We Are What We Eat


Everybody knows the old saying “We are what we eat”. But, why?

Well first, as everyone knows it is true on a nutritional level. Eat healthy= you are healthy; Eat fat= you are fat. Of course, this does not apply to everybody (like lucky people with high speed metabolism), but it does apply to most people.


But other than nutrition, food is also representative on a social level. Donna Gabaccia’s article states that:
Food= one’s diet, lifestyle, culture, traditions, customs and beliefs.
This is very true.

For example, most Asian American immigrant families can agree to the fact that they consume both Asian and American foods, on a regular basis as well as on holidays. This represents both “Asian-ness” and “American-ness”, in those people.

In Los Angeles, where diversity is abundant, restaurants of all types of cuisines are available. This diversity can speak of the city’s globalization and embrace for new ideas. But what about 50 years ago? or 100 years ago? There probably wasn’t much (if any) diversity. This fact represents the lack of diversity due to less immigrants and less curiosity for other cultures.

Our identities continue to change as history changes, and food is a large part of this changing identity. One example from the article is that by 1991, U.S. residents bought more salsa than ketchup in markets. Ketchup had been #1 in markets for the past decades, and suddenly had stepped down. What does this mean? It probably means that our tastes are changing and we are embracing more Latin culinary. Maybe there just might be a change in population due to immigration. Whatever the reason is, it shows our changing identities through food.

So the next time you’re eating something, it might be worthwhile to remember that it is a part of your identity.

Donna Gabaccia, “We Are What We Eat: Ethnic Food and the Making of Americans,” (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998). 


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