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Rock Street, San Francisco

August 6th,
1999 was the day where my life as an American began. I was only five months old
when I landed at Eppley Airfield after a 16-hour flight from Seoul, South
Korea. At the time I did not understand anything, but looking back on it, from
this moment on I would be a South Korean boy raised in the American Midwest,
where I would grow and develop my love for American cuisine. From burgers and
hotdogs to pizza and wings, these foods are what I have come to love and attach
myself with. As I grew older and was offered foods that are associated with my
continent of birth, I reacted with pure disgust. Whether it be Chinese takeout
or a Mongolian grill, I would refuse to order anything or go out to eat. After
multiple attempts and variations in Asian cuisine, I have come to enjoy a
minuscule amount. As a result, there have been numerous occasions when the
Asian is out with his Asian and/or white friends and leaves them shocked and
surprised when they have to decide on a different restaurant, because of his
displeasure of that kind of food. While I may have been born in South Korea, I
was raised in America and am more associated with its culture and fare. Although
people usually associate food with a way to satisfy hunger, it is actually a
way of defining who you are.

            Whether you’re born in the same country you were raised
in or, like my case, are born in a different country then you are raised in,
you develop a sense of identity when it comes to the kind of food you eat. For
example, if you were born and raised in Mexico, from childhood to adulthood,
you are presented with a diverse range of Mexican cooking in every direction
you look. To put this same scenario into my personal story, since I was a kid,
all I have experienced was the different kinds of American food with limited amounts
of Asian fare. As a result, my identity has been shaped more towards the food I
have grown up eating, than that of my origin of birth. Food also ties into a
way of shaping who you are through patriotism. This sense of patriotism that
you get does not necessarily have to be in the form of pride or support, but in
attachment. This attachment could be to a particular region of the country or
even the country as a whole. If you look at it from a regional point of view,
an example of this may be someone that lived in New England liking and
identifying more with meals such as clam chowder or lobster rolls, compared to
something like barbecue. From the view of an entire country, citizens of
America may associate apple pie as an “American” icon. In comparison, the
United Kingdom might have the same connection with fish and chips, and people
in Australia might have their relationship with a meat pie. No matter how big
the scale of people, eating food from your region or country emanates emotions
of endearment and association, but more importantly displays your identity and
who you really are.

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            An additional point that food plays in identity, is the
way that others view us. The way that people eat food differ greatly when it
comes to the setting, the way we eat, and especially social norms. The setting
changes the way that one eats depending on multiple factors. Some of these
factors include where are they eating and who are they eating with. The
environment plays a big role in the way that people eat. People will act
differently when they are out eating at a restaurant, compared to eating in
their car at a McDonald’s parking lot. The other component to the setting is
who are they eating with. For example, if you are out to dinner with your
significant other’s parent, you would try and give off the best, well-mannered,
and respectful person you can be. Now compare that to you eating by yourself at
home, you do not necessarily keep the same high standards from the previous
example. Another point that bears weight on how people view us is the way we
eat. No matter where you are in the world, every place has its own form of
table manners. While these table manners differ depending on location, the
gestures and actions may come across rude to one country compared to that of
another. An instance of this would be in Japan. When eating noodles in a
Japanese restaurant it is ordinary to slurp your food, however slurping in some
countries, such as the United States, it may come across as impolite or
ill-mannered. Another case of manners can be tied to utensil etiquette. In the
“American style” of fork etiquette, you are supposed to hold the fork in your
left hand and the knife in your right when cutting pieces of food, then
switching the fork to the right when you are going to eat. In the “European
style,” one keeps the fork in the left hand and the knife in the right and when
you go to eat, you lift the food with your fork still in the left hand. Social
norms have a large influence on the way that we eat food and what we expect
from others. A few norms that play a role are consumption monitoring and the
speed of eating. The amount of food that one eats can portray a view. If one
eats too little, we may connect ideas of them watching their weight, or maybe
that they suffer from an eating disorder. If one eats too much, we may tie
thoughts of loss of self-control or stress eating. The speed of eating also
contributes to how people view others. If you are out to eat with someone, and
they just down their food before you even make a dent in yours, it can come
across as awkward and rude, as you still have to finish a meal and they just
sit there. All of these positives and negatives that come from the differences
in eating food contribute to how others view us.

On
another note, food allows for people to create a perspective or stereotype on
others according to their meals. Depending on how you look at it, this can
range from applying to a single person, to a country, or even a whole race.
Let’s start off with the single person scenario. Picture an Asian person, and
for this example we will say that they are Chinese, out eating dinner at a
sushi restaurant. Some other diner or even a worker may assume that as an Asian
person in a sushi restaurant that they are probably Japanese. Eating things
that come from a specific country or region, or the demographic of the eater,
can lead to someone assuming where they are from without any knowledge of the
person. Moving onto the example regarding countries, there are many stereotypes
out there for different nations. An example of this can be shown in the United
States. Whether it’s from the standpoint of someone from a different country or
even that of someone from the United States, a generalization could be made
that there are much larger portions, or that portion control is not looked at
as much here compared to other countries. A similar case could be made on
vocabulary such as “white people food” or “black people food” or any other race
and/or ethnicity tied to a certain group of foods. In this instance, it’s the
equivalent of being in the mindset that all white or black people are all the
same and eat the exact same foods. While unfortunate, it is the product of
ignorance attached to stereotypes of people and culture, which happens to be
through food.

A
further point that can be made, somewhat relating to the previous statement,
that food influences who we are and who we want to become. In the same way that
other people can create perspectives on us based off what we eat, we as individuals
can create our own mindsets according to our meals. For example, 

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