Rice and Beans, Fish and Chips: Investigating Brazilian Immigrant Families’ Experiences of Eating and Nourishing in New Zealand
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Immigration has been a common practice in human society since the earliest times (United Nations, 2019). Whatever the reasons behind people migrating, it is a complex movement that involves a chain of changes in their lives. When people migrate, their culture goes with them. In the new place of settlement, immigrants are faced with many challenges in keeping their own cultural practices, at the same time as adapting to new cultural behaviours, including when eating (Parasecoli, 2014). Food is an important aspect of our daily lives. Through food we are able to express and ensure our sense of identity and belonging (Fischler, 1988). Immigrants rely on food practices as a way of bringing nostalgic features from the homeland that relieve the homesickness felt once they are living overseas (Das Graças Brightwell, 2012a). Likewise, through commensality, culture is exchanged in the host country, where the immigrant experiments with the other’s food and adapts their eating habits, creating a new pattern of eating, a culture developed from the blend of host country and immigrants’ cultures (Parasecoli, 2014). Immigration becomes even more complex when a family is moving, as they deal with their own adaptation while also managing with their children settling and being healthy foodwise during this process. Through qualitative research and thematic analysis of a focus group discussion, this research listened to the experiences lived by mothers of Brazilian families living in Auckland in regard to finding their food ethnospace in New Zealand and providing nourishment to their families. This is enlightened by the perspectives of gastronomic heritage, analysing the extent to which Brazilian immigrants are able to reproduce their cultural patterns, to blend with other cultures and to rebuild their own identities through food. The study explores the experiences of festivities and food traditions, daily food practices, concerns about children’s eating habits, and the sense of achievement related to food and nourishment. The research revealed the dichotomy between the movement of keeping the traditions of the homeland, represented by the pressure cooker and the ability to cook the iconic Brazilian dish ‘arroz e feijão’ (beans and rice); and the movement towards the host country, expressed by their children’s school lunchboxes and their packed lunch, as a bridge to the new and the different. Through this movement, the importance of the ethnic food stores is also emphasised, even those from other nations, where familiar ingredients can be found, healing their feelings of homesickness. Brazilian mothers’ sense of identity and belonging is rebuilt in the process of being able to express Brazilian culture in their eating habits at home and provide their families with what is culturally valued as nutritious and flavourful.