One thing I have noticed since returning to the US is Americans have a very weird relationship with food. I’m not even talking about the all too well known American habit of consuming grotesquely large serving sizes of both food and drink. No, what I’m getting at is the way Americans view food and refer to food.
It seems as though the American mind has abstracted food to its constituent parts, and rather than regarding cooking and eating as one of life’s great pleasures, food is perversely seen as fuel at best and sin at worst. This is reflected in the comments that I hear American people make, which strike me as bizarre – at the dinner table, someone said to me, “Pass the carbs.” I’m thinking, do you mean to say, “Pass me that basket of delicious crusty bread rolls”?
At work one day, I saw a colleague salting and peppering some hard boiled eggs for breakfast. I said “Mmm, that looks tasty” (clearly, I have been living away from African street food for long enough that hard boiled eggs have once again become appetizing to me). She responded by saying, “I need to eat some protein.” I was once on a dinner date and, when we were selecting items from the menu to share, I suggested a salad, to which the guy said, “Yes, let’s get some roughage.” Roughage? What, are we livestock?
I was on a business trip with a colleague and, when she saw me eat a bowl of noodles for dinner, she asked if I had eaten enough. I was taken aback, because I had just watched her eat one Luna Bar – a nutrition bar similar to a PowerBar – for dinner. So I returned the question to her. At which point she said, “Oh, that contains 12 grams of protein.” Wait, is that a meal? Is that even food?
I’m convinced this is part of the reason why so many Americans are overweight. I lived in France and ate plenty of delicious croissants (not carbs) and foie gras (not fat) and poulet (not protein) and yet I, like most French women, did not get fat (as explained in the book French Women Don’t Get Fat). French people love to eat, and they love food for what it is: food. One of life’s great pleasures. They take time and joy and pleasure in its preparation and consumption, rather than eating on the go while doing something else, American style.
I must go now, because it’s time for me to eat dinner: a delicious, home-cooked Ukrainian meal of borscht, dumplings, and salads. I couldn’t tell you what’s in it, but I know it’s going to be mouth watering.