diets (plural noun)
the kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats
Cultural dietary patterns are a window to the world. Understanding cultural food choices have the potential to bring us together and improve our perceptions of the different cultures around us. Think of all the reasons we choose the foods we do and what this can reveal about us: traditions, family structure, access to foods, time, money, cooking skills, etc. I grew up in a predominantly Norwegian culture in the upper Midwest. Summer vacations to visit my relatives made me assess my family and community food choices and diets. Maybe you have heard the jokes about Norwegians and white foods/meals: white fish, white potatoes, white bread, white gravy??? This is definitely an over-simplification of the Norwegian dietary pattern, but it gives me a sense of community.
Currently, there is a movement to re-think culture in the United States. We are moving away from a “melting pot” concept for describing the assimilation of immigrants into American culture to more of a “salad bowl” concept. The melting pot image is one of different cultures mixing and melting together. Whereas, the salad bowl suggests the integration of the many different cultures combined like a salad. Staying with the food metaphor, I would like to think the success of our society is comparable to fusion cooking. Fusion cuisine combines elements of different culinary traditions to create a new style of cooking.
Fusion cooking can be unsettling. It makes us step out of our comfort zone and question our habits. We might question why we have prepared certain recipes only a certain way. It can change us. It is an experiment that could go wrong, however, with a little practice, a masterpiece can be created. In fact, we might already be eating fusion cooking without knowing it. Tex-Mex, anyone? How about spaghetti and meatballs? It gives you the opportunity to venture out without losing sight of your heritage. What could be safer? And since I gave this blog a French title, I will close with saluting your future cooking adventures with Bon Appétit.
Susan Saffel-Shrier, M.S., R.D., C.D., is a registered dietician and certified gerontologist, and currently serves as Associate Professor in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine and Adjunct Associate Professor in the Division of Nutrition at the University of Utah. Susan provides both general nutrition services and geriatric nutrition as part of the Senior Clinic at the Sugar House Health Center and is an active member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine.