What do references to food throughout the novel Jasmine show about Jasmine? What do her practices say about her in America? Specifically, how does food play a role in her identity?

References to food throughout the novel Jasmine are connected with culture and with identity transformation. Through changing attitudes toward food, Jasmine provides intermediary identity between Jyoti and Jane. In America, her practices show how Jasmine initially tries to remain within Indian culture. As Jane, she engages in assimilation to American culture and comes to understand its multicultural bases.

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Food is an intrinsic part of the way that Bharati Mukherjee shows transformation in cultural terms. The changes that Jasmine undergoes, in the three locations of India, New York, and Iowa, are associated with different ideas about culture and nationality.

In India, Jyoti is thoroughly steeped in the food traditions of her family, social class, and gender. With no broader frame of reference, she does not associate food with cultural uniqueness. In New York, Jasmine sees how the attitudes of the immigrant family, the Vadheras, center on maintaining Indian food traditions. She learns American social customs from interacting with the Hayes family. Trying to adhere to Indian culinary custom, paradoxically, does not nourish her. As her body grows, her spirit suffers.

As Jane, her experience living in the United States allows her to understand food as an essential part of cultural heritage for people of many backgrounds or ingredients in the American “melting pot.” When Du becomes part of her life, Jane gains insight into food as survival and cultural artifact. The idea of “tongue” joins the natural and cultural worlds through its literal function in the sense of taste and its use as a metaphor for language. Jane’s acceptance of the possibilities and limitations of her status as an immigrant is facilitated through her insights into food.

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