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Eastern Food Vs. Western Food
What's the Difference?
written by Kieran Lampert
 
When asked if they have ever eaten Chinese food before, most Americans will tell you that they have. Maybe one of their favorite places to eat in their hometown is "The Golden Wok," or "China Gate," or some other equally generic Chinese fast food joint. Truth be told, this is not Chinese food. It's not American either, for that matter, but somewhere in between. In actuality, authentic Chinese food is much different from what most Westerners would imagine.

Most Chinese dishes use a generous amount of oil. On first experiencing an authentic Chinese dish, most Westerners will not be able to finish the entire meal due to the sheer weight of it. Most Americans are used to pasta, salad, or dried foods like bread and cereal, such as is popular in European countries like France and Italy. Oil is used sparingly due to constant health reminders from Western dietitions. As a result, the dishes tend to be much lighter on the stomach. In Taiwan, however, a meal without oil is like a BLT without bacon.

Also, in Taiwan, culture and philosophy are often mixed with food. Even within a meal there is a certain aspect of "yin" and "yang," a balance of forces. Foods are considered to have "hot" and "cold" properties, and foods of both types are often served together in balanced proportions to maintain your health. For example, a common dessert is a cake combining red bean, a "hot" food, with green bean, a "cold" food. By combining these two foods, the dish is considered to be well balanced.

Also, rice is extremely prominent in Chinese meals. Most Americans, however, will mix their food with their rice and eat the two together, but this is not the way Chinese traditionally eat their meal. The other foods are eatern first, using the rice as a sort of "drop cloth" if you will. The sauces from the food fall onto the rice, flavoring it, and after it has been flavored the rice is eaten.

It is hard to say exactly what "American" food is. Unlike Eastern foods, which have a distinct culture and identity, American foods are simply foods taken from other countries. Some have called America the "melting pot of the world" in regards to the fact that there are people from so many backgrounds living there, mixing cultures and "melting" together to create something new and indescribable. I suppose the same can be said about American food as well. Quite possibly the only thing America has added to the world of food is not really a food at all, but rather a way of serving it; fast food. As usual, Americans make the point that "if someone else does something, we can do it faster and make money off of it." It seems like nowadays there are few, if any, countries without a McDonalds, Burger King or KFC. Though it is not something I'm terribly proud of, I suppose it is the only "food" I can claim as purely American.

Which is better? Chinese food, with its culture, philosophy, clear identity, and generous use of oil? Or the wide variety of nameless, countryless, light-on-the-stomach "American" food?

YOU decide. There's a world of food out there. Bon Appetite!

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