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People often underestimate the power of food

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  • Pages: 10
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  • Category: Food Power

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People often underestimate the power of food. Food is often taken for granted as a means of sustenance. However, they often do not realize that food, and the way food is eaten could provide an insight to an individual’s characters. Food may also send out metamessages about a person that is beyond their appearance. As such, food harbors the power of self-expression-it is the visible, but often-neglected means of communication. Food may reflect a person’s character, and that is why most of us are very self-conscious about what we eat, especially in public.

Society often imposes certain norms that have been widely accepted by the public as the standard, proper way of behaviors and the way to eat. We are expected to behave with graciousness and poise at the table. Every move you make, from proper placement to the use of napkins, is subconsciously being used as criteria to judge a person and his/her character. Although many people eat fast food such as burgers and fries, we are often ignorant as to what those fast food reflect our characters.

The stereotype of consumers of fast food is one of those unhealthy, inactive individuals, and are condemned by public, and shown no sympathy for their obesity. People generalize that these “fast-food” junkie deserve to be obese because of their stubborn nature, and would not change their eating habits for the healthier alternative. The public will then deduce these obese people as those who are clumsy, slow, and incompetent.

In comparison, people who go to a Japanese restaurant and order one of those famous bento boxes, sends out the message of an efficient, busy lifestyle, someone with little time to spare, but still manage to keep up their business-like image, eating their food from bento boxes rather than burgers and fries, which on the other hand, sends out the message of an unhealthy, cheap individual. In vegetarian cuisine, meat, fish and poultry are replaced with meals based on vegetables, grains, beans and nuts with or without dairy products involved.

The practice of vegetarian diet best describes the development of the highest and noblest principles of human character. A vegetarian thus shows traits that are characteristics of health-conscious individuals who indicate a strong character, with the utmost discipline to follow the strict regimen. The same characters also apply to individuals who put themselves on a diet. However, a diet that goes out of hand to the point of anorexia or bulimia reflects a person’s destructive character. These people may feel that their lives are falling apart, that everything is out of their control-except for food.

Their feeble, fragile emotional state found redemption when they realize they have the power to control their food intake. At the other extreme, some people actually suffer from a serious food addiction, stuffing their mouth constantly. This excessive eating may actually divulge a person’s character, such as their pessimistic, depressed nature. They may find themselves turning to food for comfort, as a means to escape from reality. The way celebrities look like depends on the way they eat.

Most resort to starving themselves, or even throwing up after a big meal, suggesting their insecurity and low self-esteem. Their action also transmits messages that being stick-thin is the Hollywood standard of beauty, and teenagers who are less immune to these messages may emulate what the celebrities do to regain their self-esteem, constantly struggling with the insecurities that result from being influenced by the media. The media also influences the way we should eat at a fancy restaurant. Using the correct silverware in the proper order as the meal progresses speaks sophistication.

Ladies are especially impressed with guys who know how to use the silverware when eating as a metamessage of a person who is dependable, who has his life all in order, and whom she can rely on as a prospective life partner. Observing a person’s dining method enables one to learn more about the unspoken, maybe hidden characters of the other person. Proper posture at the table is very important. A man who hangs his elbows heavily on the table when at a formal dinner may send metamessages to the ladies that imply he is not quite as dependable as others, and may even imply that he is the one who needs to be supported-a sign of weakness.

A movie and dinner date is another perfect way to get to know a person better. Dinner dates can often be nerve wrecking, as we will be judged by the food and the way we eat by the other person. An order of a medium rare T-bone steak sends the metamessage of a strong, rugged, masculine man-definitely a fetching character that appeals to many females. Unfortunately, during the course of the dinner, a date’s character may be found as repelling if the guy finds that the girl is obnoxious and self-centered, complaining just how disgusting the food is, while finishing every bite on her plate.

A girl who is superficial, concerned only with skin-deep outer appearance will be offended is she observes petty, annoying habits such as sucking one’s teeth to remove trapped food particles rather than using a toothpick after a juicy steak, further revealing that she is not interested in her date’s character as much as she is on his outer appearance. Table manners were originally devised to make meals a medium for human communication. In this sense, there is no great difference between Japanese and the west in their rationales for establishing set table manners.

Beyond this basic point, however, the two cultures diverge. Both the Japanese and Americans, for example have different ways of eating, and that may be interpreted as two very different metamessages by each culture. The superstitious character of the Japanese governs the way they eat their food, whereby they could not stick chopsticks into their food, especially into the rice because this sends the metamessage of death, whereby only at funerals are chopsticks stuck into the rice that is put onto the altar.

Another taboo subject matter is that a Japanese should not be passing food with his/her chopsticks directly to somebody else’s chopsticks, as again, this “brings bad luck” and only at funerals are the bones of cremated body given in that way from person to person. Moreover, when eating, the Japanese are not suppose to hold two chopsticks by grasping them, as this could be interpreted as a metamessage to others as an action to attack. Although it may seem as a harmless gesture, other people are apparently judging you to be an aggressive, barbaric type of person.

Even the exact, same way of eating can have extremely different metamessages, in the context of two people from different cultures. Slurping, is perhaps, the best example to demonstrate how misunderstandings may arise between two people, Mr. Smith, and Mr. Ichikawa. To Mr. Smith, slurping is perhaps the worst thing to do when eating soup, as it may convey the metamessage of disrespect to the other party, putting him in a more subordinate position, when in fact, slurping is considered proper manner to Mr. Ichikawa.

It is the traditional way for the Japanese to drink his soup by sipping it from the bowl, instead of using a spoon, and making slurping sounds, not as a rude gesture, but as a metamessage to the chef, and to Mr. Smith, that he enjoys his soup, and is showing his appreciation. The Japanese also slurp their noodles to enhance the flavors, and it is considered odd if anyone eats noodles without making slurping noises. This is a stark contrast with most Westerners who refrain from slurping their spaghetti, but choose to twist it around their fork instead, as they consider the latter to be a more refined manner.

Table setting is also used to send metamessages as well. In Japanese style rooms, lower and upper seat is determined by the standard disposition of tokonoma (the alcove) and tokowakidana (the space next to the alcove). Upper seat being defined as someone of importance, just like the metamessage being emitted when Grandpa occupies the seat at the very end of the dining table. In the case of a traditional Japanese meal where they sit on the tatami floor around a low table, you are required to take off your shoes before stepping onto the dining area, as a sign of respect.

The act of removing one’s shoes has the metamessage of acknowledging and showing appreciation for the host. A person is also not supposed to step on the borders of other’s tatami mats, as this sends outs metamessages of invading one’s space, which one tends to protect. As such, traditional Japanese may be seen as reserved individuals who value their privacy. Chopsticks enable the Japanese to pick up specific food one at a time, allowing the person to regulate the type and amount of food that goes into the mouth, giving the user a sense of control, giving them a sense of who is in charge.

In India and the Middle East, as well as Southeast Asia, people eat food with their hands. It is a very direct way to experience the texture of the food, and people normally wash their hands before and after each meal. Generally, the foods to be eaten are placed on plates in the center of the mat or table, and people take food in small portions as they eat. This action shows their transcendentalist character, where they have a strong belief that they should be connected with nature.

A wonderful bonding occurs when two or more people come together around a table of prepared foods, sharing a common experience. Food is a joy of festivity, a celebration of life and friendship. The French usually have traditional family gatherings around the home dinner table, which they consume leisurely through a bevy of appetizers and main courses. It is not uncommon in private households and in certain restaurants to share several dishes of food at the table rather than serving each person with his/her individual dish.

This certainly illustrates the family value that emphasizes unity among family members. People tend to exhibit behavior that is supposedly the accepted norm, and often, they need to conform to society’s standards of the “proper” way of eating and drinking. Especially in the Asian community, such as when drinking beverages, it is the custom to serve each other, rather than pouring the beverage into one’s own glass to show that you are being polite, and is respectful of the other person. Also, you are supposed to offer the first serving, before serving for yourself, and it is considered rude to do otherwise.

You too, are supposed to periodically check your friend’s plate and serve them more once their plate is getting empty. Likewise, if someone wants to serve you food, you should hold your plate towards that person. These basic norms are upheld as the standard for most of us Asians, in which these “proper behavior” to be served and to serve food is used to measure and gauge us as an individual, from which people generalize our characters as a whole. Displaying such gestures only affirm our status in society as someone who is very well cultured and educated.

Food may be used to the extent of defining our character, where people may use food as a vector to exert their influence on an individual’s character, forcing their own identity and manipulating others. Amy desperately wants people to like her, so much so that she will not eat her favorite food-broccoli, because none of her friends like them. Putting other people’s opinions ahead of her own, she undergoes an identity crisis, being dictated by others. In accordance to Amy’s characters-submissive, meek and timid nature, Amy accommodates to the more domineering characters of her peers.

Sometimes food is crucial in bringing out characteristics that are normally suppressed. For example, in times when food is extremely scarce, and people have not eaten for a long time, a person loses control of oneself, and all the norms of eating do not apply. When he is offered food, he will not patiently, and graciously accept the food, and eat it in a normal way, but will probably act like someone possessed and literally pounce on the food. This shows characters that are inhibited in a person, hidden away from the public, that may oppose his regular character or behavior.

Food, or the lack of it, may actually reveal your darker side. Situations such as starvation make people mad, nervous, and bitter. For example, in third world countries such as Africa, where many people are suffering from starvation, people may attack other people, and may resort to crime, such as stealing, or even murder, just for the sake of a few morsels of food. As Brillat-Savarin, a French lawyer, magistrate and politician under Napoleon’s rule, wrote in his gastronomy book The Physiology of Taste: “Tell me what you eat, and I’ll tell you what you are. ” The food that one eats may disclose an individual’s character.

For example, women who like barbecued meat are gregarious and always the life of the party. They like their intimate relationships to be easygoing and not demanding. People who like tortilla chips are perfectionists. They are always punctual. They tend to dress provocatively. Someone with a penchant for gummy bears indicates a strong-minded, aggressive, ambitious, and dominant person-a natural-born leader. Men who like pumpkin are sexually reserved and thoughtful. They value male friendship, and their fear of rejection makes them fearful of women. Food certainly can be used to reveal a person’s character.

As for me, I think grapes represent my character the best-for I am a rather moody person. Just like sour grapes, I tend to be critical and irritable when I am in a bad mood, but if you are lucky, I can be as sweet as honey, eager to please, and a fun person to be with. Food is certainly a powerful tool in sending out metamessages, and the way food is eaten helps to reveal a person’s character. As such, it is of utmost importance that we understand that food and a person’s characters go hand in hand together, and that we should be more aware of the metamessages that food may send out.

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