Tuesday, May 15, 2012

"American" diet

Catching up on superficial "news" of my friends and family on Facebook, i noticed the Weston Price posting about rice consumption in Asia.  I began idly reading some of the comments....

Most instructive, probably, were ones by people who moved to various oriental countries from foreign lands; the pattern seemed to go, "foreigners always think X, but Y is closer to the truth."  I think this observation is pretty universal.

Until you live in a place for a significant time, and are cooked-for by natives of that place in their everyday fashion, it's not easy to tell what those people really eat.  I'll use my own home country as an example.

I grew up in the middle of the U S of A, in the middle of the twentieth century.  We weren't well-off; my mother worked as a secretary since my early childhood; she did a good part of the cooking, though my sisters and grandmother (who lived with us for awhile) also did kitchen work.  We ate "balanced" meals, with animal protein, vegetables and starches for dinner every night (rarely dessert), and various things in moderation for other meals -- eggs, cereal, sandwiches, canned soup, etc.  We had minimal snacks and "drinks" (those are expensive).  My grandmother was obese, my mother "plump" and my sisters lean -- i, a hypothyroid, was chubby till my teen years.

My best friends in childhood and high-school had different situations, one richer and the other as poor as we (but less organized -- less home-cooking in both); their foods were different but "recognizable," and these friends and their families were also lean.  So what was American food in those days, cereal, cold cheese sandwich with margarine on white bread, kool-aid, fried chicken, canned vegetables, hotdogs, lots of potatoes...?  Today, i would refuse to eat it.

While i had guests in my house over the past month, i tried to cook meals (when we DID eat "in") that would be a compromise between what i wanted to eat and what they would enjoy; i cooked a liver casserole with onions and bacon (because i knew my mother, sister and niece like liver), fresh vegetables, mashed white sweet-potatoes, oven-braised brisket, grilled steaks, salads, that sort of thing.  When we ate out, my guests continued to order what i would call "real food."  Is this what "foreigners" consider American food, these days?   Or do they think what ALL people eat on vacation is typical of everyday fare?

In hotels, a "free" breakfast is frequently offered which is comprised of the worst possible "food" imaginable -- might as well guzzle straight sugar!  The kinds of restaurants which cluster around tourist-attractions and places of entertainment are far from representative of the kind of food which family members (who are less carb-conscious than i) typically cook, eat, or even order in REAL restaurants.  McDonald's, Pizza Hut, KFC, IHOP, Pasta House, Taco Bell, Dairy Queen, etc are NOT REAL RESTAURANTS.  Allow me to coin a new term -- these are Junkfood Parlors.  They do not serve American FOOD.  Americans may eat there, but it's far from typical, just like the statistics on how much sugar is consumed is not typical of me, my family, or of anyone i hang around with.

So it is for a lot of countries, i'm sure.  When it comes to white rice in Asia or sweet-potatoes in Kitava, the mere fact that these foods are eaten as a PROPORTION OF DIET means less than what measured quantity of them are eaten at once, and in what context.

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