The United States is a food melting pot that is challenged to identify any singular type of cuisine that might be labeled as "traditional". Rightfully so, the first thing that comes to mind when I think of food in the U.S. is diversity. With each of our introductions last class we all shared something unique to each one of us that reflected on our families traditions or individual memories that stood out. Come to think of it, I would be shocked if multiple people in the room were to identify the same thing, be it their favorite food or even a similar story that produced their most memorable food moment. Across the board the U.S. has specialized in localized cuisines in each of its regions ranging from fresh coastal seafood to southern barbeque. We have appropriated foreign specialties to fulfill our desires and mastered food distribution at all scales, speeds, tastes, quantities, you name it, we got it. Where I think our strength lies is in our hybridization of both foreign + local cuisines and local + local cuisines. However, this identity of the food melting pot that gives us such a unique diversity is all too often overshadowed by the fast food industry that threatens to take root as our "traditional" cuisine to future generations.
In the two readings regarding Mexico's evolution of their tortilla industry and Russia's introduction and hybridization of McDonald's into their society, both authors articulate extremely clear arguments that identify how both cultures have transitioned from dependence on tradition to incorporating fast food into their daily lives. Mexico clearly identifies the tortilla not only as a traditional food but with a traditional way of life. It governed the lifestyles of families, especially women, so much so that it would be impossible to imagine life without it. It was during this reading that I had to admit that I have always taken the wide variety of food available to me for granted. Despite cooking on a daily basis, my daily way of life and routine is not governed by food, instead I govern the food that fits my daily way of life. This has left Americans in an extremely dangerous position that enables us to eat what we want, when we want it. I feel that this general lack of tradition has set the stage for many American families to adopt unstable diets.
In the case of Christine Dougherty who argues that eating fast food can actually help you lose weight, she has positioned her diet almost entirely around the fast food industry. “I don’t like to cook, and I wanted to be realistic without changing my lifestyle too much.” (Ellen, 2010) By eating exclusively off of Taco Bell's Fresco menu and incorporating daily exercise into her life, Christine has become the staple image for the franchises new "healthy" menu. The point being that despite the fast food industries attempts to offer healthier foods, the implications on Christine's life and future children could be severe if her daily life has been dependent on fast food simply because she doesn't like to cook. If we compare and contrast this to the Muscovites hybridization of fast food into their culture, we recognize first and foremost the importance of tradition - or nash - to their culture and that tradition extends to the point of familiarity, trust and comfort. Thus we see efforts to blend elements of the public food industry with the private and establish a relationship between the two. This relates to our discussion in class when we discussed potential pros and cons of fast food and I brought up that despite the pitfalls of fast food, it is critical that we as individuals do our part to live active healthy lifestyles and maintain a healthy diet.
It is important that we find a median somewhere in between adapting our diets to our daily lives and adapting ourselves to our diets. We live in an age that technology and industrialization has provided us with the tools to aid in the food production process, but that does not exempt us from educating ourselves of the essential vitamins and nutrients our body needs to sustain a days work.
Where fast food has threatened to brand American's with a new 'traditional' cuisine, this does not have to be the case. We have seen the efforts of Mexico and Russia to find a way to balance the two despite struggles to overcome both cultural and nutritional consequences. I have never interpreted the U.S. as a whole to truly be a fast food nation as I believe that the country has its roots in its various pockets. But these pockets are disappearing fast and family dinners along with them are to become nothing more than a myth.
Is fast food really taking over? Do you think that we should try to find some kind of balance if one doesn't already exist? Whats the first thing you think of regarding U.S. food? And lastly, how important is tradition to our diets? Does the U.S. have any one tradition in which we can all find common ground?
Pilcher, Jeffrey M. Industrial Tortillas and Folkloric Pepsi: The Nutritional Consequences of Hybrid Cuisines in Mexico. M. L. Caldwell and J. L. Watson. The Cultural Politics of Food and Eating, A Reader. (pp. 235-247). Blackwell Publishing.
Caldwell, Melissa L. Domesticating the French Fry: McDonald's and Consumerism in Moscow. M. L. Caldwell and J. L. Watson. The Cultural Politics of Food and Eating, A Reader. (pp. 180-192). Blackwell Publishing.