The food culture in the United States is a relative piece of life. It is very common to eat quick meals, especially at fast-food and drive-thru restaurants. Being a society that moves at a very fast pace and has a large emphasis on success can often push meals aside as an afterthought. Because there are many parts of the United States that struggle to get healthy foods, areas known as food deserts, many people are unable to enjoy nutritious meals on a regular basis. As a society, we collectively are not as accustomed to taking time with our food. Even within families, I would say that it is much less common for relatives to sit at a table and eat together every night.
I feel that food is a vital part of life. Not only do people need healthy good foods in order to survive, but to live as well. Eating food that is grown locally is not only much better for the environment but also helps people connect to where they live. Because many Americans live far from where their food is produced, many are unaware of what food systems exist. I believe that the connection America has to singular food items, such as the russet potato, which is used to make french fries in many major chains, is harmful for many reasons. Not only does this obsession promote monocultures, but it also limits our diets substantially. Consuming the number of processed foods that we do is not a healthy or sustainable option in the long term. Although I believe there are more people demanding to be knowledgeable about what they put in their bodies, we are still a long way from a food-educated society.
I know that in other cultures there is a much greater emphasis on the act of eating. Going out for a meal is an ordeal in itself and food is meant to be enjoyed with company. I know that I have always struggled with slowing down while eating, which I mostly attribute to the society that I was raised in. I believe that people from outside the United States would have a hard time comprehending how Americans fuel our bodies and how little we regard what we eat. I think it would definitely be a cultural shock, in a similar way to how I will be surprised when I go abroad.
I know that in Greece, people take eating much more seriously. Due to diet among other reasons, Greece has an island called Ikaria, which houses some of the oldest people in the world. It is considered one of just five “Blue Zones” where the life expectancy is over ninety. I was told in a pre-departure meeting by a local Greek that “food is to taste, not to eat”. I had not considered this perspective previously and am excited to live in a culture that values health and community. I am curious how I will feel upon returning to the United States in the winter.