Ethnocentricity is the inclination to use ones own culture as the standard against which all others are held. I grew up in the dieting culture of the United States. Every week there is a new method by which we can lose weight as effortlessly and efficiently as possible. I am a product of the modern age in America, when food is fuel and nothing more. Ecuador is taking another approach. While health is discussed, pan and hot chocolate are thoroughly enjoyed. Initially, upon coming to live with my host family, I was horrified by the amount of salt and sugar that was used and the carb to protein ratio on my plate. While volunteering in el centro de salud en San Joaquin, I was given a chance to sit in on patient consultations with the lead doctor. Dr. Franklin spent nearly half of his time with his patients reviewing proper food ratios. He talked extensively about anemia and obesity, reiterating, “If you have potatoes, you do not have rice. If you have rice, you do not have potatoes.”
Whether it is a result of the importance of family or the size of the agricultural industry, a meal and the mealtime itself are cherished. The emphasis is simply placed in two different areas of the meal. For Americans, it is what you eat and the effect that it has on the body, for Ecuadoreans, it is whom you are with and the time spent at the table with them. For one, the meal meets the needs of the individual and for the other the meal meets the needs of the family. Through the lens of ethnocentricity, I am meant to believe that the American way is the right way. Though my idea of what a healthy meal looks like has not changed, the importance of enjoying food continues to be lesson that I am learning.