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Hailey M. Fletcher

Dr. Blackburn

RC 1000

4.3.19

Culture and Economics Influence Food Choice

There is one thing everyone all around the world has in common - the love for food.

Whether someone is vegan, vegetarian, or nothing at all, people love food. But the question is,

why do humans love food so much? What does it mean to different people? Are there reasons

why people make certain choices? There are many questions that are waiting to be answered. I

believe that there are several aspects of human life that cause us to choose and eat the foods that

we do. Food choices are determined by political, cultural, socio-economic, and various other

factors. However, there are some people that are not aware of this or the negative impacts that

food has on the environment. Authors like Dan Jurafsky, Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, Mary

Roach, and Margaret Mead all express their different opinions on what exactly they believe

determines what we eat. The common factor between all of them is culture. Therefore, I believe

that culture and economics have the biggest impact on food. Does culture really have that big of

an effect on food choices?

One of the most interesting pieces of text that I chose was ​The Physiology of Taste, b​ y

Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin. I chose this text because it is older than the rest and provides a

more enlightening and judicious style of writing. The author uses aphorisms, which are basically

mottos or proverbs for eating. The text was published in 1825 and is famous for portraying how

food and culture are closely related, and always have been. Savarin includes several aphorisms
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that demonstrate how important food is to cultures and what they mean. “The destiny of nations

depends on the manner in which they are fed” (68). This is an essential one because it refers to

nations and how they are eating. In effect, this provides an idea of the future of Americans as a

result of the way they eat, which I think is important for Americans to understand. The diet of

Americans is primarily based on fast food, and whether they know it or not, most Americans

aren’t eating “real food”. Another elemental aphorism by Jean would be the one stating, “The

Creator, when he obliges man to eat, invites him to do so by appetite, and rewards him by

pleasure”(68). This aphorism is very crucial because it brings religion into play, a pretty large

part of culture. All over the world, religion plays a huge role in many people's lives. By

mentioning “the creator”, it becomes something that people may look to as a proverb, which in

turn influences their decisions about food. The author is also stating the fact that food rewards

people with pleasure. Eating food is a pleasurable act and is something that is supposed to be

enjoyed. With this in mind, people choose foods that they know they are going to enjoy. Personal

preferences and desires are a big factor in the decision making of food choices. In many

cultures, food is viewed as a sign of respect. When I was a child, I was taught that I was

supposed to eat everything on my plate when I am in someone’s house. If I didn’t eat all of my

food, it could be seen as if I didn’t enjoy it and seem disrespectful. In Chinese culture, it is rude

to leave food on your plate. Eating everything on the plate can be seen as a signal that the host

didn’t provide enough food and a desire for more. One of the aphorisms by Brillat-Savarin that

states the significance of eating in someone else’s house is, “To invite a person to your house is

to take charge of his happiness as long as he be beneath your roof” (69). The idea of feeding a

person and being in charge of his pleasure is something very cherished in several cultures.
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Cultures that are more family-oriented than America such as China, India, and Japan,

have pretty traditional diets. Mary Roach makes a point that “Family oriented countries where

eating and cooking are firmly bound by tradition” (such as China, Colombia, Japan, and India)

“are harder to infiltrate. Cultures like the United States and Russia, where there’s less cultural

pressure to follow tradition and more emphasis on the individual, are a better bet” (125). There

are so many popular diets such as the keto diet, the whole thirty, the Atkins diet, and a low-carb

diet. But what about the diet of eyeballs, liver, bone marrow, and other various organs? This is a

common way of eating for many people in the Nunavut territory of Canada, as mentioned by

Mary Roach in ​Liver and Opinions: Why We Eat What We Eat and Despise the Rest. ​In this text

the author explains the traditional eating customs of this small territory and describes how

nutritional it is, despite how different it may sound to people who aren’t familiar with this

cultural diet, herself included. This striking aspect of the Nunavut culture has a lot to do with

their history and culture. Ancestors of the Nunavut territory of Canada had been eating organs

habitually as a result of survival. I think of vegetables and the muscle meat that I grew up on, and

avoiding “unreal foods” like fast-food. I don’t think of organs, plants, and bugs. However, as a

matter of survival, this is what the Nunavut culture knew and relied on for survival and health

benefits. What influences the diet of the Nunavut culture isn’t preference, but the need for

survival.

An important question at hand is, in order to benefit our health, how can you make

unappealing foods more appealing? One way this is being practiced is by targeting kids when

they’re young. According to Roach, “To open people’s minds to a new food, you sometimes just

have to get them to open their mouths. Research has shown that if people try something enough
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times, they’ll probably grow to like it” (124). It is important to get children to try new, healthier

foods while they are young, so that they will be used to healthier options. It is time to start

changing the culture of food. Children need to be encouraged to eat healthier foods, rather than

be persuaded by media to eat processed, fake foods. Although I don’t think it would be very

enjoyable to eat organs and bugs, if I gave it a couple of shots I would probably start to enjoy it. I

truly believe it would be in the best interest of the future of food if more people stopped

consuming modern processed foods, and switched it up to eat more natural things.

Another factor that determines food choices is money. Eating healthy becomes difficult

for the majority of people when it comes to how expensive it is. In ​Why Shame Won’t Stop

Obesity ​by Dhruv Khullar, the idea of making healthy options more accessible is proposed. As

we know, America’s obesity rate is astronomically high, and is only getting higher. With the

constant advertisement of junk food and other high calorie foods, it is clear that people need to

make changes and decisions that will benefit their future. Khullar proposes three initiatives that

he believes, as well as I do, will reverse our junk-food eating habits into healthy eating. He

believes that providing monetary incentives in order to encourage healthier eating would be

favorable. It should be easier to access healthier eating it is just that most people don’t truly

understand what makes something healthy. The second proposal he described was to limit the

unhealthy advertisements that are being geared towards children. There are too many

advertisements today that are geared towards the public, children especially, to eat unhealthy.

Seeing these types of advertisements with their favorite cartoon character or tv show is just going

to heighten the desire to eat unhealthy. Marketers need to start advertising healthy options the

same way they are advertising the low-nutrient foods. The final suggestion is to try to put more
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emphasis on healthy eating options in children’s education. Children should be able to

understand what is good and what isn’t, in order to start eating healthier. If they grow up eating

unhealthy, it only becomes harder to eat right. Learning how to read food labels and identify the

healthy foods and unhealthy foods will start them off on the right track.

A minor, but important reason, of why we choose some foods over others has to do with

the linguistics of it all. Dan Jurafsky writes all about it in his work titled ​Does This Name Make

Me Sound Fat?​. In this selection, he describes how history, culture, and phonetics are all factors

to determine what we eat. Marketers all over the world take this into account when thinking of

the best ways to persuade consumers through their advertisements. Jurafsky goes into detail

about how food companies name their products specifically to persuade us into buying theme. It

is true that certain sounds make us feel certain ways. Sound symbolism is an important part of

food marketing when naming products. It was a shock to me to learn that most branding

companies get their ideas from linguists. Jurafsky conducted a study about the naming of ice

cream and the naming relation to back vowels. He hypothesized that most ice cream flavors

would be named with back vowels, as that is associated with a “rich and creamy” texture. When

he tested his hypothesis, he came to find that most ice cream names had back vowels. Some

examples include: Rocky rad, Jamoca Almond Fudge, Chocolate, Caramel, Cookie Dough, and

Coconut. On the contrary, he hypothesized that lighter foods like crackers would be named with

front vowels, in order to subconsciously be related to a “light and crisp” texture. After

conducting the study he found that most cracker brands were associated with front vowels. Some

examples include: Cheese Nips, Cheez It, Wheat Thins, Pretzel Thins, Rits, Krispy, Triscuit,
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Thin Crisps, etc. I found this article to be completely compelling because who would’ve thought

that linguistics and phonetics had so much to do with are food decisions?

On the contrary, there are some theories that eating the eating habits of the world as a

whole are doing more harm than good. In an article produced by the World Economic Forum

titled, “Here’s the real impact of the food we eat on the environment”, Stephen Clune and Karli

Verghese propose their argument about the way humans are eating and the impact it is having on

the environment. They analyzed the activities that are producing the most emissions such as:

chemicals and fertilizers used, energy inputs from irrigation methods and harvesting, and the

transporting and distribution of goods. The authors explain, “For lamb and beef the the main

source of emissions is methane. This is due to the fermentation process in which bacteria convert

feed into energy in the animals’ stomachs” (Clune).

In conclusion, there are two major influences that determine what humans choose to eat.

The two major influences are culture and economics. But there are also negative impacts on the

environment when it comes to producing healthy foods. In this research paper I have researched

and analyzed what several authors like Dan Jurafsky, Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, Mary

Roach, and Margaret Mead claimed were the influences of food choice.
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Annotated Bibliography

Brillat-Savarin, Jean Anthelme. “​The Physiology of Taste; or, Meditations on Transcendental


Gastronomy.​ ” Horace Liveright, 1926. pp.68-69
The Physiology of Taste​ included a long list of aphorisms in order to portray the
close relation of our food preferences, history, habits, and prejudices. I found this article
to be really interesting because it was published in 1825 so it was a lot older than the
other pieces that I found. Being as old as it is, I figured that it would be a lot different
from some of the other pieces I chose, but also pretty intriguing. I really enjoyed how in
this text the author doesn’t use his own words, but instead includes various aphorisms. It
was pretty eye-opening to see how many aphorisms there were that were related to food
and the pleasure it gives. Rather than using his own opinion, the author depends on the
aphorisms to inform the audience of how long food has really been significant to culture.
Being published in 1825, it is evident that there are many sayings that show the
appreciation for food from various cultures throughout the world.

Clune, S, and K Verghese. “Here’s the Real Impact of the Food We Eat on the Environment.”
World Economic Forum,​ The Conservation, 12 Dec. 2016,
www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/12/your-kitchen-and-the-planet-the-impact-of-our-food-
on-the-environment​.
I chose this website as a source because it presented a valuable counter argument
to my research-based argumentative paper. The article incorporated images and diagrams
which helped with the presentation of the argument. The use of headers made the article
more appealing and easier to understand. I also found it helpful that the article included a
video that talked more about the relationship between animals and greenhouse gasses.
The article was published in 2016, so it is still pretty relevant today.

Jurafsky, Dan. ​The Language of Food: a Linguist Reads the Menu​. W.W. Norton &
Company, 2015. pp. 82-91
The excerpt that I read titled, ​“Does This Name Make Me Sound Fat?”​ , talked
about the connection between food names and the effect it has on a person. Dan Jurafsky
studies linguistics and teaches people about the language of food. In his book he does the
same. He talked a lot about how the vowels that are produced in names of foods influence
our decision to buy them. He focuses on a concept called sound symbolism that is used
by many food advertisers and designers of brand names. Many food branding companies
actually get their ideas and marketing tools from linguists. Jurafsky starts off strong in his
text with his title. The title of the section really grabs the attention of the audience in a
comical way. Throughout his writing, Jurafsky uses a really approachable style of
writing. He included many concepts and theories of how food is influenced onto society,
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whether it be culture, history, or language. He uses many quotes, images, and examples
in order to keep the reader interesting into his text. There are many helpful examples
included in the text that are able to be used in the research. Jurafsky explains many
concepts and theories that strengthen his argument that food is related to language. This
is useful in the research because the topic of the research is how food is influenced, and
that is a clear reference of something to include in the research. When jurafsky introduces
the study by Wolfgang Kohler, it makes the research even more promising because of
how well it relates to the topic.

Khullar, Dhruv. “Why Shame Won't Stop Obesity.” ​Biothetics Forum​, 2012. pp. 135-137
In this text by Dhruv Khullar, the idea of obesity and its effects on a society came
was significant. I chose this piece because it was written in 2012, so it provides a pretty
recent picture of the effect of food choices and obesity in our society. I also found this
text to be of importance because it portrays how food choices can result into something
negative such as obesity. Khullar describes obesity as a social justice and public health
issue. This text provided a different point of view, while all of the other sources basically
just describes why we choose what to eat. This piece didn’t focus as much on why, but
the effects of what we choose. This was important to include in my paper because it is
very eye-opening while raising awareness for the social issue of food in our societies. I
found this source to be credible due to the fact that the author wrote it while he was
studying medicine and public policy at Yale University. The idea that he wrote this and
was educated on it all gave some sort of significance when it came to the credibility and
validity.

Roach, Mary. ​Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal.​ W.W. Norton & Company,
2014. pp. 118-127
This text varied from the other sources and grabbed my attention because it was a
bit more humored than the others. Roach does well at writing things in a way that most
people can understand, as well enjoy. In this text titled, ​Liver and Opinions: Why We Eat
What We Eat and Despise the Rest, M ​ ary Roach demonstrates her research on the
relation between food preferences and culture. She portrayed how in certain societies,
food history is very significant. There are some cultures that are very heavily influenced
by what their ancestors ate, and then some cultures that only eat processed foods. It was
very intriguing to read about how big of an impact the diet’s of the past have on the
people of today in certain cultures. Mary Roach has written several pieces that are pretty
well-known so I found her to be pretty credible. I also found it pleasing to know that the
research she was writing about was entirely done by herself. I believe that made the
writing and argument more credible as well as more interesting.