I find that asking somebody ‘What do you eat?’ often produces a counter-intuitive answer of what one does not eat. Somehow, eating habits in so-called Western world are better defined by a lack of certain foods or food groups in your diet and not an abundance. The list of ‘no-no’ foods also changes constantly: gluten, grains, sugar, flour, meat, dairy, carbs, fat, [insert the current dietary hype]. In all fairness, asking ‘what do you not eat?’ would make much more sense (should keep that in mind).
Historically, different cultures defined their diet on a basis of inclusion, for example, Italians eat a lot of pasta, pizza, hearty stews; Easter Europeans – potatoes, pickled vegetables; Scandinavians – herring, berries, and mushrooms (among everything else). Foods and dishes were also closely tied to other traditions and meant different things on different occasions.
However, Westerners (meaning mostly Americans and British) seem to be going the other way around. They no longer define their diet by what they actually do eat but rather by what they don’t. A newly found ingredient is no longer added to the diet but, more often, removed.
‘Yeah, but is there something wrong with this?’ You may ask.
Well, I think there is. Focusing on elimination breeds the diet-like mentality. It creates this illusion of some foods being ‘good’ or ‘bad’. At the same time it also focuses mostly on the ‘bad’ foods (understandably, as elimination alone requires so much effort and will power). It creates anxiousness around social gatherings both for an organizer and for the attendees. It also fosters quarrel on the internet (I guess, real life as well), but not the one which leads to new ideas and findings. The one which makes you angry at each other without any solution in mind.
Let’s try focusing on what we eat or should be eating more of rather than what to exclude from your diet.