Subtitled “the invention of the American meal,” Three Squares is an engaging and eye-opening look at the economic and cultural forces that have shaped the country’s shifting formats of consumption over time — and, in turn, the changing meanings and value judgments that Americans have attached to those eating patterns.
As a child of two countries, I can attest to the differences in food culture even when both of those countries are neighbors, but derive from completely different source cultures.
In Mexico, born of Spain and the old Mexica empire it, the food schedule is something like this:
Breakfast varies by family and, when heading out on your own as an adult, by person. Some eat heavy breakfasts, others keep it extremely light.
Lunch again varies by family and individual, mostly depending on work/school schedules. Usually kept to a single protein-based entree.
Dinner is in the late afternoon. It’s the one time the whole family sits down and interacts, usually over two or three courses (soup, entree, dessert).
Supper (usually known as the cena is usually kept light, owing to the fact it is usually eaten one or two hours before bedtime. Usually sweet bread and milk.
In my experience in both countries, it has been lunch that has been influenced the most by Mexico’s imitation of the cultural mores of the United States. For children and teenagers, lunch is usually had during recess at school. For adults, it varies wildly depending on the job and the availability for time, like breakfast.
Now, in the US, it usually goes like this:
Breakfast is usually two courses (fruit, protein) accompanied by juice and/or coffee.
Lunch again varies by family and individual depending on school/work schedules Schools try to have two courses on a single tray, while most adults go for a single entree.
Dinner is late in the evening, with three courses always called for (soup or salad, entree, dessert).
Supper is mostly a snack.
Mind you, these is what I remember from my own family experience. Being of Mexican origin, my elders tried to keep the schedule mostly the same but things had to change by necessity and adaptation of the social mores of our new adopted home.
The three items on offer — cod, chocolate, and peanut butter — come from or are species that “may very well soon not be available to eat,” Simun explains. With the help of a wearable smell-dispensing device and an edible textural analogue, GhostFood truck customers will experience a simulation of a future phantom food.
What happens when some or all of the foodstuffs we are accustomed to eating right now are gone? I’ve read of futures where everything is grown in vats, futures where to eat a nice side of beef you have to pay stratospheric prices since the meat has to be imported from off-planet.
These futures obviously imply FTL travel and that humankind as made it to other habitable planets for long enough to create a import/export economic relationship between them.
But… what happens if that doesn’t happen? The diet of a human being a hundred years from now is going to be very, very different from my own diet, both cooking at home and dining out.
The most shocking revelation of the evening concerned cinnamon, which, in the United States, whether natural or artificial, is likely not to be cinnamon at all, scientifically speaking. “True” cinnamon flavour comes from the bark of the Cinnamomum verum tree, but the FDA has determined that the bark of the cassia tree, another member of the Cinnamomum genus, can also be sold as cinnamon.
So the Cinnamon Challenge has to be renamed to the Fake Cinnamon Challenge.