Cultural Self-Awareness And Family Heritage Foodways Assignment

Food is a big part of our everyday lives. It gives us the nutrients and energy to develop and grow, think and learn, and be active and healthy. What we choose to eat and why often goes unnoticed. In this paper, I will explore my own everyday foodways and health beliefs, traditional heritage foodways, and other people’s foodways and social interactions.

Foodways and Health Beliefs

Some foods that I eat daily are eggs and fruit. My normal breakfast consists of two over easy eggs, and I try to eat some type of fruit every day, depending on what is in season. My normal fruit is apples because they are relatively inexpensive. A popular dinner food for me is pasta or chicken, especially because they are on the cheaper end. Some foods that I eat occasionally are fish, normally salmon, and meats, such as steak, pork, or beef. To make a meal, I think a protein (meat or fish), a vegetable, and a grain (brown rice) is necessary. A food that I would never eat is any type of insect. I have heard that bugs are packed with protein, fiber, and the works, but they are too foreign to me. I cannot help but associate insects with filth and decay. A food that I consider to be high status is lobster, and a food I consider to be low status is rice. At higher-end restaurants, I have noticed that lobsters can range anywhere from thirty to sixty dollars for the meal. Only people with money can afford lobster on a regular basis. I think rice is a low status food because anyone can afford rice. In literature and real life, even the poorest of the poor can afford rice. In college, I normally eat dinner by myself because it is quick.

I am Catholic, so I eat the Eucharist, a thin, round wafer that represents Christ’s body, every Sunday. A tradition in my immediate family is the feast of seven fishes on Christmas eve because it is an Italian-American tradition, and my mom comes from a large Italian family. We switch up the fish every year, but some of the fish include shrimp cocktail, salmon, and smelts. One of my favorite home cooked meals is beef stroganoff. My mom starts making it early in the day, and it sits in the crockpot for hours, making the house smell like heaven. At home, I have a home cooked meal every night, but in college, I have a home cooked meal only about twice a week because of time. Home cooked meals are important because most of them take time and effort, and they contain less processed foods. Eating home cooked dinners allow families or friends to take time out of the day to catch up and enjoy a meal. As a child, I always ate with my family and had a home cooked meal every night. If my family ever ate out, it was always for a special occasion, whether it was a birthday, graduation, etc., so we rarely ever ate away from home.

One of my favorite snacks is Laughing Cow swiss cheese wedges. I also enjoy Clif bars, Pringles, and Cheez-Its. Currently, I eat most of my lunches and dinners in the Sykes food court. I only make dinner at home (my apartment) about once or twice a week. A food that my friends and I tend to eat at a social gathering is pizza. My diet now is definitely different from how I ate as a child. Like many children, I was a picky eater. If there was anything green on my plate, I would give my family the silent treatment. I loved chicken tenders, macaroni and cheese, and fruit snacks. I am proud to say that my palate has matured. Over the years my mom has gotten me into kale, Brussel sprouts, different types of fish, varieties of meat, and more. My all-time favorite cross-cultural food is sushi. It may have something to do with the hip dining setting, but I love all the different combinations of raw fish, rice, and vegetables that go into making sushi. I have tried to make it, and it is not easy, so that makes me appreciate it even more. I also enjoy Peruvian tapas. There is a wide variety of tapas, but some examples include “pinchos,” kebobs of filet tips, onion, and red pepper, and “ceviche,” raw fish marinated with lemon or lime juice, with onions, chili peppers, and corn.

A food that I eat when I am sick is homemade chicken noodle soup. I have learned from my mom that it is soothing for the throat, supports the immune system, helps clear congestion, and is full of nutrients. I have learned to avoid fatty foods when I am sick because of experience. Fatty foods have given me everything from acid reflex to painful stomach aches when I am sick. I consider most vegetables to be healthy, especially darker leafy greens. Like most food-related things, I learned from my mom that dark leafy greens like kale and spinach are packed with vitamins and are high in fiber, potassium, calcium, and iron. I consider all fast food, especially fast food cheeseburgers (Big Macs, Whoppers, etc.), to be extremely unhealthy. This type of calorie intake has been proven to be an increasing factor of obesity in America. I have learned of the dangers of fast food through my mom and various online articles. I have learned about “appropriate” foods to eat, nutrition, and health through my family, social media, and classes. I choose these resources because I trust my family and my health teachers. I choose social media because it is literally one tap away from endless information.

Whether social media is accurate or not, I am not sure. These sources reflect mainstream American cultural norms because family is a huge influence in most American’s lives. Teachers also have the ability to greatly influence their students. Social media takes up a lot of time, leading to the use of platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook forming habits that influence people’s lives.

Heritage Foodways

I chose to do an internet search on my mom’s maiden name, Marziale. This name means “martial, of mars,” deriving from the Latin “mars,” the Roman god of war. Originally called “Mavors,” the name derives from the Proto Indo-European root “mawort.” Martialis was a Roman poet from Hispania (the Iberian Peninsula) best known for his twelve books of Epigrams, published in Rome between AD 86 and 103, during the reigns of the emperors Domitian, Nerva and Trajan. Marziale is used as a family name or surname in Italy. Marziale is not a popular last name, but it is still a prevalent surname concentrated mainly in Italy which is most likely its country of origin. I have not been told much family history, only that my mom’s side of the family comes from Italy. I am adopted from China, so none of my relatives are true blood relatives. The national diet of Italy differs by region. In Northern Italy, staple dishes include rice and polenta. Southern Italy is where pasta is most prevalent. Pasta is served with tomato sauce in the south and a white cheese sauce in the north. There are more than four hundred types of cheeses made in Italy. The most popular ingredient of the Italian antipasto (first course), Prosciutto ham, was first made in Parma, Italy, a city that also gives its names to Parmesan cheese.

Some of the most popular traditional Italian dishes include pasta e fagioli (noodle and bean soup), fettuccine alfredo, and saltimbocca alla romana (veal scallops with sage and prosciutto). Italians are also well known for their use of different herbs in cooking. These herbs include basil, oregano, thyme, sage, rosemary, and parsley. According to my mom, this is consistent with what she knows about Italian heritage foods. Her own mom, my Nane, made polenta for the family every week. Pasta e fagioli was also a popular dish at home. My current eating habits differ from my mom’s heritage. My family is big on trying new foods, so we do not stick to only Italian foods. We try everything from Greek to Chinese to Mexican cuisine. There are some factors from my mom’s heritage that influence my eating habits, though. I love all types of cheese: mozzarella, feta, parmesan, asiago, ricotta, gorgonzola, etc. I have never met a cheese I did not like. I put cheese in my omelets, soup, desserts, pasta, and the list goes on. Pasta is also a big part of my daily diet. At home, spaghetti and homemade meatballs is a go-to for my family when no one knows what to make for dinner. Using olive oil is a prevalent cooking fat in Southern Italy. Next to coconut oil, olive oil is consistently used at my house for cooking. I also love to use various spices when I cook. Some of my favorites are fresh basil, rosemary, and thyme. Italians generally eat three meals throughout the day, and in addition to the meals, they have two snack times. Italians take their meals seriously, whether they are eating at home or out to eat.

Unfortunately, in college, I only get to two meals a day and lots of grazing in between. At home I take my time eating meals, but in school, I am always in a rush to get somewhere or do something, whether it be getting to class or doing homework. Meal Observation I chose to do my observation at Kooma, a trendy Asian-fusion restaurant in downtown West Chester. The restaurant is very hip with unique lighting and contemporary music. After being seated at a table by a hostess, I noticed that all the clientele were young adults. There was one young couple at a table, two college girls at a table, and two other girls at the bar. Each group of two only interacted with the person they came with, and everyone was polite to the waiter. The most popular dish ordered was sushi, and that was what I ordered, too. The young couple also ordered poke bowls and wine. The two college girls ordered cocktails with their sushi. The two girls at the bar came in much later than me, so unfortunately, I never got to see what they ordered from the menu. One observation that stuck out to me was how often everyone was on their phone while they were eating. Whether they were eating or talking with the other person they came with, someone was always on their phone. I find this a bit rude, but it seemed to be the norm. Since the kitchen is in the back of the restaurant, no one interacted with the chefs. Everyone paid with debit/credit cards. I have noticed people on their phones at restaurants before, but at Kooma, everyone was on their phone. I think this defeats the purpose of going out to eat with someone or eating at all. Though each table of two was talking to each other, they were more absorbed in their phones. I suppose my foodways are more traditional. I like to take in my surroundings, savor my food, and have good conversations. This project made me think about my foodways more than I ever have before. I think I take food for granted, but now, I am reminded to observe what I eat. Is it healthy? Is the food I choose to consume beneficial for my body? I hope to improve my bad habit of grazing and hopefully find or make more time to fix up home cooked meals. I also never thought to look at heritage as an influence of foodways. My family has definitely adopted my mom’s heritage of traditional Italian foods into our diet.

Lastly, I learned from my one-hour meal observation to be aware of how much I am on my phone. It does not feel weird for me to be on my own phone, but it is astonishing to see how rude it is when you see other people absorbed in their technology. A meal is something to enjoy in the company of others. Though small and seemingly harmless, phones weaken people’s social interactions and ultimately alter how much people enjoy the time they spend with others.

13 January 2020
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