Food is often taken for granted. Yes, it is a way of keeping our bodies nourished and healthy, but it is also a way of conveying emotion, connecting with others, and breaking barriers between people. Just recently I took part in the Spain Study Abroad program through the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences here at the University of Georgia. Our program specifically focused on food production, culture, and the environment. During my time in Spain, these truths were most evident. A majority of the students on our study abroad trip, including myself, do not speak Spanish. This made communicating with others rather difficult abroad. However, in many cases, we were able to find a commonality among food. The most notable case of this was in Malaga, Spain. During the last leg of our trip we had plans to partake in a cooking class where we would learn how to make paella, sangria and other Spanish dishes. Upon arrival we were pleasantly surprised to find out that our teacher did not speak English. There were one or two of us who understood Spanish which helped a little but we were mostly on our own. Much to our surprise, we didn’t have that much trouble understanding her. Using food as our catalyst for conversation, we were able to break the language barrier. When there was a miscommunication she was able to show us what she was talking about or demonstrate a certain technique. When it comes to cooking food, it is mostly universal across various cultures which makes it the perfect way to connect different people. This could also be seen at the different restaurants we went to during our time in Spain. Although we could not understand the words that were spoken by those around us we could relate to the Spanish people through the food we ate. In many cultures, food is a way to care for others and show affection. While we were abroad we were often given many free appetizers or drinks from the restaurants we visited as a sign of their generosity. From limoncello to fried anchovies, wine and tapas, these restaurants gave us sentiments of their appreciation through the vice of food. It is a universal language that sits just under our noses.

Paella that we made during our cooking class!