AN EYE OPENER: THE US ETHNIC FOOD SECTION IN A CHINESE GROCERY STORE

Representation of American food in Chinese grocery store.

In almost all American grocery stores, there is a section of ethnic foods separated by the country the items are usually associated with. By scanning the shelves, you certainly can get a sense about each country’s general eating habits, or at the very least, its most popular food staples. For instance, in the Swedish section, you’re almost sure to find lingonberry jam, the Thai section is a good place to pick up coconut milk and you’ll probably find water chestnuts and bean sprouts on the shelves devoted to Chinese cuisine.

What does it mean, then, when chocolate syrup, marshmallow fluff and canned, processed cheese basically dominate the USA “ethnic section” of a Chinese grocery store? Take a look at this video shot by Gwen at a market in China and posted on the blog Sociological Images:

Don’t get me wrong, Gwen’s video scanned some healthier American food choices, like V8 and soup, but all-in-all, I was shocked and then not-so-shocked. The video says a lot. I definitely don’t want to imply that all of us make it a habit to eat empty, high- calorie, overly-processed foods, but we’re sure doing a good job of putting that impression out there to the world.

Sometimes getting a chance to take a glimpse of an outsider’s perspective can be of tremendous value. It causes us to question our habits and actions. Why do so many of us eat this way when fresh fruits, vegetables, wholesome dairy products, whole grains and more nutritious versions of certain foods are widely available in this country? Do unhealthy foods really taste better? Are they more economical? Are they better for us? If you answer ‘yes,’ to any of these questions, follow it up by asking yourself, “Really? REALLY?”

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