How We Can Learn To Eat More Mindfully By Observing Other Cultures! (3/3)

“Proud to be…”

Following my first 2 blogs, here is some more reflection on foreign cultures and their eating habits in our journey to eat more mindfully. I have observed that in Europe there is a real concern about the area where food comes from – whether it is wine or other local foods. I believe this comes from a cultural instinct and pride to seek the most authentic and genuine ingredients possible to respect the culturally specific way we prepare foods. Italians insisting on “Prosciutto di Parma”, or French insisting on “Champagne”, or the “AOC” (controlled designation of origin) labels on many products throughout Europe are a few examples. Growing up in the USA, I remember quality being described through advertising with examples like “melts in your mouth not in your hands”, “finger lickin’ good”, “it’s the real thing”, “America runs on Dunkin’ or “Snap, Crackle, Pop”. Are we really proud to share these culinary delicacies with foreign guests? Recently our American culture has picked up on the quality trend with labels like “Food with integrity” or “The best coffee for the best you” and some regions are truly proud to show off local traditional foods (and deservedly so!), but as a rule I believe there is still something to be learned from the old countries here.

My third observation….Because you’re worth it!

On average Europeans eat more fresh, unprocessed, and organic foods. This is not because it is a trendy fad; it is a normal, expected part of the culture. Europeans pride themselves on milk and cheese that are not over processed, meat and poultry that are fresh daily, and produce that is mostly grown locally. Bread is something most of Europeans would RARELY think of buying day-old. Homes and refrigerators are generally smaller so people tend to buy groceries fresh daily and only in the amounts needed. By the way, grocery stores and markets are also generally smaller too so it takes less time to shop around!

About 60% of the foods that make up the diet of the average American are ultra-processed, pre-packaged items which are often high in calories, sugar, saturated fat and sodium, as well as additives, preservatives and colorants. Processed foods are typically faster to eat as well and can encourage “eating on the run” or multitasking. Just compare the time it takes to down a fast food burger with the time to eat a steak and salad, or a slice of soft industrialized white bread with a fresh crusty whole-meal baguette. Naturally, most people will choose convenience if they are on the run or busy. Unfortunately, we have all observed that multitasking while eating can cause us to lose touch with our natural appetite.

What can we learn?

Quality is not a trend but the degree of excellence we give our food, always. What grade would you give your food in terms of excellence? Do you know the ingredients in most of your foods? I think that we can be inspired by European cultural pride and seek out our own quality, minimally processed, local fresh foods that we can be both proud and pleased to eat. In combination with taking the time to eat (blog 1), focusing on how hungry or full we are rather than “portion size” (blog 2), this attention to quality can truly support us in our mindful eating journey.

I love America and I love Europe, and I feel blessed living somewhere that seems like a middle place between the two worlds. Every geographic region and cultural group has its own eating culture; there is no one, universally “healthy” or “best” way to eat. I do believe, however, that through observing international cuisines and cultures in terms of quality, quantity, speed and eating practices we can be inspired in our quest to become more mindful. What do you think? What observations have you made?

Bon Appétit!