Sunday, January 29, 2012

Its not what you eat, its how you eat it

Topic: Practices regarding food

Source: Since I was younger, I was always told not to eat with my elbows on the table. Not only was putting my elbows on the table comfortable, it was a convenience. These rules have since become more lenient, especially in a cafeteria environment. Every person needs food, so I became interested in the customs that are taught when eating and how ours differ. Much of my observation was done with close friends and also at the school cafeteria.

Relation: In class we discussed how something as simple as greetings is deeply seeded within a given culture. Since my discussion group is food, I decided to look at the customs that are embedded in our culture.

Description: I eat. A lot. Coming from the San Francisco Bay Area, I grew up with a very diverse selection of food around. When I was younger I would go to an Indian restaurant and think, “why are we sitting on the floor?” or a Chinese restaurant and think “why are we supposed to use these chopsticks?”. I had a very ethnocentric view on their cultures. Using sticks and sitting on floors was not at all what I had been used to and had seemed wrong at the time. Then a few years ago I took an eating etiquette class. Since I was more mature at that time, I decided to look at the things I learned in that class with the same critical eye that I had previously with other culture’s eating practices. The course helped me see our culture and evaluate it in a different light. It interested me that there are certain ways to act and a measure to be taken every time we eat that is almost automatic to us. Whether the setting is in a public place or an intimate place, there are unspoken rules that most of us abide by. While watching people eat at The J, a cafeteria at Humboldt State University, has really showed me how much this set of standards are carried out. One thing that has become increasingly acceptable in today’s society is the use of technology in the eating environment. When there are those times that the conversation is falling off a person can now simply pull out a cell phone and have many more options to occupy their time. They can start a new conversation via text or have music, games, and videos easily accessible. There are also a myriad of media that is available such as tv and radio.

Analysis: This past week of eating in the J has really been eye opening in a lot of ways. The amount of enculturation is clearly seen in the amount of people who are unconsciously doing the same thing. Our culture is now one that constantly needs new/different forms of stimulation. This is precisely why its now a norm to find people in a cafeteria environment multitasking with tasks like holding a conversation, watching tv, and texting all in one sitting. This pattern, however, creates a cycle. I say this because if two people are eating lunch and one person becomes deeply engaged in a phone conversation, the other one will become bored and most likely engage in a separate form of entertainment of their own.