Eating: A Cultural Experience

Contemplative practices, as trivial as they may seem to others, have the power to inform in an interactive manner as well as generate thoughts about one’s role within regard to the rest of the food system. I personally have found our contemplative practices thus far to be very engaging and necessary. With an act as simple as being told to savor the flavors of food items in their various forms of processing, we can take a step back from privilege and recognize the deception interwoven in our diets.

Food Disparity

Prior to this class, I would have felt outlandish saying there was privilege in food. Yet, after all we have learned over the past six weeks, I have come to realize that general food insecurity, and more specifically the retention of healthy food options, is near pervasive due to systemic inequalities.

Cost of Healthy Food Michael Pollan

For example, in either the case of the raisin or the cacao nib/chocolate, I began to wonder how it could be that something once pure and unrefined in its natural form could be altered in such way to make it seem less authentic and more appealing to our palates. This same sentiment is expressed in Pollan’s book, which unpacks the framework of nutritionism and the push for “food stuffs” in the modern food system. Lastly, we cannot forget to mention that these products tend to be processed and distributed by minority laborers given minimal pay who are kept within an impoverished closed circuit due to discriminatory policies. (Yes! Magazine) Food is meant to be an experience, a factor of culture and identity, yet not all people are given the opportunity for food to be more than plain sustenance and a means of survival. These practices made me realize the only way to resolve such a tragedy is to strengthen ties with non-industrialized agriculture and to become more aware of what goes into our bodies and why.  

7 thoughts on “Eating: A Cultural Experience

  1. Cindy Liu

    Hi Faylen,

    I wanted to agree with your general ideas presented here. I just wanted to say that often, privilege relative to culture is overlooked as a factor when considering why food is presented in certain ways. Yet, it’s so important to be able to take the time for a contemplative practice especially with the identities that we hold, being in such privileged positions and to constantly ask ourselves whether these issues are simply just inherent in a system or whether we can think of ourselves as actors in the food system. I must agree with your claim that food has so much to do with privilege and so much more relating to that. Much more than just food, it’s just as you’re saying in terms of allocation of resources as well. When we take the time to have a contemplative practice on our positions in the world regarding our social standings, we start to see that there are millions of individuals who scour their communities for their ration of water and food for the day; the same resources we often take for granted.

    Even beyond survivability, there’s also the idea that specific diets are seemingly inevitable, which is a way that “culture” is pushed in certain communities through the food presented. Poorer communities (especially with a high population with people of color) are often targets for poor diets. We can see this in Carolan’s The Real Cost of Cheap Food when he introduces his idea on food deserts. “A food desert refers to any area with limited access to affordable and nutritious food, particularly such an area composed of predominately lower income neighborhoods and communities” (Carolan, 82). We know that communities will have to survive on what is affordable and most available to them. But in terms of privilege for food, should we also think about how this system inherently targets minorities and essentially makes it inevitable to form unhealthy diets? Should we also think about how to make healthy food more affordable to communities with food deserts? These are some of the questions that I think about when it comes to food privilege.

    Wonderful blog post with a strong topic that should be discussed more! Thank you for writing this!

    First Blog Response – Cindy Liu

  2. sarai

    Hi Faylen,
    In your post you point out the power of contemplative practices. I also shared a similar experience in which I was forced to reflect upon the meaning of eating. As you mentioned, the practices in lecture have helped me become aware of that privilege that I carry in the types of food that I consume. It is disturbing to slowly become aware that healthy food choices are easily affordable to higher income groups, and instead the less healthy food is more affordable for middle and lower income. I think that this goes groups within developed countries because the dyanmic changes on a global perspective. On the global level, there is less to eat but more organic foods to consume in developing countries. whereareas, in developed countries there is more to eat but more processed. One of the most illustrative examples of this was demonstrated in the Hungry Planet book. There were large families who were poor and didn’t have much to eat. And vice versa there were families in developed countries who had more to eat but also had more processed foods.

  3. Chase J Skuza

    Hi Faylen,
    I had a similar experience with my practices, but for me my mind traced more to the political aspect of the food that we were eating, like the cocoa being a big driving force in their economy. I also would have wished to hear your thoughts on some of the other contemplative practices we did like the one surrounding water when you did not have any tangible foods to eat but instead just your deep thoughts.

  4. Tatiana Ranae Perkins

    Hey there Faylen,

    I agree with the power in recognizing privilege in the food we eat. I never used to think of this past being thankful I had the ability to eat every meal growing up. I think there is something multifaceted about being able not only to eat enough, but exercise food sovereignty while doing so. Talk about quite literally having your cake and eating it too. Just playing off of your idea in recognizing privilege in food, I think about my cultural heritage and the power there is that I am able to eat my indigenous foods, even though I do not live in the space that my family does. I do not have to be in the cold of Alaska to get a good cut of salmon. But thinking about the process in which I can get the same foods as my family in Alaska makes me wonder how long the road is to get it to my place. More, how many dams were put up, displacing food sources for other coastal tribes so that I have the ability to live in a place like Seattle where food is abundant and I get to say most things here are hydropowered. I think contemplative practices give us more of a look from just the moment we practice, but as we do more and more, connections are made and we can think more critically about how we get to practice our own food sovereignty.

  5. Jared Thomas Robinson

    Hi Faylen,
    You make a lot of really good points here, and I totally am with you in regards to your discussion of the necessity of contemplative practices, and their importance to our own awareness. I also wanted to comment on the point you briefly mentioned, which was the relationship between the modern food system and culture. Food is historically tied to culture and means a lot to many people around the world. However I see a growing disconnect here as food production is streamlined, with quantities growing larger and larger, and cheaper and cheaper. It seems like especially in America, there is not an especially strong tie between “American culture” and food. American culture as it stands, seems to be more focused on mass production and consumption than anything else. The consumption of food is no exception, and it seems to be less of an experience/tradition, and more of something that we incessantly do either our of necessity or for our own pleasure. The proliferation of fast food restaurants appears to be a product of this effect, and I personally can say that I feel no cultural attachment to the food that I eat. I know this is not yet the case in other parts of the world, and I would hate to see them lose that cultural connection as the globalization of production and consumption takes over food systems everywhere.

  6. Anna Yang

    Hi Faylen,

    Great blog post! It’s visually appealing and well written. The topics you raise and discuss are very thoughtful and I agree with you in how there is privilege is embedded within the food system. This was also emphasized in the cacao video that accompanied the cacao contemplative practice. I think it’s so interesting how the laborers who harvested the raw cacao were so unfamiliar with the product that was made from their harvested product, especially because they couldn’t afford to buy it even if it were available because the job of harvesting cocoa beans pays so little which again emphasizes the gap in social standing among laborers and consumers especially laborers in third world countries. This is a strong reminder that we need to acknowledge all of the work and labor that goes into the foods that we take for granted here in the US.


  7. Angelina Quilici

    Hi Faylen,
    I really enjoyed the content of your blog post. It has sparked some topics of discussion within me, and I feel compelled to share.

    I completely agree that the contemplative practices are necessary and engaging. Like you, the practices have helped me conceptualize and feel, on a personal level, what we are taught in lecture. It sheds light on the realities of the food system in very real and personal ways that everyone in the class can relate to. I agree that the contemplative practices help us realize our place and role within the world food system as well. I fully realize that I, as well as many others in the class, have the privilege to access foods and generally have food security. We also have leverage within our society to create change. However, the entire quarter I have been grappling with how to effectively create change in society. I am sure I am not the only one that tends to feel like such a small fish in a giant pond. Who am I to take one such a complex and systemic issue? How do we collectively make change? We are the voices that can help others live better lives, but most of the time we are not sure how to do that.

    The task is extremely daunting and requires immense strategy. There are various stakeholders involved who possess power that seems to set the standard in society. How do we take these people, such as corporate interests on? Will the even take the time to be receptive of our concerns? It is hard to think that corporations will actually make change and benefit those who are less fortunate for once. It has always been my outlook that the vast majority of corporations are selfish and money hungry. How do we turn these corporations around to realizer that they should be doing what is best for society, rather than what is best for themselves even if it involves giving up a portion of their profits?

    We must stand up for people that are less fortunate than us and push for solutions to the inequalities that exist within the world food system, it is just figuring out exactly how to go about creating this change that has weighed heavy on my mind.


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