Reflecting on food culture

Reflecting on food culture

Food as the mundane

In most stories, eating is edited out as if it were merely a backdrop. By insisting on relegating food to the pedestrian, to the still life drawing, we actually increase its kinetic force. This is what creates the profoundness of David Foster Wallace’s “Consider the Lobster”.  As we slow down and begin to be aware of what’s on our plate we tap into our spiritual connection with food. We move away from the food chain as a hierarchy with us at the top, and towards the circle of life  --  with us at the beginning, middle or end.

Food as death

To sustain ourselves from the lives of animals and plants. The fear that we too may be consumed is never far from our thoughts, with that collective fear manifesting itself in the zombie genre. These often dystopic zombie stories predict that humanity's demise will have the self-centered poetic end of us literally consuming ourselves.  

Food as connection

With restaurants closed, people have focused more on making their own food --- shifting from in person bread breaking to sharing photos of their sourdough breads on social media. Having created industries to distance ourselves from our food, will we now drift back towards socialness through creation and preparation?

Food as fantasy

We are living in the era of “food porn”. Whereas food normally engages all of our senses, we are rapidly moving towards an even greater dominance of the visual sense. So much so that we are trying to access our other senses through images. Much as porn attempts to transport us into a fantasy experience, food porn attempts to summon (as well as amplify) our best memories of taste and smell. But, these shadow senses do not fully transport us. The editing and filtering relies too heavily on the visual sense --- and consequently they leave us feeling hungry yet unsatisfied.  

Food as time

Leptin and ghrelin are the hormones designed to orchestrate our meals, with each person having their own concert and keeping our own time. Yet, society now rings the bell to determine dinner time, with most people eating meals based on schedules rather than body cues. Has the year of working from home helped to reset things so we fall back in tune with our own rhythm? Or has a lifetime of suppressed internal signals left us lost in the loud yellows and reds of food brands that demand us to forget the voice of hunger.

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