I worked for a doctor who was born and raised in China. One day he shared an interesting story: his father had traveled to a distant city on business and went to eat dinner at a nice restaurant that night. He had long heard that there was a famous local dish and believed this was the opportunity to taste it. He was horrified, however, when the covered platter was presented and inside were 4 live baby mice. He happily traded the dish with the man at the next table for his bowl of noodles.
The reason behind this tale is to illustrate that in different places and different times, people have enjoyed foods that we consider strange. Andrew Zimmern shows that each week on his tv show Bizarre Foods. When he visited West Virginia to see the Road Kill Cook-Off we had no issues with the food here, but the concept amuses and even horrifies people only 500 miles away.
Throughout time the food people ate depended greatly on the climate and what foods could be cultivated or found naturally in the wild. Today we have a vast selection of food available to us that travel hundreds and thousands of miles to our local supermarkets.
Our food preferences are greatly influenced by our parents and how they introduce new tastes to us as a baby. In addition there are other factors that cause us to make food choices: our peers, our susceptibility to persuasion by advertising, income, and apparently also our political leanings.
A study done in 2009 showed that liberals tend to be willing to try new foods and will eat more international diets while conservatives tend to eat the traditional meat and potato diet.
Suggesting to adults that modifying their diet to something that has been demonstrated will be healthier is difficult at best. Breaking a habit of any type takes will power and determination. My oldest sister has recently been told that her BMI is too low. Her need to gain weight means a change in a long established eating habit and is as difficult for her as losing weight is to me.
But even Andrew Zimmern has changed his emphasis from bizarre to best. Identifying the best foods available in markets and restaurants in the United States is the message in his Appetite for Life program. “By making just these small changes, we will ease the pressure off of those commodity farms, and by voting with our wallets and our mouths we send a large message to all of Big Ag and Big Food. These are small steps we can take to make a big difference. We have the power to change the way we eat in America, one plate at a time.”
So, make the switch, lay off the fast food deep fried daily habit and switch to finding and preparing good local foods at least 3 or 4 times a week. Now that the farmers’ markets are open, go explore new foods and new ways to prepare them. WVFarm2u has an interactive page on the website that will help you locate local food at farmers’ markets, farmstands, on the farm sales and more! Go to http://www.wvfarm2u.org/ to start your own effort to improve your access to local food and support the local economy.