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Foods have been described as being ethnic by anthropological, culinary and historical definitions, but no experimental definition describes what characteristics of these foods influence their being perceived as ethnic by consumers. By factorially removing the characterizing sauce, spice, and name from several ethnic foods, we determined the extent to which each of these variables influences consumers' perceptions of a food item as belonging to a particular ethnic cuisine. Basic chicken and sauce recipes from Chinese, Mexican, Italian, Cajun, Indian, and Black/Southern cuisines were studied. Results suggest that Chinese, Mexican, Italian, Indian, and Black/Southern food ethnicity can be influenced by sauce alone or by a sauce/name combination; Indian ethnicity also can be influenced by spice alone. A spice/name combination influenced perception of Cajun ethnicity, although respondents confused Cajun samples with Mexican, Italian, Indian, or Black/Southern, depending upon which variable was removed.
ethnic food, cuisine, perception, chicken, sauce, spice, product name, Chinese, Mexican, Italian, Cajun, Indian, Black/Southern, ethnic identification, factorial design, linear model analysis, chi-square
U.S. Army Natick Research, Development and Engineering Center, Natick, MA
Boston University, Boston, MA