Let’s talk about food today.
I have always been interested in human universals and I also have had sufficient enough interaction with people from different cultures. I noticed a lot of similarities between all these people but one thing that always caught my attention more than anything else is how food works for all.
We all know that we need food to literally survive but I am not here to talk about that aspect today. I want to focus on the role of food in human interaction.
We probably notice every now and then how food is a big part of any event, small or big, cultural or generic. We don’t just invite friends, for example. We invite them for breakfast, lunch, dinner, tea/coffee+snacks etc. No party would be a good party without something to eat and drink. Any invitation that includes humans also includes food.
If you go to any cultural event, it is very likely to involve food from that culture. If you want to introduce your culture to other people, you are most likely to start with food. That is what I did when I first went to the US, for example. I invited people for breakfast, which is not so common there, because Turkish breakfast is big and famous. Almost all cultural ceremonies also include food. There is special wedding food in many cultures, for example. No wedding would go without some kind of food.
Why is food so important? It is obviously needed for survival, but all the things I just mentioned have nothing to do with pure survival. It serves a higher purpose. It is a way we humans connect. It satisfies several of our needs, and important ones:
to provide for others and relatedly to feel the happiness of others (just observe people when they serve others food)
to keep ourselves engaged in the conversation and interaction (I tend to sit more and focus better when I am eating or drinking something) and relatedly making the interaction longer
All this makes us feel belonging and we feel the people by us. This gives us safety. That is a very important human need.
The conclusion then is food actually is just a medium for a greater purpose in these kinds of interactions, which is why people tend to forget about the food as they get more deeply involved in the interaction. Just observe next time, if you have not already.
I have personally always liked eating, but I also was aware that I did not like the food itself but there was something more about it. Observing how food is treated in many places led me to the conclusions I just talked about. Apparently, I was already treating food as an excuse to connect with people around me. When I made breakfast for people, my main concern was to form a connection rather than actual cultural ‘advertisement’. I just did not know that. Now, realizing what food does for us, I have even more respect for it. It definitely deserves a lot of it.
Do you agree with my points? What is your take on the role of food in our lives? How else does food help us in our interactions? Could all of these human interaction patterns have been formed without food in an alternative universe? Let’s talk food.