Food Diversity: I think I am a little spoiled

I looked at what I have been eating the last few days, and just realized that how lucky I have been. I have been eating quiet diverse (ethnicity speaking) for a long awhile. I often say to my friends that “Oh I had Indian last night. Let’s try something beside Indian” or “I just came back from Texas. Let try something beside beef”.

I suppose there are a couple angles to look at this. Maybe because I had many great steak from Texas and other steaks may not measure up, but more likely, it is because food fatigue.

Regardless, I feel that we are very blessed/lucky, that we have the option of having a juicy build-your-own hamburger for lunch, then Chinese steamed fish for dinner, then a French crepe the next morning …etc. This is something many of us can easily enjoy. This kind of lifestyle would have been very difficult just 50 years ago. In fact, it is probably still pretty difficult if you don’t live near a city.

Of course, there are also the diversity in fruits and vegetables too, but that is another topic.

3 Likes

Do I assume we’re just talking restaurants here? Or including home cooking?

Let me assume the former for now, as I’m just off out for dinner (Thai, seeing as you ask). The diversity of restaurants anywhere in the world is going to reflect immigration patterns. Yes, you’re going to get a greater diversity in cities because that’s where folk are drawn to. I live in a village - OK, it’s actually mainly a 1930s suburb in the metro area - but 100 years ago, it was a real village, with a distinct bit of countryside between it and other communities. About 5000 people live here.

We have five restaurants - four of them south asian and an Italian one. Several other places are takeaway only - again mainly south asian, with one Chinese and several burger/pizza places. There’s business for all of them (but we can’t support a greengrocer). But that generally reflects immigration - certainly the Chinese and South Asian places. Even real villages are likely to have an Indian restaurant and , probably a Chinese takeaway (even if the latter is also the village fish & chips shop). So, it’s limited diversity - immigration here has never generally been in large numbers and communities have not put down sufficient roots to see a wide diversity of other restaurants (cities excepted)

I think whether you’re talking about cooking or eating out your ‘home base’ will have a lot to do with it. I have a friend, who’s a great cook, but lives in a small town after many years in San Francisco. I live in a not big city. I can get more things than she can but not what I can get when visiting big cities. Cooking can be easier to handle because of mail order of course but that can be very expensive when talking about things like fish.

I think with both the demographic changes that have taken place in the past decades throughout most of the US (and Europe too I imagine) along with the increase in “foodie culture” access to food diversity has really grown, even outside of major cities. Houston TX and Queens NY where I spent most of my adult life before moving to Philly 8 years ago were both places with amazingly diverse food options - and places where people generally took advantage of those options - ethnic foods were definitely enjoyed by a large swath of the population. When I moved to Philly I found the choices - for both dining and shopping lacking but things have been improving drastically. Within walking distance of my house 8 years ago the options were pizza, cheesesteak and Chinese - thats it - Now there is Indian, Middle Eastern, Korean Fried Chicken, A couple of “elevated” Taco places, French, PHO and more - apparently a couple of noodle houses are on the way. On my first stint in Philly in 2001-3 I would have been hard pressed to find this variety in Center City forget in the nether reaches of Fishtown. The market for restaurants has increased as so has the demand for variety - Definitely the “millenials” are willing to explore almost anything provided it’s packaged correctly for their consumption - I have never seen anything anywhere that compared to the variety in Queens NY through - it is truly incredible.

1 Like

Anything actually. I was thinking a little of both the restaurants and the home cooking as well, but certain a little more on the restaurants side.

Yes, some of us are pretty spoiled.

I’ve thought about this before, but it really hit me a few weeks ago when I was in Kuala Lumpur for a family wedding. I felt like I was eating the same foods and the same flavor profiles over and over again during the wedding functions (Indian wedding so it was 5 days long). Everyone there is used to eating the same type of dal and same type of chicken and same type of rice and same type of sweets. It just seemed so monotonous to me (and my kids). Even after the wedding, the home cooked food was the same flavors and ingredients. The last couple days of our visit, we asked for (and got) Malay food and Chinese food. It was such a welcome change from the dal/chicken/rice meals we had been eating. I had a few meals outside the house while shopping and running errands, but the whole thing really made me realize how lucky I am to live in LA, where I can have a great burrito for lunch and good korean bbq for dinner one day, and then ramen and a nice steak the next day. The American/Western restaurants there tend to be chain restaurants, because that’s what sells there to the locals and tourists.

3 Likes

Agreed 100%. Since I left home at age 17, I’ve lived mostly in larger cities where I could get any cuisine, culminating with the last 15 years in NYC, where not only can you get any cuisine, you can get it 24/7! Whenever I go back to visit my parents I am amazed at the dearth of options in their small town. It’s one of the reasons that I don’t foresee myself ever living too far from a major metropolitan area.

3 Likes

Sort of a sideline here… I live in central NJ which you may know is called the "Garden State’. & fo good reason There is a lot of farming around here which surprises a lot of people because you have to look for it. The local produce season is just starting. Asparagus is about done, Strawberries are in full swing & there’s Rhubarb. Eating produce right out of the field/orchard is totally different from eating it from the supermarket. We’ll have a tremendous diversity of all sorts of produce from now till December.

1 Like

How come I see a lot of oil refineries instead? And they still won’t let me pump my gas.

I agree and I’m very thankful for the variety. I live in a small city with a major university, so there is a wide diversity available for ingredients. There are few restaurants that are great, although this is improving (and fortunately more of the lower priced/casual style). I agree with Harters that the diversity reflects immigration patterns - we have many students from China and there are new, region specific Chinese restraints opening.

Same here. Grew up in a metropolitan area, and growing up in an ethnic family, I was always exposed to a lot of foods. The downside is my taste buds get bored easily, and I can sound whiny when I complain about my terrible first-world problems like having to eat the same thing two nights in a row.

I never thought about this much until I visited a little, little town in OH a few hours from Indianapolis and Chicago - it was smack dab in the middle of farm country. Outside of 2-3 chain restaurants nearby and maybe a local pizza/hamburger joint, there was nothing else, except your local Walmart and grocery store. I had fun visiting them, but I don’t think I would have lasted beyond the 3 days I stayed due to the food.

1 Like

I did something wrong in a former life and have been sentenced to a culinary wasteland.

There is one Vietnamese, one Indian, one sushi and 5 horrible Chinese restaurants in my area. In addition there area a couple of Greek restaurants and then the rest are chain restaurants.

I reserve eating out for travelling with the exception of the occasional pizza.

I envy the lot of you!

Um, are you aware that we eat things other than beef here in Texas? That’s such a stuck in the 1950’s PR about us. You want to become really spoiled - and maybe more educated - on the subject of culinary cultures and diversity, may I suggest that you visit Texas? And not the set where they shot “Dallas”?

I agreed with you. However, yesterday I realized something while I was driving. There are several counter-examples. Here is one example. I consider where I live (New Jersey) has rather poor Mexican food. Yet, there are plenty Mexican immigrants, so much so that if you look behind a Chinese restaurant kitchen or a Italian restaurant kitchen, you will likely see 50% Mexican as the line cooks. So the significant number of Mexican immigrants do not seem to translate a huge number of Mexican restaurants in my area.

Another example, Japanese restaurants. There are plenty Japanese restaurants around, yet most of they are operated by Chinese or Korean (as opposed to Japanese), so it seems the number of Japanese restaurants correlates with Chinese/Korean immigrants instead of Japanese.

That is very humorous. :smiley:

This is probably better than many small towns.

I know people eat more than just steak in Texas, and I have been in Texas a few times before. Twice this year. In fact, I just arrived San Antonio, Texas today.

I think either you are being funny and I don’t get your joke, or you have completely missed my point.

If I had written: “I just came back from Japan in a 10 days trip. Let’s try something beside sushi”, I bet zero Japanese get offended. Of course, Japanese do not just eat sushi. In fact, sushi is not something most Japanese eat on a daily basis. However, the statement can be interrupted that I had some of the best sushi in the world, and if you treat me to sushi in US, then I will likely get disappointed.

"Everytime I came back from SF or Toronto eating their Dim Sum, I tried
to avoid Dim Sum in the east coast for awhile because they just don’t
taste as good – in my humble opinion.

some of this also has to do with what immigrants are able or wish to do when they get to their new homeland.

in boston, most sushi places are also owned by chinese but their chinese-born chefs have trained in japan. we have a very small japanese immigrant population and most of them work in tech. they’re urban and educated, unlike a lot of rural migrants from elsewhere, with poor english – who are more likely to have low-skill jobs like dishwasher.

Well Chem we have those also. & (relatively) cheap gas prices because of it. But if you get off the Turnpike there’s a lot more in NJ than what you see from the expressway. Drop by sometime & I’ll be more than happy to take you around to some really terrific farms. & I’m in sort of the middle of the state. Down south there’s even more.

We have a wholesale food business & almost all of our produce comes from our county & two adjacent counties.

Agreed…In my glacial slow migration further southward {NYC,Jersey city,East Brunswick,Monroe} I’ve come to love the diverse food culture and consider the turnpike my conduit to great food destinations in Jersey from Cuban and Peruvian in West New York,Japanese and Korean in Edgewater and Fort Lee, Filipino and West Indian in JC,Portuguese and Brazilian in Newark,South Asian and Chinese in Edison,Mexican in Lakewood and Tom’s river…The thing is everything is right here if you’re willing to explore and travel and the Pike is the conduit.
The wife and I love the fact that withing an hour’s drive we can dine in one of the greatest restaurant cities in the world as well as the burgeoning food scene that Philly is becoming.

“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold