After a six month exchange program in Brazil, I think Brazilian foodways are not any better or worse than American foodways. Surprisingly, I found myself defending my culture’s “decisions” to eat unhealthfully. When I would begin to explain about the geographical and economical problems of food in the States, Brazilians began to understand why Americans eat the way they do.
Everyone has a messed up diet. I use the example of the Hot Dog. When I asked Brazilians what came to mind when they thought of Americans, they would mostly say that we are hamburger and hot dog eaters. After living in three regions of Brazil, I came to the conclusion that Brazilians eat much more hot dogs than we do (where as we eat a lot more hamburgers). At times, I think that Brazilians treat hot dogs as if it were a real meat. When they are not eating them whole at the street stands, they are cut up and put in pastas and soups. As an American when I see chopped up hot dog and noodles, it brings to mind a poor mom trying to feed something that her kids will eat, or a lazy college student that doesn’t know how to cook.
Also, Brazilians tend to characterize us not just as junk food eaters but specifically as fast food eaters. I can not argue against them about our large consumption of fast food, but I can point out that these bad American ways of eating are constantly becoming more of their foodways as well. I noticed it first with all the marking for industrialized foods. For example, Pepsi’s Pode Ser campaign is slowly converting Brazilian’s addiction from Coke to the cheaper Pepsi. The soda quantities are rising now with the arrival of the 3 liter bottle, technically 3.3 liters with the free additional 300ml soda companies promote. Thankfully, Brazilians still have the custom to using smaller cups (around 300ml) than the big gulps we have in the States.
Like most drink ads in Brazil sexy woman are used to adverse products. My favorite was a beer ad for Cerveja with the hot chick saying, “This one is GOSTOSA!” (a word meaning delicious that many Brazilians use to describe women commonly here).
Finally, in Food Studies one learns a lot about McDonald’s and how it represents and means different things for various cultures around the world. It was really interesting to see that how in some regions of Brazil eating McDonald’s was a symbol of power, modernity, and to be cosmopolitan. Some Brazilians told me that they have tasty burgers and that it was chic to take a girl out a date to the Golden Arches. I imagine if I were to take a girl out in the States to Mc D’s, I would probably get smacked since many of us Americans feel regret of having to eat it.
Have any similar experiences between the foodways of two different cultures?