The Effect of Food’s Social Context
For a long time now, we have had media influence to decide what we want and need. Starting with where we live, what we drive, finally, to what we want to eat. With such a plethora of resources to draw from these days, it is sometimes difficult to decide what to eat, so since human beings thrive first on habit, it is a natural reaction to just eat the same thing over and over until you can’t stand to look at it anymore.
In the past 45(or so) years, it has become as natural to grab dinner out as was in the 1950s gathering each evening for a family dinner. During this time period every conceivable type of restaurant and food has been made available. Our appetites have become insatiable and our tastes demanding and refined.
We all have such busy, complex lives, we want eating to be easy and quick. We don’t want to have to think about it too much, or put too much effort into it, but more than that, we are also fickle as we are pressed for time and energy. We want it fresh, to suit our taste profile standard. Now, thanks to changes outside our control, the population seems to be making another change, back to eating more home-cooked. Thanks to the same media that helped put us out in that particular “left field” in the first place, pressure to fight obesity, recreate family togetherness, use food as medicine, develop our food art skills, etc is giving new legs to the eat-home movement.
Also, economic hard times and keeping within our budgets has dampened the joy of eating out, having friends in for a meal or our friends having us in. We all struggle to keep all the parts of the ‘good life’ we’ve come to know and love while we scramble to find the financial resources to pay the rent, supply basic needs for the family, keep our heads above water and the wolves away from the door. (How about that for using ever cliche’ you’ve ever heard?)
Eating issues have become “a rock and a hard place” experience during this long financial crunch. If you don’t ever eat out, have company for dinner, be invited by friends to eat at their table, it is easy forget to appreciate how different foods can be prepared, how differently familiar foods can be presented and enjoyed. You can’t know what you’d like to have at your own table if you don’t have something to put you in mind of it. I like to compare this situation to the idea of becoming a world class writer without ever reading anyone else’s work or trying to teach complex concepts without studying and understanding the basics, having a working knowledge of those things. We have to continue to try new things (or old things we haven’t tried for a long time). The question remains: how to address this multi-faceted challenge satisfactorily. Please let me hear from you on your ideas on this subject.