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BLOG: Ethnic food: Different foods that sharing the same spot in our hearts

Author: Yisi Wang
Published: Wednesday, May 16, 2012

I have had the privilege of studying nutrition and dietetics during the three years I have been in this country. During this time, I have experienced excitement and curiosity about the new unfamiliar foods around me but have also been nostalgic for the familiar Chinese food from my home country. I have immersed myself into the new food culture but also have struggled with maintaining my Chinese cultural food patterns. Needless to say, my views about food and food culture have been changed immensely during that time and I have also revised my own interpretation of “Ethnic Foods.”

Ethnic foods are traditionally described as food products unique to an ethnic group or culture. In many cultures these are very specific; however, what I have learned in America is that there are no unique ethnic foods. Everything is mixed and melted into one pot, which making this whole food system diverse and full of variety.

Saint Louis University Dietetic Interns on Ethnic Food
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Here are some my personal “ethnic” experience that I would like to share, if you think this is a little bias and you are right, I am a big fan of Chinese food! From my point of view, there is no any food that is bad or weird, because the capability of eating a food that the person favors brings the highest psychological satisfaction. Here I am not talking about fat or sugar, but the food that people grow up with (of course everybody likes fat and sugar). Take me as an example, I cannot say that I really like rice, but I cannot live without rice either. I also heard a thousand discussions about butter since I came here, and I consider lard as “butter” for me. We were talking about beef liver in the class, which also could be a great example. Instead of beef liver I eat pork liver, I think it is probably because meat in China is more towards to pork. I still eat pork liver occasionally right now and I think it is tasty, none taken if you don’t like it. So really, there is no substantial diet difference among ethnics and cultures, it is just different food items that serve the same nutrient value in our diet system. When giving recommendations, keep the option of the food on the list with smaller portion size and frequency will help the person stick with the diet much longer than completely delete the “bad” food.

Below is a picture of pork liver on crackers made by a Chinese cook who devotes on combining eastern and western style cooking.

Saint Louis University Dietetic Interns on Ethnic Food
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Another example, I was craving a dish last year and I thought I will never be able to have it here, until one of my friends introduced me a German replacement: Sauerkraut. Even I understand the two countries do share the same craving for pork, I am still amazed how different ethnics could come together on food. (Based Wikipedia, Sauerkraut is introduced to Europe from China 1,000 years ago, and it settled there though.)

Below are two pictures of Sauerkraut from China and German both with pork.

Saint Louis University Dietetic Interns on Ethnic Food
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These are just some of my own experiences and I am still observing and learning. I am sure there will be some bias because my experience about foods is so limit. I am always open to talk about how interesting that different cultures share their fancy of the same food, or how different that foods from different cultures can be. Hope this little blog could inspire you some on ethnic foods.

Let me quote a few lines from The Big Bang Theory as the end of this blog to show my love to lard :)

Penny: Oh my God, this is the best cobbler I’ve ever had.
Mrs Cooper: It was always Sheldon’s favorite. You know what the secret ingredient is?
Penny: Love?
Mrs Cooper: Lard.

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