This is part 2 of dinnertime dining stories which happened at a local store in a small and typical town in New Jersey. Interested in reading part 1? Click on “Food Snob or Bad Manners: Why the French Might Just be Right.”
We don’t always have to eat at a beautiful table, but why not just a table?
Did the title of this article grab your attention? We spend summers in New Jersey. Food snob or dinner disaster is based on cultural observations from a proud American and nutritionist living most of the year in France. Views are subjective and could be considered food snobbish but I hope you don’t read my opinions as a criticism to the people I wrote about. I feel genuinely empathetic on the food, health and body weight situation here in America. I realize that it is difficult to balance work time and taking time to eat. These true stories are an example of what I consider lost in many industrialized countries: that food is sacred, eating should be a pleasure and we could all benefit from taking even short pauses to sit down, relax and enjoy the sanctity of a good meal.
Sometimes I ask myself, have I lived too long outside my home country? Has the French culture overtaken my objectivity on the right way to eat? I find myself questioning American eating habits and wondering how I can help to turn things around, even through a small part.
A jar of olives started the conversation
I gotta watch these curves, she said.
Here I was at the store again, back at the register to pay for my purchase. The same small counter where a week ago another store employee had his take out meal open on the counter and was eating his dinner while ringing up customer’s purchases . (Click here for that story and come back :)) What a food snob I felt like, giving my cash over to the guy who was eating his dinner with one hand and taking my money with the other. Thinking I should shake him and say, “Come on, sit down somewhere and just take a minute to eat, this is yuck!”
Now back again in the same store, different employee and dinnertime. The cashier looked at me, with a little twist in her eyes. You could tell she wanted to talk, so I did.
Really? You watching your curves?
Yeah, she said. That is why I am only having a jar olives for dinner.
So now I am thinking, What, a jar of olives? Oh my god, how sad is that? What a dinner and diet disaster! She cannot be thinking this will help her to lose weight.
So, uhm, you are just eating a jar of olives for dinner?
Well, I’ll have some pretzel nuggets too.
She started to explain:
I have to eat what I can find in the store here. I pay for it, of course. I asked my husband to bring me dinner but he works 8 1/2 hours a day, he’s too tired. I did eat sandwiches before I left, but it wasn’t enough. I am hungry again.
So I start to think of some suggestions.
What about some dark chocolate filled with nuts?
They don’t sell chocolate in the store and I have a nut allergy. Plus I am pre-diabetic and cannot have chocolate.
What about going next door and buying a yogurt?
I am alone here and not allowed to leave the store.
Hmm…I thought. That is tough. Olives and pretzel nuggets for dinner. Pre-diabetic and trying to lose weight. And all that salt!
We said our goodbyes and as I walked past the counter towards the door I looked back. Next to her jar of olives I see her drink: a 16 ounce regular coke. (Does she know that a pre-diabetic shouldn’t drink this?)
But my other thought was:
I do not think I would ever see this in France.