The French, for instance, would never consider multi-tasking while eating. In French Women Don’t Get Fat, author Mireille Guiliano suggests that sitting down and eating mindfully is a key factor in the French woman’s ability to stay slim. In the land of leisurely meals, savoring food deliberately increases the feeling of satisfaction, which helps control overeating and portion size.
Chinese believe that foods can play significant roles in body health and vitality. Ingredients are described as “hot,” “cold” or “neutral,” and depending on people’s body status, foods of the opposite nature are eaten to bring the body back to balance. It’s also believed that eating certain foods together can be detrimental to the body, but eating seasonal food has great benefits, as seasonality coincides with nature. The Chinese saying “Yi Shi Yang Sheng” means eat well, stay healthy.
To Italians, family is everything, and the whole household sits down together to eat. Multiple generations may be involved in preparing food, and recipes are passed down through the family like heirlooms. No one eats until everyone is present and seated. As one regional proverb goes, Chi mangia e non invita, possa strozzarsi con ogni mollica (He who eats alone and invites no one, may choke with every crumb)
The art of kaiseki
The traditional Japanese multi course meal known as kaiseki is the ultimate experience in the pleasure and beauty of food. Dishes of exquisitely prepared food, chosen to honor the season with the ingredients selected and the individual bowls and vessels used to present them, build into a meal that approaches perfection. As Vaughn Tan wrote in his 2009 article “Understanding Kaiseki,” for The Atlantic magazine, “By meal’s end, I was satisfied in the broadest sense of the word: fantastically delicious food made with care and thought eaten in the company of people who feel strongly about food often does that to me. But beyond that, kaiseki’s underlying structure is part of what makes it so rich and satisfying to compose, prepare, and consume.”
The french paradox
The French Paradox lies in the belief that while the average French person eats more saturated fat in the form of butter and cheese than the average American, the incidence of coronary heart disease is much lower—could it be all that red wine? While the science has since been called into question, the real secret could be mindful eating. Eating more slowly, and with full awareness of the food as the French do, provides time to savor each bite.
"The meaning of food"
This PBS.org documentary series explores our relationships to food and reveals food’s connections to our personal, cultural, and familial identities. As host and chef Marcus Samuelsson says, “Food is powerfully symbolic and really complex. Through food we express love. We bring comfort and hope. We forge new relationships and strengthen old bonds. Food reaffirms not only our humanity but the joy of being alive.”
Just a few of the cultural differences and similarities the program reveals:
Pork is the most widely eaten meat in the world. Wild pigs, found worldwide, have been domesticated since the Stone Ages.
A typical Japanese mother spends almost an hour crafting every lunch into a healthful, beguiling blend of cartoon characters, flora and fauna that will make the food appeal to her child.
Salt was used as a method of exchange for Roman soldiers, giving rise to the word salary and the root of the expression “worth his salt.”
The durian, a delicious fruit with a putrid smell, has been banned from public transportation in some countries.