Reflections on Eating Habits and Who a Person Is
There is one memory I possess which is directly related to food. I was four or five and I was hurt badly by my brother. My mother tells me she knew I was seriously hurt because I actually sat still for thirty minutes straight. Well, to take my mind off of my pain, my mother offered to make me my favorite meal at the time. The part I remember is that when she gave it to me, I did not like it, and this was my all time favorite food. Have others of varying backgrounds and ages also had the same shaping experiences with food that I have? My eating style reflects who I am and who my parents are, but it does not reflect on where I was raised.
To determine what a person’s eating style even is, one must look back at the upbringing of the individual. I interviewed three very different men, each of a different age, with a different background, and inevitably, a different upbringing. Zach, 18, was raised here in Raleigh, but also lived in Poughkeepsie, New York and South Bend, Indiana; Sander, 52, was raised outside of Chicago, but has lived in Denver, St. Thomas, Tucson, and Raleigh. While there are some similaritities among the mens’ food styles, the differences stem from upbringings in different times by people of different values.
Zach grew up in a typical middle class family with two children. He claims ancestors from Germany, Great Britain, and Norway. As a child, he was fed mostly health food, organic and wholesome but bland. A typical meal involved meat, fruit, vegetables, and milk. He was allowed some junk food as his favorite food was hot dogs and mayonnaise. Today, Zach enjoys a more flavorful diet, his favorite food being lasagna because of the different textures. His family taught him to eat everything on his plate, but if that was not possible, to save it for another day. For guests or special events Zach likes to prepare spaghetti because it is wholesome and because it is not an everyday food. Even though Zach is now a student in college he still meets his father for dinner every Tuesday night to talk.
Sander was raised by a more affluent second generation Jewish Polish family in the suburbs of Chicago. Growing up he remembers being forced to eat the likes of cow tongue, but more typically some sort of meat course, bread, greens, and milk. His favorite food as a child was a hot turkey sandwich prepared by a local deli. Because of his humble roots, Sander was taught to eat everything on his plate or else save it for another meal. Today, he serves guests the likes of roast beef because it is nicer than usual and it is different from his ordinary meal. His family does not really practice any real traditions, save the Jewish tradition of keeping kosher. As a consultant for a computer company he works many long days and to comfort himself he goes to dairy foods like ice cream, macaroni and cheese and cheese blintzes, a Jewish delicacy.
Although these men were raised at different points in history by different families, it is easy to tell that who they are and what they eat is dependent on how they were raised. The location of the family seems to have little influence on the outcome of one’s eating style. Although it can be pointed out that the background of a family, that is their ancestry, does play an important role in determining how a family raises a child to appreciate certain foods and eating styles.