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January 15, 2011

Food perceptions in India and in the USA

Food is a topic that fascinates everyone. Food for thought, something to chew upon, the belly rules the mind, the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Many of our thought processes are food related.

In India eating heavy food is favored. Heaviness in the stomach is taken as an indicator of eating healthy. Inevitably that means eating of oily food like Paratas and Pooris soaked in ghee and butter. The vegetarians  feel that they are losing out on proteins and end up consuming lots of cheese  (paneer) and dairy products. This coupled with sedentary habits have made most middle class urban Indians fat.

Indians are all right with the concept of being FAT. FAT in India is prosperity.  A well fed person is viewed as Katha Peeta Kandan Ka aadmi (from a family that eats and drinks well). Fat children are adored and called “Murphy babies” (After a commercial of Murphy radio that featured a plumb child). In short in India we expect rich and famous to be big and fat and poor to be vey skinny and bony. FAT is rich and skinny is poor.

This type of ignorance about food has a very serious effect on the Indians. As it is Indians are genetically prone to heart diseases and wrong eating habits are pushing them vey close to the breaking point. The alarming signs are already being felt - Indians will have the highest number of heart related problem in the world. They will also have the highest number of people suffering from diabetics on this planet.

On the other side we have a country like USA where being slim is so much a part and parcel of peoples’ psyche. Entire lives are spent on craving for the hour glass figures. This obsession for thinness has led to disorders like Anorexia, Bulimia Nervosa, compulsive over eating and Binge eating.

In USA FIT is in and FAT is out. People exercise at all times during the day including mid afternoon. There is a very huge demand for all products and equipments that promise thin figures. Food is also driven by the same psyche and urges. In USA the food that is nutritious and less fattening is expensive. Junk food is cheap. Here lies the paradox. The Fast food that is served by MacDonald and Chinese restaurants is cheap but is less nutritious. Poultry eggs are priced normally but yolkless eggs are at a premium price. This means that in USA the rich and famous flout their rock hard six pack bodies and the poorest of the poor have become fat. Being fat in the USA is seen as a curse. Fat people are seen as lazy and get less job offers compared to normal (thin) competitors.

“Have breakfast like an emperor, lunch like a king and dinner like a pauper” What a wonderful saying. My father always says “get up from the dining table when you are still feeling hungry”. Keep your stomach light. Light stomach would mean more activeness and more activeness means less sleepiness!

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