intestines, remove gills (make sure not to not remove scales). Smash lemon grass, Galangal and hand-ripped Kaffir lime leaves. Stuff all herbs into fish gut. Mix salt and flour with a bit of water. Cover fish with mixture. Grill on low fire4

‘50 Nile Tilapias from Japan were introduced to Thailand in 1965 as a gift from the Emperor of Japan, Akihito, once he was a Crown Prince, to King Bhumibol Adulyadej.’

King Bhumibol Adulyadej did not eat Nile Tilapia as a child so that he might honour good relationbetween Thailand and Japan.5







2 Magda Mehdawy, Amr Hussein, 2010, The Pharaoh’s Kitchen: Recipes from Ancient Egypt’s Enduring Food Traditions, p. 84, New York
4, translation by Pitchaya Ngamcharoen
5, translation by Pitchaya Ngamcharoen


Note: this article is published as a published by Open! Platform for Art, Culture & the Public Domain as a part of DAI’s COOP study group Topologies of Touch Lexicon


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