Food refers to anything that is eaten to provide energy and keep the body healthy. It forms an important part of many Ghanaian customs and traditions. Whilst some foods are not regarded as food at all by some groups, the same foods are delicacies for others. As a caterer you need to learn about the role food plays in the life of the different people you have to cater for. People need food especially because it keeps them healthy and offer enjoyment. If the food you offer for sale does not do any of the above people may not patronize your services. This is why it is important for you to learn how to make wise food choices and provide the kinds of food your varied customers want.
Explanation of food habits
Have you ever traveled away from home for many days? While you were away, did you long for some of the foods you are used to eating back home? If you do, your longing for the home food is the results of the habit you have cultivated around those foods.
When you travel from the East Coast of Ghana to the West, you would notice the various ways in which food commodities are used. maize, for example, is used to make ‘akpele’ by Ewes, Gas would use it for ‘komi’, Efutus would use it for ‘etsew’, Fantes would make ‘ntew’ from it and Ahantas would use it for ‘fomfom’. These corn dishes are eaten with different kinds of sauces and soups depending on who is eating it.
Again, have you observed how people eat their food? Some people use their fingers, others use cutlery and still others use chop sticks. All of these describe the food habits of people. Food Habits is therefore the way in which people select, cook, serve and eat foods that are available to them. Food habits differ from one ethnic group to another and from one country to another. These differences come about because of many influences on people.
Effect of Food Habits on food choice
Having looked at some of the factors that make you form or change your food habits, can you deduce how these food habits affect your food choice?
The food habits you form as a result of nutrition education would normally remain with you for the rest of your life because they are based on facts. These habits would help you make informed food choices which would help you to improve your health. However, habits formed as a results of improvement in economic status would change when the status changes. A poor person who becomes rich would immediately change his eating habits and sometimes food choices become poor as a result.
Food habits and the catering industry
Customers normally buy foods they are familiar with and foods which have appetite appeal, that is, the kinds of food they like and enjoy. To be a successful caterer you always have to consider your customers’ likes and dislikes. You have to consider the times people like to eat their food and how they want the food served to them. The customers’ food habits must be an important consideration otherwise people will not patronize your establishment.
Exposure to Foods
There are innumerable flavors and food combinations. A liking for some flavors or food combinations is easily acceptable, but others must develop or be learned. Sweetness is a universally acceptable flavor, but a taste for salty, savory, spicy, tart, bitter, and hot flavors must be learned. The more a person is exposed to a food—and encouraged to eat it—the greater the chances that the food will be accepted. As the exposure to a food increases, the person becomes more familiar and less fearful of the food, and acceptance may develop. Some persons only eat specific foods and flavor combinations, while others like trying different foods and flavors.