Food is a tough thing. I recently finished reading “Eating Animals” by Jonathan Safran Foer, in which he discusses the linkages between food and culture and family. It wasn’t so much reading the book that got me to thinking about diet in my new life but more living it. From day one (outside the Laguna de Apoyo) I immediately noticed a theme: this culture loves their food either fried or super sweet. Everything is over-sugared or fried and its no wonder most people have diabetes and/or weight issues. Its hard to understand how this can happen in a country with so much fresh and readily available fruits and vegetables, more than enough to meet the demands of the country. Here the major form of hydration is gaseosa’s (pop/soda). In moderation (like with most everything) a gaseosa is not all bad but when it accompanies every meal and it is universally opted for instead of water, this is no way to live. Last week I went to get a refresco (juice) from the mercadito near my work but my coworkers informed that it was not safe to drink the market drinks for fear of e-coli or hepatitis so they suggested I get boxed orange juice from the store. I went, I bought, I drank and yikes, was that thing was sweet. Now, you know me and you know I like my sugar (preferably in cookie form), and you know I am definitely don’t typically read the nutritional facts on anything (because that’s not a box I want to open, I prefer to be blissfully kinda ignorant) but when I read the nutritional facts on this tiny box and saw what I perceived as a ridiculous amount of sugar per serving I was shocked (mostly by being shocked by sugar). So the next time I was feeling thirsty for something other than water I chose Gatorade thinking that “this will be good, I like me some Gatorade every once and again” so without looking at the facts I bought it. Again, I was shocked by the amount of sugar it contained and I didn’t bother to look at the nutritional facts because I could taste it.
I recently had a discussion with Maria, my “mom”, about soda consumption and diet in general. She never serves me gaseosas with my meals and she never even keeps it around which I am pretty happy about. She was upset with Anisa (her daughter who also lives here) because she is always drinking soda as well as giving it to her children. Maria understandably doesn’t agree with this and is frustrated with what she, Maria, perceives as Anisa’s uncaring and thoughtless decisions about the health of her children. However my “mom” will often make refrescos and rather than drink the refresco as is with its delicious fruity sweetness she and the rest of the family cringe at the taste sin (without) sugar. After I pour my glass and hers she will add three to four heaping spoonfuls of sugar. While I think that Maria’s diet is very healthy by comparison to many other individuals how is this better and/or different?
In this country where indisputably the most important result of the Sandinista revolution was the implementation of universal healthcare (that means free) does the government not enforce corporations to practice more social responsibility? These are not the same products found in the US. They may appear the same and have the same brand name but they don’t contain the same ingredients. I understand the principles of marketing and I understand holding focus groups to analyze taste but seriously, its out of control. Why are there not health campaigns to promote exercise, nutrition and better diet especially when health is one of the major tenets of this (and all) political parties? I guess with a imminent threat of a dictatorship this isn’t really on too many peoples agendas. But I have to wonder about the consumption practices here and how much of it is uncaring, how much is cultural norm and how much is strictly taste?