Wharton’s Lauder Institute Explores Global Cultures Through Food Anthropology

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New website, “Culinary Customs” offers cultural insights into Mauritius, Trinidad and Vietnam through the study of food and regional dining cultures

Students at the Lauder Institute at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School are exploring globalization through the cultural nuances of gastronomy in Mauritius, Trinidad and Vietnam. The students, Sydney Liu, Fana Gibson and Alice Yehresearch, developed a website, entitled “Culinary Customs.” The site is part of the Global Knowledge Lab research project, a graduation requirement for a joint Wharton MBA/Masters in International Studies. Lauder offers advanced business and cultural studies through nine languages programs including Hindi, Arabic, Chinese , Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish, French, German and Russian. Lauder’s newest expansion includes a Global Program, designed specifically for multilingual Lauder candidates with interest in deepening their inter-cultural and cross-border knowledge.

"Food tells us a lot about culture. We learn which spices and ingredients are prominent over time, how preferred methods of cooking developed, and the evolution of fusion dishes that result from economic, political and social changes. Globalization is making our collective melting pot so much more delicious," says Mauro Guillén, Director of the Lauder Institute and an advisory to the project. “The Culinary Customs website details the gastronomy lessons learned by our Lauder students and offers great insight into how cultures developed over time.”

Globalization has had a strong effect on the cuisines of Trinidad, Mauritius, and Vietnam. Students found that European and international restaurants were common across all three and many of the hotel restaurants cater to foreigners’ tastes. For example, in Vietnam, restaurants specialize in foreign cuisine such as French, Italian, and American and the availability of foreign food products in local grocery stores gives Trinidadians the opportunity to experiment with international cuisine and cooking styles at home. However, for the the locals in all three countries, families prefer to eat at home, since spending quality time together is important. They rarely go out to eat unless it is for a special occasion, but when they do, they select food that they would not normally cook at home.

Global, American fast food icons such as McDonald’s and Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) were noted as visible consequence of rapid and modern globalization. Lauder students reported that in Trinidad, KFC has become such an integral part of life that pop culture has even incorporated “buying KFC at the beach” into popular songs. Other American chains such as Burger King and Pizza Hut as well as South African brands are expanding their franchises in Mauritius, but are only just now breaking ground in places like Vietnam. Local cheap Vietnamese street food plays such an integral role in the day-to-day lives of the Vietnamese, and exposure to Western foods and cultures is not nearly as widespread as in other developing countries, but that too could be changing. While the first McDonald’s in Vietnam opened in February 2014, the Vietnamese are getting more exposure to Western influences. This will likely increase demand for globally branded fast food and is a trend expected in all three countries.

The full report can be found online at http://lauderculinarycustoms.com.

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About the Lauder Institute:
The University of Pennsylvania’s Lauder Institute, founded in 1983, combines a world–renowned Wharton MBA with a Master’s in International Studies, offering advanced business and cultural studies in nine languages programs that include Hindi, Arabic, Chinese , Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish, French, German and Russian. This advanced language and foreign culture training, a two-month in-country immersion program, and a Master’s Thesis from the School of Arts & Sciences all prepare Lauder Fellows for the ever-evolving global economy. This year’s offerings include the new Global Program for students who are already fluent in several languages but have interest in deepening their intercultural and cross-border knowledge. Graduates join the diverse, supportive and committed worldwide Lauder community – continuing a nearly 30-year tradition of international business leadership. The Lauder Institute also offers an MA/JD joint degree. For more information, visit http://www.lauder.wharton.upenn.edu.

About the Wharton School:
Founded in 1881 as the first collegiate business school, the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania is recognized globally for intellectual leadership and ongoing innovation across every major discipline of business education. With a broad global community and one of the most published business school faculties, Wharton creates economic and social value around the world. The School has 5,000 undergraduate, MBA, executive MBA, and doctoral students; more than 9,000 annual participants in executive education programs annually and a powerful alumni network of 92,000 graduates.

About the School of Arts & Sciences:
The School of Arts & Sciences provides a foundation for the scholarly excellence that has established Penn as one of the world’s leading research universities. The School enrolls 6500 undergraduates, admits approximately 250 students each year into its 32 doctoral programs, and offers a wide range of programs for lifelong learning. International studies are a vibrant enterprise at the School of Arts & Sciences. In addition to offering instruction in 50 languages, the school is home to an array of centers, programs and institutes dedicated to the study of world regions and contemporary global issues and conflicts.

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Allison Bozniak

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