What's Your Dining DNA?

by Christina Meyer-Jax, Tastemaker in Residence


I spent the last two weeks in Silicon Valley (the land of coders), which also happens to be near one of my favorite food towns, San Francisco. The convergence of these worlds has me considering the notion; is there a DNA (code) to how people dine?

Yes indeed we are born with a set of genetic material that we sometimes celebrate or despise depending on the outcome of the traits produced.  Regardless of your genetic lottery wins and losses, these are the building blocks of the “biological” you.   However, environmental factors and personal choices can lead to alterations in how your DNA is expressed.  Ultimately this combination results in the unique “you”.

Similar to genetic expressions that happen every day, there are daily expressions on how and what we eat.  It can be argued that the majority of our eating is a matter of choice (not always the “choices” we would want), but intentional decisions.  Take my “lunch” for example…I knew good and well I should have planned my time better, but resorted to a lunch of cottage cheese, tomatoes, and Nutella on a spoon.  Intentional, but not my desired eating state.  

Then there are unavoidable biological drivers that move us to seek nourishment (hmmm yes water is a big one here). Blend these factors together and the results are your “unique” dietary intake/habits, which significantly affect your overall health and well-being.

So could our “Dining DNA” be both a beautiful reflection of “inherited” traits passed along by our family and cultures of origin and our life experiences affected by our environment and personal choices?  Does this make up our unique “code”?

Perhaps we could embrace the “Dining DNA” traits that we inherited, and also celebrate the fact that we can alter the “code”?  

As a nutritionist and foodie my “Dining DNA” is defined by creating health and meaningful experiences.  Our family mealtime goals are to have nourishing food and nourishing conversation.  Some days we do this better than others, but it is our “building blocks” from which we start.  Life and food is a balancing act of choices.  My life’s work is to help people make the best choices to fuel their best lives.  Let’s also acknowledge that all foods can have a place our plate at some point. (thus the silliness of chocolate cake on the USDA “My Plate” serving dish picture)

I asked foodie friend and colleague Alisa Rudnick (BS UC Berkeley- College of Natural Resources in Environmental Economics & Policy), how she would define her “Dining DNA”.  I knew she would have an awesome perspective.  Here are her thoughts:

Growing up on an organic farm and vegetable garden, I ate predominantly vegetarian, seasonal fare. As a child - of course- I begged and pleaded for chicken nuggets and Gushers. Instead, I sulked through meals of fresh minestrone soup, garden lettuces and home-made bread. My jealousy raged highest during lunch time when even my roughly chopped carrot sticks could never hold up to the package of uniform ovals (with ranch included!) that blessed my classmates' lunches. As it often goes, I had no idea how lucky I was to wander the 27 acre farm in the late afternoon sun and ruining my dinner- and my shirt- by gorging myself on fresh berries. As a teen shocked into vegetarianism by Eric Schlosser's "Fast Food Nation" I slowly began to take this bounty for granted and expected that unlimited produce would always be available to me. Let's just say that my first semester of monotone college food in a lonely town in upstate New York was quite the shock. A shock great enough to send me packing back to the California Coast where I began to celebrate the "real food" I was so lucky to have in abundance as a child. It is likely not a coincidence that every job I have ever held has been food related or that I focused my education on studying sustainable food systems. Now I crave the crunchy flavor of seasonal produce daily as I have come full circle and now believe that eating these foods is a cerebral, physical, emotional choice towards health and happiness

How we approach our eating is a reflection on how we approach our lives.  As I always say…Good Food Matters and Good Food Matters for Everyone! 

What’s your “Dining DNA”?