We live in an ever changing food environment. It’s inevitable that the world is going to change once again and while this happens, it is especially enlightening to see where we really started in terms of our food consumption. It’s funny, most of us don’t even realize the work that goes into the food we eat every day, when in reality that very same work is directly tied to the quality of the food that we eat. It is also interesting to look at a country as traditional as India and see how their view of food is so drastically different from our own, as they know first hand the effort that goes into each grain of rice and therefore respect food much more than we do as Americans. It is important to learn from these insights in order to educate ourselves in a more positive manner. It’s not just for us; it’s for our future children to live in a more culturally aware world.
In India in 1994, the story was much different, mainly due to the drastically different standard of labor that exists in the country. Where America is all about modernization and changing trends, India has one of the most traditional cultures still existing in the world today. Much of its food labor deals with growing rice paddies or traditional crops such as beans and okra. This traditional culture, for the most part, has not changed to reflect any real trend or recent fad of the area. It is incredible to see how two very different cultures can exist at the exact same time.
Food is everything. What people eat throughout the years in America has evolved to better fit the growing trends that come about. The same can be said of India, but at a slightly different pace and in a much different direction. To better understand the differences between the food of India and America, it is necessary to journey back to the year 1994, before the Internet boom that dominated the early 2000s. In America, food as well as food labor was driven by the new idea that exercise was the newest and best way to stay healthy and keep your body working right. Manufacturers were starting to create new ways to make everything reduced fat, low-fat, or fat-free. This new ideal drove how food laborers worked on creating healthier ways for people to enjoy food, with organizations such as Weight Watchers gaining real traction.
I identify as an Indian-American; Indian comes first. Don’t ask me why, it’s not like I’m more Indian than American. To be honest, I view myself as much more the latter, in the sense that I identify most with American culture. I think that’s what America is in a nutshell, an amalgamation of people who are comfortable with the distinct culture that exists here. This culture extends to, and is a big part of what people eat and have eaten throughout the years. I gained this interest in the food culture of America and India based on my experience reading the national bestseller Heat written by Bill Buford. This book studies the experiences of a man working under chef Mario Batali and his struggles with grasping the different intricacies of both American and traditional Italian food. Reading about the rich culture of Italy and how deeply the people there care about their food inspired me to read more into the food of my own homeland of India.