A Multi-Faceted Exploration of China’s Decline in Instant Noodle Consumption by Tanya Rajabi

A Multi-Faceted Exploration of China’s Decline in Instant Noodle Consumption

Great speculation dominates the argument concerning exactly when in history and where in the world noodles were first introduced. Four thousand year old strings of noodles unearthed under an overturned bowl, however, eliminates any doubt as to the long withstanding preservation of the noodle in the Chinese diet.[i] Through thousands of years of serving as a staple ingredient in Chinese cuisine, the noodle has garnered endless unique varieties, methods of preparation, and uses with diverse meats and vegetables. One such variety of noodles that revolutionized the way noodles were consumed was the invention of the instant noodle in 1958. Momofuku Ando of Japan dehydrated steamed and seasoned noodles in oil heat to create the first instant noodles, and then established its industrial manufacturing. This product, which could be ready to consume in solely two minutes, quickly spread throughout Asia, Europe, and other parts of the world. Traditional, homemade noodles remain as the typical form of the dish consumed in rural areas. However, growing in popularity at the same time that China was beginning its rapid transformation into an industrialized state, the instant noodle practically served as fuel to propel the urbanization and sustenance to nourish the labor force driving the urbanization in large cities. If noodles are to be considered the staple of the Chinese diet, then it is only just to consider instant noodles as the staple of urban megacities like Beijing, Shanghai, and the likes. The unannounced need to hustle in all aspects of work and daily life, as well as limited time and money available to dedicate to cooking homemade dishes or enjoying meals at restaurants has placed instant noodles as the center of what advances individuals in urban centers. Furthermore, some might go beyond to claim that the dependence of urban dwellers on instant noodles is what drives the economy, society, and state of China as a whole. Today, China contains by far the largest instant noodle market in the world, with 38,970 million servings sold in 2017.[ii] Despite this statistic, China surprisingly has in recent years been experiencing a significant decline in the demand and dependence on instant noodles. Through this paper, it becomes evident that the fluctuations in the market for instant noodles can best be examined alongside the movement of rural migrant workers, changes in economic patterns, and the emergence of recent health trends in China.

Prior to the 1970s, China was primarily an agricultural economy, with approximately 82 percent of the country’s population residing in rural areas. However, reforms allowing private ownership of, or de-collectivizing, rural lands in the 1980s resulted in more efficient food production while consequently causing 240 million agricultural laborers to be in surplus. As a result, unemployed rural residents began traveling to cities in search of greater economic opportunities in factories, construction sites, and other forms of cheap labor.[iii] According to polls conducted in 2016 by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, decades of urban migration have resulted in an estimated 282 million rural migrant workers, which constitute over twenty percent of China’s total population.[iv] These migrant workers represent one of the most marginalized sectors of the population, as they are generally forced to work long hours with low pay rates and unfavorable living conditions. The average monthly wage for migrant workers in 2017 stood at 3,485 yuan, or roughly 525 United States dollars, which is far from a comfortable living wage in urban settings like Beijing. Additionally, surveys conducted by the National bureau of Statistics revealed that the average migrant worker living in a medium-sized city in China owned solely 15.7 square meters of space, and over a third of workers did not own a fridge or any cooking technologies.[v] Due to the aforementioned difficulties facing migrant workers upon their arrival to cities, little money and time remain for them to purchase and cook the traditional, time-consuming Chinese meals they would enjoy back home with their families. Alternatively, noodles, which are a staple in a wide variety of dishes in the Chinese diet, are consumed in the form of instant noodles. The minimal cost, wide availability, and quick preparation time of instant noodle packets are favored by migrants and are suitable for their strenuous lifestyle. With the rapid annual increase in rural to urban immigration within the majority of the last forty years, the demand for instant noodles is believed to have had consequently increased by an annual rate of twenty percent in the beginning decades of its introduction.[vi] This great increase in demand for instant noodles was spearheaded by rural workers residing in cities, who are the largest consumers of instant noodles in China.[vii]

While rural migrants themselves suffer from low wages and harsh living conditions, their presence in factories and construction sites are responsible for the major industrialization and urbanization that Chinese cities have experienced in the second half of this century. However, the economic boom caused by rural to urban migration is slowing, and the migrants’ temporary stays in the cities of Beijing, Shanghai, and the likes are coming to an end as they begin returning to their hometowns.[viii] China is outgrowing its emphasis on manufacturing, construction, and other labor intensive jobs and has begun outsourcing these occupations to other countries in Southeast Asia. In their place, China now wants to focus on developing high-end technology and improving its service sector of the economy. Unfortunately, migrant workers do not have the skills and qualifications necessary to successfully work in these more advanced sectors of the economy, and as a result, millions of jobs have been lost. According to one rural migrant, “Today, it is harder to find a job and it is easier to lose one.”[ix]  However, these trends of unemployment have not gone unnoticed by the Chinese government. Rural provinces such as Guizhou have been encouraging migrant workers to return to their hometowns through incentives such as providing resources to start their own businesses, offering classes to gain greater skills in the workforce, and helping them find employment in their hometowns.[x] Due to the efforts of the government, as well as the unavailability of employment in urban locations, approximately 1.7 million fewer migrant workers resided in cities in 2015 than in 2014, indicating a migrant population decrease in China for the first time in thirty years. Similarly, between the years of 2010 and 2016, the growth in migrant workers significantly decelerated to 0.5 percent, in contrast to the previous migration rate of 5.2 percent.[xi] Migrants are willingly returning to their hometowns, and with these new entrepreneurs, China hopes to experience equivalent economic growth in its rural areas as well.

Occurring at the same time as the rather dramatic decrease in rural to urban migration has been the rapid decrease in sales of instant noodles. Data on instant noodle consumption in China has demonstrated that the number of packets of these convenient noodles sold have been unprecedently declining. In 2013, the sales of instant noodles in China exceeded 46.2 billion packets, which is equivalent to 1,465 packets of instant noodles consumed every second. It was recorded in 2016, however, that only 38.5 billion packets of instant noodles were sold, which is approximately a decrease in 8 billion packets over the course of three years. In terms of percentages, this difference in sales indicates a dramatic 17 percent drop in instant noodle consumption in China.[xii] Major instant noodle companies in China are currently suffering from the shrinking market size of instant noodles caused by the decrease in their demand. Tingyi Holding Corporation, which owns the popular instant noodle brand name Master Kong, reported in 2016 a revenue of 3.2 billion United States dollars, which was a 25.24 percent decrease from 2013’s revenue of 4.3 billion United States dollars. Similarly, another popular instant noodle brand in China, Uni-President, reported a 7.06 percent decrease in gross revenue and a net profit drop of 26 percent in 2016.[xiii] Instant noodle companies throughout China continue to struggle to keep their companies and brand names alive in the midst of the declining consumption of their products.

It is not merely a coincidence that the decline in instant noodle consumption in recent years is occurring simultaneously with the fluctuation in the rural and urban economies and migration patterns. As discussed previously, the slowing economy in urban locations and the spark in the economy of rural areas has resulted in the migration of rural workers back toward the countryside. This rural labor force was once greatly attracted to instant noodles due to their convenience, low cost, and availability. However, now that these migrants are being lured home with government incentives, they for the most part now have access to adequate cooking spaces and cheaper ingredients, longer periods of time dedicated to leisure, and are closer to families who can cook meals for them. Thus, the need for convenient, ready-made instant noodles is virtually eliminated once migrants return to their rural homes. Furthermore, more individuals in the labor force are choosing to remain in rural areas, where employment opportunities are increasing, rather than migrate to cities in search of work in the first place.[xiv] According to Zhang Xin, an economics professor at Tongji University, “far fewer low-paid migrants from rural China are moving to or living in cities, where they are one of the biggest consumers of instant noodles.”[xv] Therefore, as the number of rural migrant workers limited to impoverished living conditions in bustling cities are dwindling, the demand for quick, already-prepared meals like instant noodles continues to decrease as well in China.

As explored earlier, rural migrant workers in cities, alongside other Chinese residents in the lower economic class, are responsible for a great fraction of the instant noodle sales in China. However, individuals and families in the middle and upper classes are also regular consumers of instant noodles. The unlimited availability, quick preparation time, and portability of instant noodles tailors to the hectic, fast paced lifestyle experienced by residents living in the bustling urbanized areas of China, causing them to be in high demand even among the wealthy. However, Chinese citizens have begun taking interest in the recent upspring in health trends popular in the United States, such as limiting carbohydrate, sugar, salt, and gluten intake as well as emphasizing natural, fresh foods. According to Zhao Ping of the Academy of China Council for the Promotion of International trade, those following new fad diets “are more interested in life quality than just filling their bellies these days” and have deemed the original instant noodles as “junk food.” Seeking better alternatives to premade noodles with dehydrated vegetables and meats, customers have found delicious, high quality, and healthy noodles through food delivery companies.[xvi] Companies such as “Meituan Waimai” and “Ele.me” meet all of the requirements of convenience for busy urban residents. Mobile applications have been created to allow practically any dish to be ordered at customers’ fingertips and transportation methods have been arranged for rapid delivery to customers’ doorsteps.[xvii] Research conducted by the China Internet Network Information Center in 2016 reported that food delivery services had reached 295 million users, indicating a 41.6 percent increase in just one year.[xviii] As a result, the growing popularity and increased utilization of on-demand food delivery services by China’s growing middle class have made it difficult for longstanding instant noodle brands to prevent their sales from plummeting. In response, however, some companies are abandoning their outdated, “junk food” noodles and instead are taking measures to meet the demands of changing trends and fad diets in China. According to Alex Lo, president of Uni-President Enterprises, the instant noodle company is now focusing on high-end instant noodle products, which “[are] in line with the consumption upgrade in China.”[xix]

Whether the main reasoning behind the reduction in consumption of instant noodles is because of limited rural worker migration to China’s large cities, the desire for more nutritious and higher quality foods, or a culmination of both, it is without a doubt that movements in China’s economy and social tendencies have a direct impact on the state of the instant noodle.  However, noodles as a whole are so heavily engrained in the Chinese culture that these fluctuations in society have not had the power to eliminate noodles from the Chinese diet. Rather, the type and the way the noodles are prepared and served are simply transformed alongside the historical transformation of China itself. Noodles have served and will continue to serve as a manifestation of the preferences of the Chinese palate and the state of China as a whole.


[i] Roach, John. “4,000 Year Old Noodles Found in China.” National Geographic, National Geographic Society, 12 Oct. 2005, news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2005/10/1012_051012_chinese_noodles.html.

[ii] “Global Demand of Noodles.” History | World Instant Noodles Association., World Instant Noodles Association, 2018, instantnoodles.org/en/noodles/market.html.

[iii] Li, Shi. “The Economic Situation of Rural Migrant Workers in China.” China Perspectives, French Centre for Research on Contemporary China, 15 Dec. 2010, chinaperspectives.revues.org/5332.

[iv] Migrant. “282 Million Rural Migrant Workers in China.” GBTIMES, GBTIMES Beijing, 15 Mar. 2017, gbtimes.com/chinas-rural-migrant-workers-totals-282-million-2016.

[v] “Migrant Workers and Their Children.” China Labour Bulletin, China Labour Bulletin, 24 May 2018, www.clb.org.hk/content/migrant-workers-and-their-children.

[vi] Huocan, Lin. “Listed Instant-Noodle Manufacturers See Profit Declines in H1.” China Economic Net, Chine Economic Net, 12 Sept. 2013, en.ce.cn/Insight/201309/12/t20130912_1486469.shtml.

[vii] Atkinson, Simon. “Why Are China Instant Noodle Sales Going off the Boil?” BBC News, BBC, 20 Dec. 2017, www.bbc.com/news/business-42390058.

[viii] Liu, Coco. “Returning Migrants: the Chinese Economy’s next Great Hope.” South China Morning Post, South China Morning Post, 17 Mar. 2018, www.scmp.com/week-asia/business/article/2137034/returning-migrants-chinese-economys-next-great-hope.

[ix] Rasper, Anke. “World in Progress: Chinese Migrant Workers Return Home | DW | 25.01.2017.” DW.COM, Deutsche Welle, 25 Jan. 2017, www.dw.com/en/world-in-progress-chinese-migrant-workers-return-home/av-37269340.

[x] Reuters. “As China’s Economy Slows, Migrant Workers Head Home.” Fortune, Fortune, 10 Oct. 2016, fortune.com/2016/10/10/china-economy-migrant-workers/.

[xi] Chan, Tara Francis. “Falling Instant-Noodle Sales Points to the Economic Rise of Rural China.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 18 Dec. 2017, www.businessinsider.com/fewer-rural-migrants-moving-to-chinas-cities-2017-12.

[xii] “Sales of Instant Noodles Declining Fast in China.” The Straits Times, Singapore Press Holdings, 17 Dec. 2017, www.straitstimes.com/asia/east-asia/sales-of-instant-noodles-declining-fast-in-china.

[xiii] Zhuoqiong, Wang. “Instant Noodles Market Cools Off.” China Developing a Taste for the World’s Best Wine – EUROPE – Chinadaily.com.cn, 17 Aug. 2017, europe.chinadaily.com.cn/business/2017-08/17/content_30722149.htm.

[xiv] He, Laura. “China’s Growing Middle Class Lose Appetite for Instant Noodles.” South China Morning Post, South China Morning Post, 21 Aug. 2017, www.scmp.com/business/companies/article/2107540/chinas-growing-middle-class-lose-appetite-instant-noodles.

[xv] Chan, Tara Francis. “Falling Instant-Noodle Sales Points to the Economic Rise of Rural China.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 18 Dec. 2017, www.businessinsider.com/fewer-rural-migrants-moving-to-chinas-cities-2017-12.

[xvi] He, Laura. “China’s Growing Middle Class Lose Appetite for Instant Noodles.” South China Morning Post, South China Morning Post, 21 Aug. 2017, www.scmp.com/business/companies/article/2107540/chinas-growing-middle-class-lose-appetite-instant-noodles.

[xvii] Shi, Kaikai. “The 5 Most Popular Food Delivery Apps in China.” AllTechAsia, AllTechAsia, 9 Feb. 2018, alltechasia.com/5-popular-food-delivery-apps-china/.

[xviii] Liangyu. “China Focus: Sales of Instant Noodles Softening Fast in China.” XinhuaNet, XinhuaNews, 17 Dec. 2017, www.xinhuanet.com/english/2017-12/17/c_136832517.htm.

[xix] He, Laura. “China’s Growing Middle Class Lose Appetite for Instant Noodles.” South China Morning Post, South China Morning Post, 21 Aug. 2017, www.scmp.com/business/companies/article/2107540/chinas-growing-middle-class-lose-appetite-instant-noodles.

Reshteh in Ash by Tanya Rajabi

Reshteh in Ash

When mother made ash-e-reshteh in a pot as deep as can be

She would soak the kashk days in advance

She would rinse and dry the fresh parsley, cilantro, and dill

After the aroma overwhelmed the air

She cooked a colorful rainbow of legumes separately

She would boil water until it was ready to consume the reshteh

Onions fried at the last moment to please both palates and aesthetics

Soon the smell of ash is was to dominate

Each spoonful was destined to contain each ingredient

In perfect harmony

And after swallowing the liquid soup

A pleasant surprise remained when encountering the texture of the reshteh

Not too rough, but not like silk

A sensation perfectly in between

That brought warmth to our beings

And pride to her heart


What piece did you choose to imitate?

I chose to imitate Noodles in Broth by Hong Junju.

Why did you choose this piece?

I chose to imitate Noodles in Broth because the poem immediately stood out to me through my first reading of it. On the surface, the poem appeared to be rather simply written. However, I greatly admired how the simplicity in the author’s recitation of the steps required to prepare the noodles seemed to simultaneously convey that Chinese food in fact is not simple to make. In contrast to the way the poem was constructed, it appeared as if the skill and articulation of the chef seemed to truly mask the complication of the food. Furthermore, the poem transitioned within the final stages to include the sensation brought upon the consumers of the “noodles in broth,” which was that of serenity and joy. What ultimately caused me to want to recreate this poem was the appreciate I felt towards Junju for demonstrating how an act so complicated could transfer such natural emotions to its surroundings. Simple pleasures, like those brought upon by food, are in fact the most gratifying to be felt.

What did you learn about the culture of the original author through imitating his or her style?

When writing my own poem, the first step I took was to observe the details the author chose to focus on. Through several reads, I noticed that the author spent the majority of the poem using quite vivid imagery and complicated descriptions to convey the act of the chef preparing and cooking the “noodles in broth,” with phrases such as “With a light feather he would brush the flour.” However, he juxtaposed the intricacy of the first eight lines by transitioning his style in the last four lines to a very straightforward portrayal of the emotions that the bowl of soup brought upon the consumers, such as the mention that “The body would relax.” Although I added some of my own elements to my poem, such as the aroma of the “ash-e-reshteh,” I definitely tried to mimic Junju’s writing by focusing most on the contrast between the cooking of the dish and the emotions felt afterwards. Ultimately, I realized that cooking Chinese food is truly an art, and the fact that a chef or any community member would spend hours preparing something so intricate for others puts food in the center as the top force in bringing Chinese families and friends together.

What did you learn about your own culture while writing?

While writing my own version of Junju’s Noodles in Broth, I realized that when an Iranian mother, or any Iranian for that matter, is to cook a meal, they truly transform themselves into chefs. No matter what their actual occupation in life is, their only role for the period spent cooking is to create a dish that will not only nourish the body, but will also transfer joy and conviviality to the lives of the consumers. I wanted to ensure that my “Reshteh in Ash” had the capability of demonstrating this exact value of family and friendship appreciation so engrained within the culture of Iranians.

Is there cultural DNA embedded in the piece you read and in your piece? How does this DNA manifest in the texts?

I believe what truly caused Noodles in Broth to stand out among other poems was in fact the cultural DNA that penetrated through every line. Any reader could understand that the direct cause of the relaxation in the body and the “Smile [that] would come to the lips” of the author was the sensation that the noodles brought. Whether the pleasure was exuded because of the taste and warmth of the noodles, because of the appreciation and love towards the chef, or simply a combination of both, it is clear that food is a driving force of conviviality in this culture.  I recognized these same emotions in my own experiences I have felt when encountering homemade food, specifically in Iranian dishes as complicated as “ash-e-reshteh,” so I believed it would only be fit to create my own version of Noodles in Broth. Such sensations can definitely be experienced in any food-orientated culture, specifically Chinese and Iranian cultures in this case.

There also seems to be some sort of ambiguity prevalent within Junju’s very last line, that states that “A smile would come to the lips, and the body would relax.” One may assume that it is mouth and the body of the consumer of the noodles that would smile and relax, as I initially did. However, through repeated readings, the performer of these pleasurable actions seemed to be less clear, as it is indeed possible that it is the chef who is smiling after observing the enjoyment that his meal caused. This ambiguity thus serves the purpose of demonstrating that there is pleasure on both the side of the chef and those the chef cooks for, furthering the idea that food is a driving force in creating harmony in social situation in such cultures. I realized that this ambiguity is present within Iranian culture as well, but for the sake of my poem, I chose to explicitly state that positive emotions were felt on both the side of the chef and the consumer.




Noodles: A Mode of Transportation by Tanya Rajabi

There is no doubt that the noodle is quite directly used as a means of temporary nourishment for the day. However, through, legends, history, and culture it becomes evident that the idea behind the noodle serves the greater purpose of being a permanent means of well-being, advancement, and success in physical, social, and spiritual aspects in life. Although used as a staple part of diets across the world, their uses are distinct among every region, as are their integral role in shaping their respective cultures. Thus, we come to the conclusion that a single identity cannot be used in reference to noodles. Rather, the definition of noodles and the cultural implications beyond its physical definition is unique among regions and is constantly changing within regions themselves.

The beauty of having such a dish so ancient like noodles is that the dish travels with the culture and civilization through time. In this way, noodles are not a dish consumed in Chinese culture, but rather is a way to demonstrate and maintain the Chinese traditions of the past, while simultaneously being molded to portray changing times. The nomenclature of noodles, the method of consumption used, and when they are made throughout the year have proven to be one of the most enriching ways of telling the history and customs of the country. Looking at simply the nomenclature of dishes involving, the Chinese ideals of respect for elders and parents, desire for children’s success, and camaraderie can be derived, which is still resonated within Chinese families today. For example, the name dutiful son’s noodles used in the place of seafood noodles was derived because of the ancient story of Yi Yin feeding his sick and bedridden mother a soup made with noodles, chicken, pig bones, and seafood (Noodles, Traditionally and Today). The traditional value of respecting elders, which I, myself, have vividly noticed when spending time with my Chinese friends, is thus represented within this dish and serves as a reminder of the etiquette heavily emphasized in Chinese culture today.

Furthermore, noodles were both directly and indirectly the cause of industrialization and development within China and Italy. The yearn to increase noodle varieties and develop better and more efficient techniques to make and create noodles resulted in faster methods of cooking and new devices, ultimately leading to more time to focus elsewhere and in other sectors of society. Therefore, noodles have in a way been a driving force engrained within not only culture but also within government and economics. Whether new developments were intentional or accidental, each carry a story that contributes to the cultural and industrial wealth of the society as well as attributes to the ingenuity and dedication of the people. We can see these new developments in the story behind the accidental creation of the Yi noodles by Yi Bingshou during the Qing dynasty, which served as a framework for the creation of modern day instant noodles by Momofuku Ando hundreds of years later (Noodles, Traditionally and Today). Not only did the invention of instant noodles cause a revolution in eating habits and fast food, but through various settlements and lawsuits, it also sparked competition and regulation in markets which undoubtedly benefited the economy.

The creation of the noodle itself and the time spent consuming it must be truly taken notice of in order to understand the importance of family and friendship within Italian and Chinese households. The foundation of the Mediterranean food pyramid, which is used as the framework of Italian diets, is spending time and enjoying the company of family and friends, emphasizing how important camaraderie is within Italian culture. In his book, Made in Italy, Giorgio Locatelli reminisced about how growing up, spending time with his family involved gathering in the kitchen and making homemade pasta to share with those he cared about. It is apparent that each noodle created served as a celebration of family and life, reflecting the convivial values of Italian culture.

There is no way to truly encompass within a single definition the wide breadth of the taste of a noodle, the adventures the noodle has experienced while traveling across the world, its wisdom gained through the passing of time, the culture it has carried through history. However, I believe an extremely paraphrased and incomplete definition would be something along the lines of: a global, staple food made in a various ways with a variety of ingredients and is used as a vehicle of transporting people of today to the past, a method of bringing the traditions of the past to the present, and a means of celebrating culture and each other in between.

All in all, noodles have served the purpose of fueling people when a country and the civilization depending on it needed fueling, as well as uniting a civilization together when a country needed harmony. From references to various forms of noodles in ancient texts and images in China and Italy as well as its maintenance not only in diets in those aforementioned countries but also in diets around the world, there is no room left to deny how powerful the ever-evolving noodle has been in shaping global culinary culture. As ideas and materials were exchanged around the world, as resources were in surplus, depleted, or introduced, and as wars and invasions took place within history, the noodle was there to hold these occurrences within its grains, whilst altering slightly, in order to forever serve as a reminder of history, culture, and celebration of life.

I have chosen the image below to represent the multi-faceted noodle because it identifies noodles as a global food as it demonstrates them in both their Chinese and Italian varieties. Furthermore, it has shown the development of faster methods of creating noodles, showing just how far and progressed noodles have become in the present day.

Blog #1: The Significance of Food Beyond Taste – Tanya Rajabi

Although I was born in the United States, my parents’ Iranian background has resulted in my extensive upbringing and immersion into Iranian culture and traditions. Thus, it is not a surprise that my favorite foods are not American, Italian, Chinese, or other types of food that we typically see at American restaurants, but rather are Iranian. One of the more well-known Iranian dishes are kabobs. Kabobs are indigenous to many Middle Eastern countries, including Lebanon, Turkey, and Pakistan, but the Iranian variation remains my favorite by far. The Iranian version of the kabob includes many variations itself with different types and regions of beef, chicken, and lamb being used, often making it difficult to choose a single dish among all of the varieties at Iranian restaurants. My favorites, however, are kabob koobideh, which is made from ground beef mixed with chopped onions and parsley, and kabob barg, which are fillets of beef tenderloin. Both kabob koobideh and kabob barg are grilled on skewers over a fire and served with saffron basmati rice. Another dish that is commonly sought after in Iran is the Persian ash, which is a thick stew containing a great number of different ingredients depending on the specific type of ash served. It is very common for individual Iranian families to have their own variation of ash perfected through several generations with secret ingredients and twists. My family’s favorite version of ash is ash-e-jo, which is made with barley, meat, and a variety of herbs, legumes, and spices.

The taste of Persian kabobs and ash are undoubtedly exquisite. However, the cultural significance and traditions that accompany these dishes are what make them so enticing not only in my household but also in Iranian families all over the world. In Iranian culture, food is how you demonstrate your love and respect for guests, and thus, what you serve visitors sends a grand message about how you are treating them. The kabob is believed to have originated in the ancient Persian empire before spreading to the surrounding Middle Eastern and Mediterranean regions, making it a longstanding and important staple in Iranian culture. Kabobs, however, are very difficult to make in the home, so the best kabobs can be found in traditional Iranian restaurants. When important guests are invited to a Persian home, the host will typically order many skewers of different types of kabobs in advance to be either delivered or picked up for the gathering. When I see kabobs being served, I feel a great sense of appreciation toward the host for the respect they are expressing toward us. The Persian ash is similarly a very difficult dish to make, requiring a whole day’s worth of preparation of ingredients and cooking. Thus, it is not normally served at typical parties consisting of just friends, but rather is served at small gatherings with family members or during special occasions. A warm bowl of delicious ash strengthens the bonds within families, as the cook demonstrates their affection toward the family members by spending hours cooking the stew for them, and the consumers greatly expressing their appreciation of the cook in return. With every Iranian gathering with either friends or family, I come to admire Persian traditions even more for the sense of affection, friendship, and family consistently conveyed toward one another.

After my one year of living in Atlanta, one fact has been made quite clear: Atlanta is the center of one of the most diverse populations in the United States. This diversity can be seen on Emory’s campus, allowing me to acquire a great number of friends with different ethnic backgrounds. Prior to attending Emory, I had always avoided consuming Indian food due to my intolerance to spice. However, after meeting friends with Indian backgrounds, I finally mustered the courage to visit an Indian restaurant. To my surprise, I greatly enjoyed the dosa I ordered and looked forward to visiting several more Indian restaurants throughout the year. Similarly, I had the opportunity to visit Koreatown and Buford Highway with my new Korean and Chinese friends, where I tried Korean barbecue and ramen for the first time and experienced the unique yet distinct environments of the two cultures. I was also undoubtedly exposed to the hospitable culture of the southern kitchen in Georgia. Furthermore, Atlanta is home to Rumi, one of the best Persian restaurants in the United States. I frequently visited Rumi to not only receive the sensation of a home-cooked meal that I had dearly missed while at Emory, but also to introduce my friends to Persian cuisine. My friends greatly enjoyed the food and were amazed at how nicely the restaurant presented itself and treated its guests, which of course made me proud of my Iranian background. Overall, the variety of ethnic backgrounds in Atlanta initially drew me toward Emory and has ever since allowed me to immerse myself in cultures I had never previously been exposed to. Luckily, I have three years left at Emory to continue meeting diverse groups of people and exploring cuisines from around the world.