How to enjoy food in the here and now
Fast-food trap: Modern lifestyles mean many people eat on the run without thinking about what they're consuming. Photo: Michael Stern/Flickr
Why are people hungry? What nourishment are they seeking? What is the empty feeling that makes people want to eat? And to be so full they almost burst?
Often we use food to fill an empty feeling, as much as an empty stomach. Common is the emotionally starving consumer, who is over-satiated, over-saturated and uncomfortably full.
It’s time to forge a new relationship with what’s on our plates and bring our food choices into equilibrium so they deliver ethical, environmental, physiological and psychological sustenance.
Food used to be about where you came from. What you called the evening meal (tea, dinner, supper) revealed all. Now it’s a signifier of how you want to live and who you choose to be: a declaration of where you want to go.
Food has always been an expression of identity, but in the digital world, the importance of food in the process of self-invention is paramount. Author Will Self said that food “has become the defining attribute of both class and culture in 21st-century Britain”.
Food today is about self-definition and identity creation . . . and then there are all the trends to stay abreast of, too!
In the highly developed west, consumers are easily bored by consumption. Growing disposable incomes together with punishing work schedules, a greater global mindset and constant social media access (which allows for instant exposure to innovation) means they incessantly pursue the “next big thing”.
Consumers want to be inspired and surprised as they search for more than the usual, standard tastes, not realising it’s often an emotional connection they are seeking.
The environments and pace in which we consume our food play a role in its enjoyment. Food sharing contributes to social cohesion in all societies, but in Australia, vanishing traditional family meals and the decline of local communities means food often becomes the substitute for meaningful social interactions. Just look at a Twitter or Instagram feed and see how often photographs of food outnumber those that actually feature the company people keep as they eat!
One way we can change our relationship to food is by placing more importance on the opportunity for connection that it offers us in our lives – to the land, seasons, self and others. The growing disorders in our eating do not just come from what we eat, but how we eat.
We need to slow down. How many of us eat on the run? In our cars? In front of the TV? Scrolling Facebook? Often we don’t even taste what we are eating.
When we eat mindlessly and in a rush, we place more importance on the next moment instead of the one we are in. In the hurry we forget to acknowledge where our food came from (the distance, toil and labour of love involved), or to express gratitude for the bounties of the harvest. When we shovel food into our mouths like we are filling a car with petrol, we place more importance on “getting there” rather than “being here”.
Everything you can say about life, you can say through food. Or as British celebrity chef Nigella Lawson once said: “I have always believed that what is true in the kitchen is also true out of the kitchen (and, indeed vice versa). In other words, cooking is a metaphor for life.”
Author Geneen Roth puts it more bluntly: “The way you eat is inseparable from your core beliefs about being alive.”
In an increasingly materialistic culture, it’s not added value that people seek, but added meaning. And the meaning comes from the process, not only the result (the baking as much as the devouring of the cake).
How we are relating to ourselves as we eat is as important as the specifics of what we are eating. As we push the meandering trolley through the supermarket aisles, exactly how are we being with ourselves? Judgmental? Nurturing? Impatient? Where is our attention as we choose what will nourish our bodies as well as the planet? Do we set the dinner table as an act of love or is it a chore? What level of focus do we bring to stacking the dishwasher? Are we full or merely fed up?
The quality of how we are being in these moments of doing matters. Detaching ourselves from being present with the journey of food (whether that’s growing it, preparing it, or cleaning it up) leads us to continuously look for the new, the next, the convenient and that which isn’t here.
Food grounds us to the land, connects us back to ourselves and sustains our culture and communities. It is the destination and we have already arrived.
Dryza is recognised as one of the world’s top consumer trends experts working with global businesses including the Virgin Group, Microsoft, IKEA, The Body Shop and advertising company JWT, to interpret the emotions driving emerging consumer trends and to help companies discover “the next big thing”. Dryza also published her first book last year, Grace and the Wind, a modern allegory on how the nature of life is expressed and experienced as rhythmic patterns of energy.
Dryza will join other keynote speakers at the Food South Australia Summit: Looking Ahead at the Adelaide Festival Centre on April 22, to discuss emerging consumer trends and how they can be converted into new food products and business models.