Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Things I like: Americas obsession with food

When I say America is obsessed with food I am not talking about burgers and fries and Coca Cola. I am talking about good, healthy, gourmet food.

I actually wrote a whole blog entry about it a few days ago but didn't publish it because I wasn't happy with the way I wrote it and then today I see this article from the New York Times. And they did a way better job at describing what is happening here in the US right now.

I have always believed there are two kinds of people in this world - people who love food and people who don't care much about food. Those people who love food are usually also into cooking or of they aren't into cooking they at least go to very good restaurants. People who love food are picky - not with the kind of food they eat but with the quality of food that they consume. 
People who don't care much about food think that a Big Mac makes a good dinner. They can eat the same food for two weeks in a row and not feel deprived. They don't see a need in trying new foods, new cuisines because they are quite happy with what they know.
I believe that wether you love food or not is 50% determined by your personality and 50% by your upbringing. I believe you can learn to love good food. There are also of course various stages of food love.

In my "research" (which consists of having lived with many different kinds of people) I found that people who like food and people who don't care about food come in all shapes and sizes. I did find that people who don't care about food are often very skinny or very big and that they are very often not healthy because they don't care about the nutrition they put in their body, they just want a quick fix and thus resort to ready meals and fast food.
People who love food most often are a normal weight, sometimes a few pounds overweight but usually still quite healthy. But of course - there is no "standard".

One sign of Americas obsession with food is the Food Network. This TV channel used to have a viewer-demographic of mostly 50-80 year olds. In the past two years this has changed drastically. Not only did they increase their ratings by 10% - just this past year - they now also appeal to younger people. Maybe it's just that they have insanely hot cooks like Giada de Laurentiis and David Lieberman but I have another theory. I think in an attempt to not get fat, a lot of food lovers deprive themselves of what they really would like to eat. Watching the food network is like window shopping for eating.

Chicago especially is a food mecca. You have Wisconsin close by - the Diary State - which produces wonderful cheeses (even though I still prefer French cheeses) and the German influence is definitely noticeable (I have never been to Wisconsin but I have had a lot of food made in Wisconsin).
One of the best restaurants in the US - Alinea - is in Chicago.
There are a few different food festivals in Chicago.
There is a Korea town, a China town, an Italian village, an Ukranian village, a German neighborhood, an Indian neighborhood ... 
And let's not forget about the farmers markets. 

Personally I really enjoy that. I am one of those people who love food and America's obsession with food has really pulled me in. I love that I have a fantastic German butcher close by. I am all over Trader Joe's and Whole Foods. I feel like the use of Kosher salt has seriously improved the quality of my food and making and freezing my home-made chicken stock has revolutionized my cooking.

When I first moved to America I wanted to try everything. I tried the processed foods like Hamburger Helpers and Rice-a-roni but I didn't like it. It also made me feel kind of ill. American ready-made food is stuffed with bad stuff like high-fructose corn syrup, trans-fat and MSG

It is really funny how split this nation is on the topic of food. On one side you have to check all the labels to see what you are eating and on the other hand you have a humongous selection of healthy, organic food, readily available and much cheaper than in Europe.
When New York announced a ban of trans-fat I saw people on the net complaining how this would eliminate all tasty food - this is how used to processed foods people have gotten. They can't imagine food being tasty without all those evil ingredients!

I for one hope for the food revolution described in the New York Times article. I want my future children to get healthy food in school. I want to be able to go to a non-organic supermarket and not having to carefully observe all the ingredients because I can't trust a label that says "all natural". I want more farmers markets and less genetically enhanced food.

And America seems to be with me on that one.

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