A fitness guru once told me, “Eat like a king for breakfast, a queen for lunch and a princess for dinner.” I of course would later find that this rule is followed – in reverse, in America. Many Americans would just eat cereal or granola bar for breakfast. Some people would even skip it or just have coffee. Some people (especially the construction workers) will never drop whatever they are doing to have lunch while others will eat while working. It is pretty common for people to have lunch at different times and it’s not a big deal if someone’s having lunch in front of others who are still working. Most people would just eat leftovers or something that did not require a lot of prep work - a carrot stick, potato chips, peanut butter and jelly sandwich. While going to McDonald’s is considered by many Filipinos as a special meal time wherein you have to dress nicely to sit down and eat, in America, it is pretty common to see men in torn shorts and dirty shirts falling in line to get a sandwich. Nobody cares. People won’t judge you by your dirty clothes.
Meanwhile, in the Philippines, most people would have lunch at around 12 noon and spend 1 hour of “lunch break”. Whatever one is doing – whether he or she is in the middle of a construction project, of manually handwashing clothes or of a meeting, people drop whatever they are doing to eat. At noon, flocks of people will come out of their offices, schools, construction sites to head to restaurants, cafeterias and the like to have a sit-down hot meal. A typical one would be some rice with meat and veggies. In some small cafeterias, the soup is usually served free but that is because most of the time, it is really just seasoned hot water or the liquid part of a huge pot of soup. People rarely eat alone and most people look at their 1 hour break as a very short vacation. After eating, some people take a nap, listen to songs or watch TV.
Many Americans eat their largest meal at dinner. I discovered that they rely so much on baking to cook. I think it’s because it’s faster and it allows for multi-tasking unlike stove-top cooking. When I arrived here, we didn’t have a kitchen yet and that shocked a lot of people. It was almost unthinkable to them that we could make do with a mere single burner stove that we got as a wedding gift in the Philippines. I remember sharing this interesting fact about myself with a friend and her eyes grew large. Her reaction confirmed that gut feeling in me that many Americans are not used to roughing it, except maybe those who go camping often. But even their camping stuff is fancy! We went camping with other families one summer and they had a fancy kitchen set up – complete with stove, tables and other kitchen utensils. But camping was what it felt like while my husband and I were still working on our house at the same time living in it. The day after I arrived, the first thing I did was throw away many expired food products in the cabinet. That was my first encounter of the basic necessities to the typical American kitchen: catsup, mayonnaise, cheese, whip cream, milk, eggs, paper towel and Ziploc bags. My husband, despite being a “red neck” as he was or is, had a lot of Ziploc bags!
(An excerpt from my book)