Heritage is described by Timothy and Boyd (2003) as being”linked to the past…some sort of inheritance to be passed down to current andfuture generations, both in terms of cultural traditions and physicalartefacts” as Laing & Frost (2013) point out.
Food plays a crucial role in heritage tourism,as it is a sense of identity given to people or places. Timothy and Ron (2013) express the importanceof food as an ingredient of heritage tourism:Food, cuisine and culinarytraditions are among the most foundational elements of culture. While there is a long tradition of identifyingmany places with their traditional foods, cuisine is becoming an ever-importantpart of the contemporary cultural heritage of regions and countries (Timothy& Ron, 2013).When traveling,cuisine is often at the top of the list of things to experience. Much of the native food favored in othercountries, like pizza in Italy or wine in France, is also available within theUS. However, as I discovered through mytravels in Italy, Americans perception of a food and native’s perception of afood can be drastically different. Wetry to replicate these recipes in America but as foreigners to these cultures,we naturally strip these meals of all authenticity.
In return, we are left with our own version of these native meals, witha vast variety of differences ranging from, look, taste, smell and presentation,which is nothing comparative to the original. “It is the authentic cultural experienceoffered by local foods that has caught the attention” (Bondzi-Simpson & Ayeh, 2017) of tourists asauthenticity is a key motivator for travel to a specific destination. The background stories of the origin ofspecific ethnic foods contributes significantly to the authentic experience. The only way to engulf the trueheritage tourism in cuisine is to travel to the homeland where the originalitywas born. UNESCO (2003) definesIntangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) as:The practices,representations, expressions as well as the knowledge and skills- as well asthe instruments, objects, artefacts and cultural spaces associated therewith-that communities, groups and in some cases individuals recognize as part oftheir cultural heritage. This ICHtransmitted generation to generation, is constantly recreated by communitiesand groups in response to their environment, their interaction with nature andtheir history, and provides them with the sense of identity and continuity,thus promoting respect for cultural diversity and human creativity (UNESCO,2003).
Park etal. (2008) stated that “Desire to experience a specific food or wine, or theproduce of a specific regions, has become today one of the major travel motivations”. This contributes to the authenticity ofthe destination and can improve the awareness of and loyalty to the localculture and the location. The purpose ofthis paper is to take a closer look at the cultural importance of cuisine andhow food plays a role in the development and managing of heritage tourism.Culinary heritageis one way to learn the stories and traditions of past generations within a communityof people. Avieli (2013) mentions aspecific article found in the journal Social and Cultural Geography, in which Freidberg (2003) shares thefollowing insight: “Stories about eating something somewhere?…?arereally stories about the place and the people there?…?the reading of a food’sstory reveals, like any good biography or travelogue, a much bigger story – a culturalgeography – of particular times and places”.
Just as a recipe that is passed down fromgeneration to generation may share a special meaning to an individual or theirfamily, cuisine tourism explores the special meanings associated with food inspecific cultures and regions. Cuisineis a way to experience the history of different indigenous people andtraditional societies. According toCusak (2003), as stated in Allen (2017), “Food is an important… contributor toboth an individual and to a groups collective sense of identity”. Therefore, it is so important for touristspots to use food and cuisine to market and develop a specific location andcreate a memorable experience for long-term sustainability. Timothy & Ron (2013) stated the importanceof cuisine as “the most visible and iconic representation of a culture’s imageabroad” and the impact that marketing decisions can have on touristsconsidering that destination for travel.
Foreignvisitors who support the locally grown food and drink, produced in differingcommunities by their own people, helps the small markets and businesses to stayafloat. Tourism is often welcomed bysociety as it heavily contributes to many countries’ sources of income. It is economically beneficial to both hostsand guests to be inviting to tourists, as it may be a means to the countriessurvival. Asero and Patti (2009) explainthat food and wine become important major attractions in a tourist destinationbecause “these products not only strongly refer to the region where they areproduced, but also represent a geographic area, its cultural heritage,traditions, and form a point of reference and identity for the local community”(Alonso, 2013). Wineriesand vineyards have become a staple way for developing communities in Italy tosurvive. Often a family tradition,passed down through generations, these families that make this wine create astrong culture, as well as history and heritage to carry on into the future. Foreigners unfamiliar with the winery processtravel to certain regions of this country to catch a glimpse into thisprocessing. By learning the process ofwhich the vineyards create many of our known wines and having the chance tosample the local wine tastings, tourists feel connected to the native culture.
As Sims (2009) explains, “local” foodproducts have a story behind them that provide the tourists with knowledge ofthe local culture and a sense of self identification as they find meaning inthe place and people around them. Promotinghigh quality cuisine or distinctive local foods helps to distinguish betweentravel destinations. This sense ofconnection, to the culture and its prized vineyards, form an authentic bondbetween tourist and country. This helpsto enrich foreigners with an understanding of other cultures and sparksinterest from outside guests to travel in, therefore creating additionalrevenue.
It creates a story for thosevisiting that ultimately encourages the production and development of culturalheritage. As Frochot (2003) states,”Destinations can use food to represent its cultural experience, status,cultural identity, and communicating”. Traditional cuisine and foodways are fundamental to many types andlevels of heritage identity. Food canenhance the experience for the tourist and become very memorable to thatspecific destination, creating a bond between the two.
Clark and Chabrel (2007), as discussed by Sims(2009), believe that specific attractions that offer the chance to consumelocal cuisine while on a tour provides an individual with a positive experiencethat results in treasured and unforgettable memories for the tourist, whichcreate a sense of identity and belonging to the destination. As Timothy (2013) points out, gastronomicaltraditions can help create and promote regional and national character throughthe identity relationship between food and heritage. Accordingto Timothy and Ron (2013), research shows that through food related stories,specific means of cooking, and ingredients native to a specific destination canmaintain indigenous identity as well as preserve memory within society. Especially for smalltribes and groups of indigenous people, these traditions with food can help toeducate others of their existence and distinguish them from any other group (Timothy& Ron, 2013).Events such asfestivals or markets have become favorable to those interested in experiencingculture through cuisine.
Food festivals canhelp people connect with the local community and gain a sense of identity,while also encouraging understanding and appreciation in the local culture andheritage of the destination (Laing & Frost, 2013). Some regions are known specifically for yearlyfestivals, which attract massive groups of tourists wanting to be a part of thiscelebration. Quinn (2006) noted thatfestivals “have a strongly collective dimension and they have always functionedas practices through which communities’ express beliefs, celebrate identitiesand variously confirm or contest the social structures and value systems thatbind them together”.
As tourists takeinterest in local foodways, they gain knowledge and awareness of thesurrounding community which encourages pride and identity in that communitythat promotes maintenance of the regions diversity (Y.H. Kim et al., 2015).
Food can giveidentity to even the smallest of towns. For example, the Okra Fest held in Lexington, SC and the International Festivalheld in Spartanburg, SC come once a year to these small South Carolinian citiesand yet are well known throughout the state. The International Festival is an event I personally attend every year. I will be honest when I tell you that my mainreason for attending is the distinct international food. Bubble Tea, spicy corn on a stick, mangoesshaped into flowers, and crepes are a few of the cultural cuisines I try totaste each year. These foods not only helpto satisfy my taste buds, but they play a major role in the developing and openmindedness of differing cultures and travel. While attending festivals, one is not only exploring the material goodsand foods native to those people, but inviting the ideas into their ownpersonal life style. I myself have gonehome and tried to replicate the recipes found at the festivals, and in turnhave learned more than I originally intended.
Foodways andcuisine create a greater awareness to other elements of the cultural environment,especially when “…they reflect cultural norms and values, the physicalrealities of geography and place, involve inter-generational bequeathing…” (Ron& Timothy, 2013) and often have an impact on other means of personalheritage such as religion, language, politics, and social status. In his article, Baldacchino (2015) mentionsthat eating is no longer just a necessity to survival, but suggests “It isbeing repackaged as a culinary experience, an affirmation of history andheritage, a nostalgic link with the past, a key medium for rich culturalencounters between hosts and guests… and an economic opportunity for peripheralregions” (Baldacchino, 2015).Culinary tourism continues to grow as a niche market, inwhich Timothy and Ron (2013) describe that “…foodways, cuisine, gastronomy, andepicurean delicacies are all elements of the broader system of culturalheritage” and further stating “…cuisine is, without a doubt, one of the mostsalient and defining markers of cultural heritage and tourism”. The Conventionfor the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage discusses how intangibleheritage, including regional and local food, is both an expression of theregion or local heritage status and a symbol of the culture and identity of aregion, which is constantly evolving in the community due to changes in theenvironment, social interaction, and history, which promotes respect forcultural diversity by providing the community with a sense of identity andmeaning (UNESCO, 2003). Providingfurther evidence to the importance of culinary tourism, Walter (2017) gives thefollowing explanation from forum organizers, found in UNTWO (2015):Food isa fundamental element of all cultures, a major component of the worldsintangible heritage and an increasingly important attraction for tourists…linkages between food and tourism provide a platform for the transmission ofculture, local economic development, sustainable practices and foodexperiences, which help to brand and market destinations, as well as support localtraditions and diversity (UNTWO, 2015).Whentourists consume indigenous food, they are supporting that local community aswell as the local heritage, while making it possible for the economy to improvewith the increased revenue from tourists.
Horng and Tsai (2012) mention the positiveimpact that culinary tourism has on the residents and the general community asit “not only provides job opportunities but also helps preserve the localcuisine culture and establish the local community” (Horng & Tsai, 2012). According to Telfer and Wall (1996), mentionedin Du Rand et al. (2003), there are both direct and indirect impacts of the useof local food in a region, including support of agricultural activity, improvedfood production, maintaining authenticity within the region, growingdestination awareness, providing jobs for locals in the community, increasedpride in local culture, and sustainability of heritage tourism.Destinations that arepopular or well-known because of a specific food or drink produced only in thatregion often use this as a marketing strategy to encourage tourists to spendtheir vacation there. Culinary heritagehas become a main tourist attraction, and this increased desire to visitcertain regions to experience the cuisine has become a competitive advantagefor growing destinations.
Wine and foodfestivals give tourists the opportunity to taste something different or unique,participate in a cooking class, learn recipes or traditions, and essentiallydiscover the meaning or importance of the local communities’ lifestyle andheritage. Horng and Tsai (2012) suggestthat food and cuisine represent a core element of these destinations’ invisibleheritages by representing their national cultural characteristics and localfeatures, which can be developed into an international brand that provides theregion with a sense of identity. Henderson(2004) mentions that Bell and Valentine (1997) state in their book Consuming Geographies: We Are What We Eat,food is “packed with social, cultural, and symbolic meanings” to betterunderstand a regions heritage, as well as the local geography and history. As tourists increasingly desire an authenticexperience, food is the key element in helping the industry in itssustainability and preserving those cultures that would otherwise be forgottenwithout heritage tourism.