Western vs Eastern Food Choices

A colleague recently asked me what the difference was between Chinese and American cuisine, besides our bread staples. I told her our general attitude toward eating is different; Americans trust science, Chinese trust tradition. I told this young, thirty-something English professor that we often make healthy choices based on what science reports tell us is healthy. (The media often attempts to play the “honest” broker… which is equally damaging.)

She replied, “But isn’t science better?” To which I replied, “when children born after 2000 have a 1 in 3 chance of developing childhood diabetes, then we are doing something wrong.” In fact, its also a matter of household income. If you are a minority born after 2000, you’re likelihood of getting Western diseases diabetes increases. Watch Food Inc here, which is a documentary explaining this problem in more depth.

Although we owe a lot of advances in society to science, the use of science as a general method of dictating food choices to the mass audience has been a failure. When the PR of Frito-Lays defends consumers’ right to enjoy “fun” food, it starts to define us as a nation. There’s nothing fun about diabetes and heart failure, which has touched every single family in America.

The “Too Healthy” Complex

I’m not sure where this all came from, but while I was growing up in Middle-America 1990s, I specifically remember people getting called out as “Health Freaks” or “Health Nuts.” For whatever reason, which I’m finding bewildering today, a person who chose to eat Toufu or drink Soy products was trying too hard to be healthy. As clear as day, I remember other kids saying “my mom drinks soy milk at breakfast and its gross!” Another would say “What a health freak!”

Well, we all avoided those too-healthy things and stayed in the safe zone. Phew! But what is so scary about soy milk? I drink it a few times a week now that I’m in Asia. Its popular with children here too. Its part of a balanced breakfast, which also includes porridge(congee), hard boiled eggs, scallions and salty tubers. It’s delicious with a little bit of sugar too. (And I’m sure its healthier than coffee!)

As I enjoy the Asian diet everyday here, I find that a lot of my Western diet starts to disappear. I only eat toast with peanut butter because I miss home sometimes. I only eat a large hamburger or pizza when I go on a pricey date with my girlfriend. I eat chips with salsa or dip when I’m home for Christmas. Sandwiches have lost their flavor for me. Salad is also flavorless, and is nothing more than uncooked vegetables in my mind. I’m not a health nut, I just like Asian food better.