Yonsei a Bridge to East Asian Culinary Culture
-Raphael Lu (Canadian / New York University)
In our busy lives with ambitious plans, most of us never reflect on our relationship with food. Given some thought, you would realize that meals have more than just ingredients, but an environment and an emotional attachment. This is true across cultures, and third-year New York University student Raphael Lu is passionate about the cultural identity associated with food.
Born in Canada and raised in Los Angeles, Raphael relocated to New York City for to study nutrition at NYU. Having also developed an interest in East Asian Studies, he was determined to find a way for the two fields to converge. Raphael found that Asian-American communities are often isolated in terms of health and nutrition care. The majority of research and resources are centered around mainstream, often European, concepts of meal plans. Thus, nutrition guidelines do not give much flexibility to account for alternative meal styles. While the Western concept of “one main, two sides” rings true for many Americans, this is certainly not the case for other ethnic groups. Because of this pattern, dietitians following Western training will often promote this model without recognizing the incompatibility with an individual’s cultural background and daily habits.
Raphael’s own Taiwanese background gave him the opportunity to relate to others whose lifestyle conflict with mainstream guidelines. “The best diet is the diet you don’t know you’re on,” suggested Raphael. That is to say, there is no such thing as a cookie-cutter diet, and each person can find a diet that works uniquely for them and their daily life rather than forcing unfamiliar or extreme behavior. Eating food is a part of the day that should be enjoyed, not a chore that is a source of stress. This change in attitude will improve mental well-being as much as it will physical well-being.
By being in Seoul at Yonsei University, Raphael has had the chance to strengthen his knowledge of Korea’s own cultural and culinary identity and hopes that it will help him in his career relate and build better personal connections with clients from East Asian diasporas.