Identity and Culture
Food is not only fuel for our bodies, and a major business that has contributed to the growth of Minnesota. It also can shape our identity as individuals and communities.
Minnesotans take pride in our cultural identities, and that pride is often expressed through food. We share food at family gatherings, large community banquets, cultural festivals, and schools.
We also share food at special events and holidays that shape individual and group identities. The food we serve is often familiar, traditional, and comforting while at the same time providing an opportunity to introduce others to new flavors, new recipes, and new traditions at cross-cultural events.
Family and Community
We gather with our families and communities around food to celebrate births, deaths, anniversaries, graduations, confirmations, and many other life events. We host events with food for fundraisers and organizations. Special foods, like cakes, are made specifically to celebrate birthdays, graduations, weddings, and anniversaries.
- First Annual Banquet of the Swedish Medical Society of Minneapolis, Minnesota
- Knights of Columbus Banquet, Shakopee, Minnesota
- B.P.W. Club Magazine Breakfast, Northfield, Minnesota
- Tifereth B'nai Jacob congregants in the Social Hall, Minneapolis, Minnesota
- Viking Council Troop 195 from Bethlehem Presbyterian spaghetti dinner, Minneapolis, Minnesota
- Banquet for James J. Hill's 70th Birthday, Minnetonka, Minnesota
- Cyrus Fisherman's College Banquet, Glenwood, Minnesota
- Wedding of Sherman Singer and Mimi Schwartz, Minneapolis, Minnesota
- Duluth Missabe and Iron Range Railway Veteran Employees Association banquet, Duluth, Minnesota
- Mandi Siren serving cake at Helga and Matt Lahtis' 50th anniversary, Virginia, Minnesota
- Potluck dinner for Anoka County Library staff, Anoka County, Minnesota
Holidays are a favorite time to enjoy traditional food. People spend all day preparing special food for their families. Family recipes are shared from generation to generation, and people learn how to make these dishes from their elders.
A variety of food traditions have come to Minnesota from the homelands of various immigrant groups. Some of these traditions are not only cultural but also religious, such as kosher or halal foods. Many traditional dishes are still enjoyed today—both by those who share that ethnic heritage, as well as by those who appreciate new flavors, textures, and food experiences. We honor our family history by eating foods our ancestors would have eaten.
Reviving and Reinventing Traditional Foods
In recent years there has been renewed interest in producing and eating local food, especially that which is native to Minnesota. People have been learning how to grow and prepare traditional foods from Native American groups and others.
This interest in traditional foods means that food harvesting and preparation instruction is now included in cultural education alongside language, art, and dance. George Dick, Red Lake Ojibwe elder, explained the importance of teaching kids about wild rice and maple syrup harvesting at Fond du Lac, and how they in turn will teach young people.
There's a lot of things I teach here at the school here. The drum, songs. All the things I teach to the students here of what I've learned over the years, the singing, dancing, the language, are traditions. [Even] the harvesting of wild rice or the maple syrup in the spring. We have persons that do that, and they're pretty good at it. And they learn, too. I did that when I was growing up with my grandparents. I used to be in the sugar bush. I used to haul maple syrup and maple sap, and get wood and the whole works, and eat the taffy and sugar cakes and all that stuff, good stuff. And it's here at Fond du Lac. It's nice that they have that. They teach that here. We teach that to our, our young people today, the language, culture… I always tell them someday it's going to be your turn and someday you're going to teach your children, your grandchildren, or the Indian community here at Fond du Lac.– George Dick, Red Lake Ojibwe elder
Interview with George Dick, 1999
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