Multicultural aspect at meal time

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-19-2002
Multicultural aspect at meal time
23
Mon, 09-03-2012 - 2:54am

In the near decade of being an expat and in an intercultural relationship, it stroke me that that biggest cultural difference is with food. On never truely realise how deep rooted and part of one's cultural heritage food is and meal time is.

The Swiss meals timing alone is totally different from the Idnian one. In Switzerland people will eat breakfast at the jump of bed, have a long lunch, and a light quick dinner the earliest in the evening possible (generally 6-7pm no later. In India people will have breakfast relatively late in the morning, and only after things like taking a shower and doing prayers is done

Lunch is super fast and come only at 1pm rather than noon, and what we call dinner at 6 is called a snack in India with dinenr being served past 10pm.
DH can't get used to my swiss way, I struggled with the Indian pattern, so while we pretty much eat breakfast together, dinner is never eaten as a family. Lunch is eaten together on weekends, weekdays he has it in office.
As far as what is on the plate, DH is North Indian so things need to swimm in gravy at all time, he doesn't like dry rice as a side dish, and even pasta is not wet enough for him to like it, he will eat continental style meat only if it comes with a heavy sauce or in the case of something grilled dipped into ketchup. My digestive system doesn't handle the oily gravy part, and I gained weight over the years doing the Indian carb heavy oil heavy fare, so I switched back to continental cuisine on most days.
In the past DH and I would actually bicker about the meal time, because we both only could compromise that far, years of experience and wisdom setting in we decided quarrelling about the content of one's plate was silly, so he eats Indian, I eat continental, and because we are in a position of being able to afford it, we have a maid that cooks Indian for him (labour is very cheap in India), that way it's prepared by a person that ruely understands the spice palette and cultural taste, and we don't have to feel tensed about the bickering about food.
I realise our model is not for everybody, but the more I go in married life, the more I see where my parent's generation went wrong, they were told that married people think alike, do everything together at all time, meaning there were compromises on everything including the things that were not to compromise upon. DH and I simply learned to choose our battle wisely, we of course compromise on things, but not everything, and it is not the end of the world if there is pasta on my plate at 6pm and rice and vegetable gravy on his at 10pm, we end up both with a tummy full, well nourished and satiated and happy meaning we can focus about other things :-)
My daughter eats a little of both culture too , because I eat lentil dishes and meat dishes the India way too when I feel like it. Since DH works out of the house and it's me and my daughter all day long it only is natural that she eats the same meals I do anyway.


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iVillage Member
Registered: 12-16-2004
Tue, 09-11-2012 - 4:02am

So your daughter, when does she eat?  The reason for eating together is teaching a child how to eat and what to eat.  

My husbands biggest problem  with meal time is the lingon jam  with everything and also the constant drinking of coffee, he has learned when to say no or say half cup so he doesnt insult people.  We try to compromise when it comes to food, but since Swedish and Scottish  cuisine isnt that different, thank God, it is easier for us.

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Registered: 03-19-2002
Wed, 09-12-2012 - 9:06am

My daughter eats meals with me, it's just that DH has totally different work schedule and tastes that would make having the same stuff on the plate at the same time challenging. She actually eats almost everything without problem, she is still in a phase where green veggies are pretty much like kryptonite but she already decided that broccoli are fine.
I grew up in a family that placed family meal high on the list, but the problem is that in India office goers have long hours, irregular hours too, DH can't tell from one day to the next when he will be back from work, to top it his commute is one hour per way, and for a city like Mumbai this is considered a short commute so having a meal time routine for the whole family is pretty much out, and this is one of the reason why I don't want to go to work in an office myself, dual incomes in India mean it gets really too though on the kids and mean you really need to have a strong family support network to help, prefereably living in with your in-laws or parents, or having a highly trustworthy fulltime maid (rare). To top it all DH being a business consultant, his job does involve travelling, with his current company and position it is fortunately much less than it was before, but he is still away 1-2 nights a week, which is a huge massive improvement over the previous job where he could be away 2-3 weeks at a time.


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Wed, 09-12-2012 - 9:18am

OMG I am so gald to hear someone else that has the same issue with rice, I never quite got the whole giant protion of rice thing, my body can't process it into anything useful, it turns into flab and only serves to spike my blood sugar, I am insuline resistant, rice is therefore a thing to limit strongly, most Indians just don't get it, rice is such a huge staple, especially in South India.
And tell me about the hectic work schedule, I worked in a call center for a while a few years back, then switched to freelance translation because at least I could do it from home, when I was in the call center industry my commute was nearly 2 hours per way, that was 4 hours in a company chauffered car, it was that long because we had to pick up people on the way, but the office was so far from my place going on my own by Auto or even by car if we evan had one back then would have taken 1.5 hours per way. I barely saw my husband back in those days, because he was an IT consultant with the typical irregular work hours. having a daughter that is the reason I now don't even want to go to work outside the home again because in a city like Mumbai the commute could turn to be even crazier than they were in Bangalore.
I pretty much have the same phylosophy when it comes to food, no one goes hungry in my house either, and I refuse to feel guilty about having a maid cook DH's meals while I cook something different for myself. In a way our situation reminds me of some debates back home where it was discussed wheter a vegetarian person could live with a non-vegetarian one without any problem. I'vve seen it happen with a number of friend and even in-law family members here in India, once you take out the idea that everybody in the house should have the exact same thing on the plate at all meal it's totally possible to make it work.
I guess in that cultural aspect of meal time I have gone Indian :-)


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Thu, 09-13-2012 - 2:58am

Yes indeed, I have thought so for years, the Idnian traditionnal diet has very little in matter of nutritional intake, minerals are pretty much the only thing that survive in vegetables because the Indian style believe in overcooking them to a mush, no vitamin can survive that treatment, and yup 6 cups of rice a meal is nut, the amount is less in North India but still far too much for a single person to handle. I've been living in India almost 9 years now, and I lost the count of time people told me "you people in the west eat junk food only" putting pizza and pasta as well as anything meat in the category. A while ago pissed by it I wrote a post on my blog showing how white rice and white pasta actually have the same nutritional value, give or take a few calories and grams, I took actual picture of the nutrition facts of both my pack of rice and pack of pasta, it's actually pasta that is more nutricious than white rice contianing double the proteins. Yet I have one smart ass who commented that this whole need for protein thing is a myth perpetuated by the west to make Indian look bad...sigh...no way to win!
My MIL think we spend to much on food, but DH and I are fruit and nuts addict, and we simply believe that the priority in the budget goes into feeding ourselves healthy stuff rather than save it for medical emergencies and retirment or what not, if we eat healthy we are less likely to fall really super sick anyway, and we can afford eating more "fancy" items such as nuts and fruits. It has reached a point than when we go to the in-laws once a year we are now really noticing how different things are, we feel pretty lethargic from the all carbs, all fat no fiber diet served there, and  a week is enough to get me to feel tight in my jeans and feeling a bit clogged, and I limit the insanity by not taking the rice and limiting my portions in the first place...sigh!


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Registered: 12-16-2004
Thu, 09-13-2012 - 3:16am

Even between two countries as close as Sweden and Scotland there is a major food difference, my husband has lost 20 pounds since moving here just from eating  my food  and I don't only cook Swedish.   Here healthy food is cheaper then candy, chocolates, crisp and sodas.  No way we can afford to drink sweet sodas everyday, too expensive and the tap water is  lovely here, not filled with salt and chemicals as his water was.

Also we use less preservatives, food colorings and food chemicals here,  I was amazed to find that the  ground meat I could afford in Scotland contained  preservatives and was colored slightly orange, weird and not needed.  I sadly get bloated when I am over there due to my intolerance to food chemicals.

Oh and the amount of deep fried things, ghaa only the Dutch are worse and everything is so fatty and the veggies arent as crisp as I am used to.

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Registered: 03-19-2002
Thu, 09-13-2012 - 9:26am

Yeah it was the same in Switzerland, natural fruit juices were as costly or as cheap as the sodas, the healthy food defintiely better looking and cheaper than the junk and organic veggies not even that much costlier than the regular veggies, so people don't see the point of eating junk, heck even fast food joints aren't that popular, pizza hut cost double if not triple the amount of a regular clay oven authetic italian pizza, Mc D's meal is as costly as a cafe meal of the day, and if one is really into eating on the go Doner Kebabs are far more popular, and cheaper than Mc D anyway.

In Idnia that is a totally different ball game, chips, ramen noodle, fried namkeens, soda and packaged crap is dirt cheap in supermarkets, the price of veggies is going up, fruits are not something everybody can afford, forget about atural juices, they are costing double the price of a 2 litre coke bottle for their whole 1 litre of product.  Organic is just only starting to make an appearance in some local select markets, supermarkets are selling grains and pulses in organic form, and that is about it, and it's so insanel costlier than the regular stuff that a lot of people don;t go for it, I favour it if can, I don;t care if my kg of lentils cost 1.5 more than the regular one, I'm all for promoting a trend that is healthy if I can afford it.


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Thu, 09-13-2012 - 10:05am

MacDonalds isnt that expensive here but I wouldnt eat there anyway and nor would my husband, if we eat out and want something quick then it is Subway  or  Majkens  a small sausage hut, the sausages are standard Swedish sausages so they arent that  fatty.

Dont get me wrong there is good food in Scotland, if you look at the old time cooking it is a lot like the Swedish food and it is lovely but sadly  tins and prepacked has taken over.   I walked in to Tesco and all I could smell was slightly rotten  turnips and people were buying them, no wonder no one likes turnip.

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Registered: 03-19-2002
Thu, 09-13-2012 - 10:52pm

Subway exists in Switzerland but it's not popular at all, I think in all of Geneva there is only one shop tucked away in an alley and it's empty most of the time, sandwiches can be bought fresh and made with a crunchy baguette from any bakery, or in supermarkets, so people don't really see the point of going there, the first time I ate a subway sandwich was here in India because I was craving some smoked chicken ham real bad and you can't find it easily in stores to make your own sandwiches at home.
I think all the is really working in Switzerland is Mc D, even pizza hut shut all it's outlet in Geneva (but kept them in Zurich), Dominos pizza is struggling too because most people haven't sold themselves to the home delivery thing, if we plan to have outside food we usually take the time to get out of the house rather than eat out of a box at home.
When I went back to Switzerland for 2 months in 2008 I saw starbucks opened outlets in the country, I checked one, but I didn't buy anything, the prices are ridiculously costly for something they serve to you in a paper cup anyway. All my friends said the same thing, they found the novelty of having things like tall lattes and flavour fun, but consider these coffees to be like a dessert rather than a coffee. The concept of coffee shops in Switzerland is age old, people go to their corner cafe to get their morning fix and read the paper, and take their time at it, the syndicates made it mandatory to have a 15-20 minutes break for coffee in the morning in all profession I am not joking here, so the whole idea of rushing to starbucks and grab a cup to go is totally alien to Swiss, I doubt it will be workign well in the long run, unless they revise their whole system.

While you find ready to eat in Swiss supermarkets, it usually the type that is in the fresh zone, it's fresh pasta, fresh dim sums, and tossed pizza with fresh un cooked ingredients on a pre-cooked bread base. The frozen meal is uncommon, and the freezers are full of meat stuff and veggetables, when I was a kid frozen pizzas existed, but they were gross, the instant they started selling fresh pre-cooked one my mom went for that exclusively. The ultimate frozen meal food that is probably the only one working well for people is the frozen lasagna.
In India people are reluctant to anything frozen and even the idea of freezing market bought meat in your freezer is repulsive to many, in big cities you now find a wide range of frozen meat stuff, because there are more and more nuclear dual income families where spending half your day going to buy your daily ingredients is not possible, I am a SAHM but I still rely on the freezer more than all, probably because freezer food is part of my culture. DH is highly suspicious of anything that has sat int he freezer more than a week and I know where he comes from, fridges and freezers are a recent thing in India, until a decade ago one had to have a good income to be able to afford one, it is now becoming more affordable but people like my maid still can't afford one, so the concept of refrigerating and storing food at home for more than a day isn't ingrained in the culture.


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Registered: 12-16-2004
Fri, 09-14-2012 - 2:32am

Starbuck is trying to open 10 shops here, I think 3 is up and running by now, but they are near  big trainstations and airports, most Swedes that I know of say that the coffee is too weak, too expensive and there is better coffee shops to be found near by.   In Sweden we have two mandatory coffee breaks , we run on coffee, we solve problems over coffee and we socialize over coffee,  my husband has learned to not always say yes but sometimes asked for half cup.

We brewed Swedish coffee for the wedding in Scotland and people watered it down and still complained it was too strong.

The reason Subway works here is  because the bread is crisp and lovely and the veggies are crunchy and lovely and in this town they are located next to the  trainstation,  at the Uni and  where most people eat lunch. I tend to eat there when I am on town  I dont have the luxery of just  going home as  soon as I want to and living in  a small village  15 minutes away, (25  with bus) I just have to wait for the bus which goes 1 per hour -ish.

I sometimes  buy a salad at the pick and mix saladsbar but as  autumn is here there is no good places to sit down and eat it now.

It is harder to open up an eatery then it is to open up a beautisaloon here in Sweden, reason being that the law hasn't caught up with the beauty industry and  any one can call them  self a beautician with zero education or knowledge but as a baker or a chef you need a degree in food safety and sum such.

Even the  big international players when it comes to food has  adher to these standards which means a McD burger is fresher here then its native country.

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-19-2002
Fri, 09-14-2012 - 9:38am
I wasn't freezing meat as much in Bangalore where the power cuts where frequent, but I still did so without much problem, the meat doesn't thaw much in the one hour cuts (we had 2 hours a day of laod shedding, one hour int he morning, one in the evening), if not at all because my freezer was small and packed enough so that the food stuff in there would keep each other cold enough. I freeze far more in Mumbai though, there are no power cuts at all in this city, probably one of the very few positive point about this place. But even though we now have a bigger fridge I would not want to go for a side by side door, because the fridge in these is ridiculously small for the size of the whole unit and the freezer too big considering my needs and the fact that in the even of a cut they probably loose the cold much faster.


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