Behind Forks and Chopsticks
Food is an important part of culture in our daily life. When we compare two countries’ differences, the most remarkable difference of culture is the food. Many people think superficially that the largest difference between American food and Chinese food is that most Chinese people eat with chopsticks, while Americans use knives and forks. In fact, there are many deep differences between American food and Chinese food, especially in the attitude toward food, the ingredients and the ways to eat.
One of the most obvious differences is the attitude toward food. In America, people care more about the results of eating food. For Americans, eating is an important part of life, but it is not the most important. After eating, they have more important things to do. So when choosing something to eat, they care more about the nutritious value, such as the proteins, the fats, the vitamins, the minerals and the carbohydrates. In America, there are many developed food industries, such as canned food, fast food and so on. Although these kinds of food have the same taste, they can save time and be rich in nutrition.
Meanwhile, the names of American foods are clear, and you can know about the specific information of food by their names, such as macaroni and cheese, seven-layer salad and momma’s meatloaf. Unlike Americans’ attitudes, Chinese people care more about details of eating food. Because of the large population and the limited resources, in the past many years, people have spent a lot of energy and time on getting food. Due to this tradition, Chinese people think of eating as the most important thing. The hard-earned food’s function is maximized. The purpose of eating is not only for surviving, but also for enjoying.
When Chinese people choose what to eat, they will care more about the taste, the color, the smell and the shape. Nutrition is second to these. Chinese people also pay attention to the names of food. So sometimes the name is very obscure; you don’t know what the food is just by its name. For example, there is a Chinese food named “Mayishangshu” that means ants on the trees, but it is vermicelli cooked with mince pork in chili sauce. Another difference between American food and Chinese food is their ingredients. The American staple foods are bread or pasta.
The meat is most important thing of an American diet. However, compared with meat, vegetables are second, and Americans usually eat vegetables raw with salad. I think it may be because American developed agriculture is mostly wheat and animal husbandry. In contrast to American cuisine, Chinese staple foods are rice and noodles. Chinese cuisine also shows great diversity on the selected materials, so it is often said that “Chinese people eat everything that flies except a plane, everything that crawls except a train, everything that swims except a submarine, everything with legs except a table.
In Chinese diet, vegetables are everyday food but meat is only for holidays and festivals, through people with a higher living standard may eat meat on a more regular basis. Meanwhile, Chinese people use plants as main ingredients, which connects with Buddhism. In Han Buddhism, they treat animals as beings, while they think plants don’t have souls. Therefore, they advocate vegetarianism. Finally, there is a great difference in the ways to eat. In America, everyone just chooses the food he or she likes when eating with others.
The food is set in front of each person on the table. People just eat the food on their dishes and pay for themselves. It shows the American’s individualism and independence. However, in China, all of food is set on the table’s center and people share it. It is consistent with Chinese hope of reunion and reflects the Chinese classical philosophy of harmony. Meanwhile, people put food in others’ bowls to express the respect to others. Although from the point of health, this way of eating has obvious shortcomings.
After eating, in most cases, just one pays the bill. In a word, because of different cultures, there are many differences between American food and Chinese food. However, with the globalization, the differences are changing. More and more Chinese people care about food’s health and nutrition, especially after SARS. What’s more, because of busier work, Chinese people also think cooking Chinese food is too complicated, and it is more convenient to have a hamburger instead. I think in the future, the differences in the food may not be as clear.