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Food Choices and Dietary Habits: An Interview With a Mexican Immigrant Essay

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Updated: Jun 22nd, 2021

Introduction

Dietary habits are inseparably connected to one’s culture and traditions. Therefore, to understand one’s culture-specific needs and the challenges that one faces in a new cultural environment, an assessment of dietary habits is essential. By taking a close look at some of the patients’ cravings, one will be able to develop a more profound understanding of patients’ needs (Kittler, Sucher, & Nelms, 2017). In the case under analysis, a 34-year-old male Mexican immigrant from a neighbor’s house was interviewed. The respondent answered several questions about his daily meals, food preferences, types of food that he did not like, traditional Mexican dishes, food preparation practices, and other relevant issues.

The results of the interview indicated that the patient’s diet is very rich in proteins yet lacks calcium. Therefore, products such as cheese, yogurt, beans, almonds, and fortified foods, as well as some less obvious choices such as salmon, can be seen as important additions to a typical Mexican diet. Because of the lack of calcium and folacin, as well as several crucial vitamins, including A and C, patients of Mexican origin require additional assistance in choosing their daily meals (Pilcher, 2017). In order to help the respondent to retain his culture and at the same time develop healthier habits, one must consider slightly shaping the diet.

Key Insights

The respondent explained that most of his choices of food were defined by two primary factors, which were Mexican culinary traditions and financial opportunities. As the respondent explained, he would buy healthier food if he could afford it. In addition, a substantial lack of dairy products in his menu should be regarded as a reason for concern. The food that the patient chooses for his daily menu could also use more vitamins, particularly A and D. Specifically, the respondent must include fish oils and liver in his diet; otherwise, dealing with current health issues might become a problem.

The interview has also shown that financial issues caused by the lack of job opportunities and options for education have affected the patient’s food choices to a considerable degree. As the respondent explained, he would switch to a healthier choice of products if he could afford to buy food that is rich in vitamins and nutrients. Therefore, addressing social concerns is an important step in handling poor dieting choices to which a large part of Mexican Americans resorts.

Applying the core and complementary food model to the diet described by the respondent will reveal that the dominant culture has had a minor effect on his dietary habits. Specifically, the core foods consumed by the interviewee reflect the Mexican culture fully and point to the strong influence of the agricultural traditions that are characteristic of Mexicans (Pilcher, 2017). For instance, the interview participant stated that vegetables, particularly tomatoes, onions, and especially chili pepper and cumin, are essential components of his daily meals.

However, slight changes that the participant’s tastes have undergone after the exposure to the American culture are also noticeable. For example, he stressed that he liked sweets and soda. In addition, the respondent emphasized that he was getting used to eating fast food whenever he had no time for cooking a regular meal or was too tired to do so. Therefore, a process of assimilation is becoming increasingly pronounced in his current tastes (Kittler et al., 2017). One might argue that the identified trends are currently only associated with his secondary products, yet they also point to the presence of an acculturation process, or, possibly, even the development of assimilation.

The current cooking habits of the interview participant are also evocative of the Mexican culture, even though some traces of the American influence can be spotted. For example, the respondent confessed to using many spices, preferring complex textures, and cooking stews regularly. The interview participant also has rather specific habits of taking meals. For instance, he mentioned that, when living with his family, he used to perceive weekly dinners as an important process in which the entire family took part. Furthermore, the roles of each family member, as well as the general hierarchy, became evident during family meals. For example, the head of the family would receive the meal first. In addition, numerous guests were invited for weekly family dinners. However, now that the respondent lives away from his family, he prefers having a meal alone and has become somewhat indifferent toward the significance of a social or familial hierarchy during a dinner.

The information provided by the respondent has also shown that his current diet consists of a large portion of fat and sugar. While the latter is an acquired taste, the former is a constituent of a range of Mexican dishes. The presence of a massive amount of fats is a risk factor that affects the health of the respondent negatively. For instance, the specified type of food contributes to a fast development of weight issues, which may start at being overweight and slowly lead to obesity (Kittler et al., 2017). Moreover, the consumption of saturated fats increases the levels of cholesterol and the subsequent risk for heart disease (Pilcher, 2017). Therefore, the current diet needs a significant change.

Reaction

The interview has shown that changes in the food culture of a particular ethnic group are representative of sociocultural alterations happening in modern American society. Moreover, I was genuinely surprised to find out that the respondent has experienced acculturation only slightly and has mostly retained his culture-specific food habits. On the one hand, the observed phenomenon can be defined as the effect of cultural appropriation in modern American society. By borrowing certain elements of a foreign culture and incorporating them into the American one, local residents create a demand for culture-specific food, among other elements.

However, claiming that the current dietary habits, meal patterns, and cooking traditions of the respondent are fully devoid of any outside influence would be wrong, either. Nevertheless, the observed phenomenon is not a negative one since it does not lead to the detriment of the participant’s cultural development. Quite the contrary, the fact that new elements, ideas, and philosophies are incorporated into his current framework is the sign of a positive change. The fact that his culinary legacy is evolving and acquiring new elements shows that the respondent is willing to have original experiences.

Nevertheless, the respondent does not seem to have reached the acculturation phase yet in his process of adapting to the American environment. For example, the fact that there is a deficiency of certain elements such as calcium in his diet proves that he could use the assistance of a healthcare practitioner. As a result, a significant improvement in the choice of food is expected. The identified change should not be regarded as a step in acculturation. Instead, it should be seen as a chance to introduce a positive change to the interviewee’s diet.

Conclusion

Due to a combination of flaws of the traditional Mexican diet and negative influences of the American one, the interviewee should change his current eating habits. Although the influence of the American culture has not been extraordinarily strong, it has led to a significant shift in the perception of food intake and the range of consumed products. As a result, the interviewee has developed a propensity toward sweets and food rich in fats. The alterations in his diet described above are likely to cause health issues. Particularly, the respondent may develop heart disease in the future.

The interview participant does not experience any lack of cultural representation regarding the food of his choice in his current area of residents, which can be explained by high levels of cultural appropriation. Although the observed phenomenon may cause damage to the Mexican culture by diluting it with the elements of the dominant American one, it also helps the interviewee enjoy the meals that he used to have in Mexico. Furthermore, the interviewee claimed that the introduction of American culture elements into Mexican cuisine helped the latter evolve and develop.

Therefore, it is recommended that the interviewee should consider adding several items to his current menu. Although the proposed change will make his food choices less authentic, it will help him retain his good health. Additionally, by incorporating new elements into his Mexican diet, the respondent will contribute to the further development thereof.

References

Kittler, P. G., Sucher, K. P., & Nelms, M. (2016). Food and culture (7th ed.). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.

Pilcher, J. M. (2017). Planet taco: A global history of Mexican food (2nd ed.). New York, NY: OUP.

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IvyPanda. (2021, June 22). Food Choices and Dietary Habits: An Interview With a Mexican Immigrant. https://ivypanda.com/essays/food-choices-and-dietary-habits-an-interview-with-a-mexican-immigrant/

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"Food Choices and Dietary Habits: An Interview With a Mexican Immigrant." IvyPanda, 22 June 2021, ivypanda.com/essays/food-choices-and-dietary-habits-an-interview-with-a-mexican-immigrant/.

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IvyPanda. "Food Choices and Dietary Habits: An Interview With a Mexican Immigrant." June 22, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/food-choices-and-dietary-habits-an-interview-with-a-mexican-immigrant/.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Food Choices and Dietary Habits: An Interview With a Mexican Immigrant." June 22, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/food-choices-and-dietary-habits-an-interview-with-a-mexican-immigrant/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'Food Choices and Dietary Habits: An Interview With a Mexican Immigrant'. 22 June.

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