As an Asian girl, I receive scrutiny for a lot of my culinary choices. People ask me if I eat eyeballs or testicles. (The answer is no.) People come over for dinner and cry when they are exposed to spices. People ask me if I eat dog. (The answer is also no.) Today, I will return the favor and express an equally concerning statement. Why do Anglophone-speaking countries consider butter a flavor? The way I see it, there is nothing flavorful about butter. Am I the only one who finds it profoundly amusing that butter is so revered an ingredient that there are more substitutes for butter than any other “bad-for-you” ingredient, including sugar?
According to the Canadian Dairy Information Centre, the United States, despite its many stereotypes of housing overweight individuals, did not top the charts with top butter consumption in 2013. Germany took the lead with 6.2 kilograms per capita, with the Czech Republic at 4.9, Iceland at 5.1, Poland at 4.1, and the U.S. at a surprisingly low 2.1. Yet, with the world’s fascination of “why white people consider butter a flavor,” images of Paula Deen and Mama June come to mind. Sociologically, I want to attribute this to butter-revering cultures being more prone to heart disease, while countries utilizing spices promote faster metabolisms and reduced rates of obesity.
But that’s only half the story. These spices and stimulated metabolisms come at a price. South Korea tops the chart in stomach cancer statistics, followed by Mongolia, Japan, Guatemala and China. The highest incidences of stomach cancer occur in Asian and Latin American countries, while Africa and North America take the lowest incidences.
If the numbers are to suggest anything, it is that there is the possibility of a balance. Is it possible to cultivate an appreciation of spices while acknowledging the simplicity of mild ingredients, even if butter should not be considered a flavor?
According to M.D. Daphne Miller, author of “The Jungle Effect: The Healthiest Diets from Around the World — Why They Work and How to Make Them Work for You,” we have, “Americanized dishes to the extent that they don’t have their original health benefits.” While I am in no way asserting that certain cuisines are superior to others, statistics certainly do tell a story. If we are what we eat and what we eat is a product of our natural surroundings, is there not then a responsibility of an increasingly industrialized society to modify preferences in a healthful way? I am all for appreciating ethnic and/or cultural traditions, but when strong preferences lead to startling trends such as these, we owe it to ourselves and the generations after us to find balance.
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