Okay, so I guess the cat's out of the bag... I.AM.CANADIAN.
That being said, I have been abroad to Europe once or twice in my lifetime, particularly to France, and I must say, I admire their approach to nutrition and eating. It certainly contrasts with the traditional North American way. Being from and currently living in Newfoundland, I get a bit of both. European influences and the North American/United States influenced diets and habits. I just wanna compare some key things I noticed quickly for you guys...
Point #1: Europeans Are Never Rushed While Eating
This particular family I stayed with made me an excellent meal of spaghetti. I love spaghetti, so I was eating away, doing my best not to let people hear my broken Canadian-French.
I was friends with the guy sitting next to me, Marco. I noticed he finished about a little more then 3/4 of his plate, and then got to work clearing up and wrapping what was left of his dish to refrigerate. I was all: 'What gives, man? Not hungry?' He says 'Not really. A little, though. But I don't wanna overdo it.' So I asked him why he didn't finish at least what he had left, he looked at me for a second and said: 'Why? Will it not be there tomorrow?' I thought about it for a sec and I'm there, 'Damn, he's right! What's the rush? Whatever I want isn't so perishable or scarce that I can't leave it for tomorrow. I don't have to finish off this pasta or this pie or what have you right now, because it'll be there tomorrow.' Marco wouldn't have gorged himself of course, by finishing that plate, but he knows there is no point in having it when he is not hungry. He is satisfied in the hunger sense, and he will finish that food tomorrow, when he is hungry for it.
Not only is that great self-control, but it would also save you a number of things, including money that you might use to buy more food, and time to prepare an entirely new meal.
North Americans, on the other hand, tend to eat every meal as if it is their last. They eat and stuff themselves to finish off whatever they can, as it is sort of faux pas in many Western civilizations to leave food on the table, indicating that either: A) You didn't like it. or B) You are full. Marco was neither, he just had sense. You don't need to eat to the point where you are stuffed full, or when you feel you cannot eat any more. You merely eat enough to sustain yourself until your next meal. Which brings me to my next point...
Point #2: For Europeans, It's Not About Eating, or Even Taste, to a Degree. It's About the EXPERIENCE.
You heard me. Europeans enjoy the tastes of things as much as we do, but they are less likely to pop open a can of Pepsi just because they crave the taste of one, or to eat when they are not hungry out of habit or lust for a particular taste of food. Rather, they would much rather COMBINE all the pleasures of eating, into one great eating experience. These parts include, but are not limited to...
i) Buying the food. In France in particular, which is where I am drawing the most of my memories from, many markets are outdoor. People bustle around chatting with friends and shop keepers in a very pleasant atmosphere. In North America, shops are huge and all-purpose, and you buy things because you need to, rarely socializing with anybody, just picking up what you need and getting the fu** out of that scary place.
As a further point, Europe has far more specialty shops. As in, one store might sell only breads, or even a particular kind of bread, and one store might only carry vinaigrettes or sauces. While in NA, this would drive up the price substantially, many of these items are either local grown and fresh, or homemade, so the cost is able to be subsidized and the food tends to be much more natural and healthy. While they don't always get the luxury of one all-purpose store, they don't mind. You are much more likely to find obscure items or exactly what you are looking for in these specialty shops, provided you know where to go.
ii) Preparing the food. A lot of packaging for food in NA, or ways food is available to purchased, like at fast food restaurants, represent the 'quick and dirty eating' I mentioned above. That is to say, buy whatever you can as fast as you can, make it as fast as you can, and eat it as fast as you can.
The Europeans take great care to prepare their food slowly and with purpose, following age old recipes (Like Marco's mother's spaghetti.) and being very patient with the whole process. This, to my experience, makes the food a lot more worthwhile. Although, this is one thing I share in common with NA eaters. Made in several hours, gobbled down in several minutes.
iii) Actually eating the food. While a lot of North Americans eat alone, or in couples or groups of three, Europeans tend to invite over extended families and friends to share in the meal, making it more of a social event, and less of simply a meal. It is a social event to eat even at home, much like going out to restaurants is in North America. It really heightens the atmosphere, and can even make the food taste better, to my experience, when you are sharing it with good friends.
As you can see, Europeans don't rush much of anything, and enjoy their time together because, as they know, time is short. Eh... C'est la vie!
Point #3: Eating is a Lifestyle, Much Like Cooking is an Art
Touching on the above again, all this sounds like it would take a lot of time. Not so. Preparing and eating the food as above relaxes the people as a whole, improves their lifestyles, and even reducing stress and sleep troubles! Without being so hurried meal to meal, and possibly due to the majority eating much healthier, Europeans as a whole tend to be fitter, more active and just generally have more 'loose' personalities then their American coutnerparts. It all trickles down the line. Eat well, live well, as they say. (Trying out some French I haven't used since high school... Mangez bien, habitez bien!)
Just some quick points. I think if we all followed the examples of the Europeans, and the French in particular that I listed above, we'd be better people. It might even make eating healthier more fun for some of you. Just thought I'd maybe through that out there as bit of inspiration, as my France trip definitely inspired me, and I try to be more relaxed and methodical when I eat. (When I can.
) Good luck guys.
~~~A Roman Thought~~~