The Culture of Food in America

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The Culture of Food in America
ANT 101

Abstract

Food is an essential part of any culture and it serves to show the diversity and unique aspects of different cultural beliefs. In the United States, there are people from diverse cultural groups and many different cultures. These groups possess unique culinary cultures, which add to diversity. This paper explores the different cultural groups present in the United States and their traditional foods. These cultures enable us to understand the concept of cultural diversity. The paper also explores divergence towards the “fast food” culture and its effects of the health of Americans. Two journal articles are used to further explain the unique American food culture; “Food choices in three ethnic groups: Interactions of ideals, identities, and roles” by Devine, Sobal, Bisogni, and Connors (1999) which explains that health, taste, time, cost and social relationships affect purchase decisions of food among all American cultures, while the second, “Fast-food consumption among U.S. adults and children: Dietary and nutrient intake profile” by Paeratakul, Champagne, Ferdinand, Ryan and Bray (2003) has shown that consumption of fast foods is actually bad for health. The findings are useful to the general public, health care practitioners and clinical medical anthropologists since they aid in the appreciation of the diversity of food from different cultures, and show the health and cultural homogenization dangers associated with a convergence towards a culture of fast food.

The Culture of Food in America

The United States has been defined as a cultural melting pot where people from diverse cultures and societies live in harmony. Many people from different backgrounds have immigrated to the U.S. in search for better jobs and opportunities. According to Miller (2007), these people have brought their cultures and created a rich cultural heritage within the United States. They include the Spanish, Mexicans, Africans, and many other ethnic groups from all over the world. One of the aspects of these cultures is food, which is a unique trait that helps to define the culture of an ethnic group (Miller 2007). Traditional American foods include crab cakes, beef barbecue, pizza, and slow cooked pork (Biddle, 2001). In addition, junk foods such as cookies and potato chips are in high demand, which has certain consequences on the health of the American population. This paper will analyze dietary habits of various American cultural groups and the effects of encroaching U.S. corporate fast food concepts of mass production, speed, standardization and impersonal service, otherwise known as “McDonaldization” (Miller 2007) on the health and cultural diversity of these groups. Due to the diversity of the American population, there are various foods consumed by different ethnic groups. In order for clinical medical anthropologists to better understand the different cultural dietary habits of Americans, foods consumed by these groups will be discussed below. African Americans

African American foods include leafy greens such as collard greens, yellow vegetables, rice, beans and potatoes. Most of the food consumed by this segment of the population is low in nutrients such as potassium, calcium and fiber (Devine et. al., 2002). Due to the low average incomes of African Americans, they are less likely to access foods with high nutrient levels such as vegetables, fresh fruits, seafood, and lean meat. This exposes them to lifestyle diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, obesity and heart disease (Devine et. al., 2002). Hispanics

There has been an increase in Hispanic influence in American dietary habits. Hispanics have generally large families and they believe in the effectiveness of a balanced diet. As a result, they are huge consumers of vegetables, fruits and dairy products. Mexicans...
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