Nothing brings people together like good food. But why is that?
Food is much more than survival, fuel or nutrition. It goes waaaay beyond the satisfaction of a physiological need.
Food presents an opportunity for sharing: sharing a meal with your family, sharing cake at a birthday party, sharing a bag of sweets with a friend.
The practice of sharing food has been around since ancient times. According to National Geographic, there’s evidence of meals being prepared and shared at a 300,000-year-old hearth*, which is the oldest ever found.
The ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus said that “We should look for someone to eat and drink with before looking for something to eat and drink”.
Eat, Talk, Repeat
Food has indisputable social, cultural and religious significance. Think of the Eucharist ritual, for example, a memorial action where Christians eat holy communion bread and drink wine. Think, too, of the Icelandic Thorrablot - a midwinter festival where people eat and share what was normal day-to-day food for Vikings, tell stories and sing.
Celebrations (like Christmas or Valentine’s Day) are frequently centred around food. Certain types of foods are associated with certain events, traditions, countries, and settings.
There’s meaning to food. This could be personal - I love chocolate not only because it tastes incredible, but also because it reminds me of my childhood, when I often shared snacks with my family while watching TV. Or it could be geographic - the best, most authentic pizzas come from Italy, where they were first invented. Or it could be so many more things.
Food for Thought
Food invites people to gather and gives us the opportunity to bond with each other. Food brings people together.
Dr. Stuart Farrimond, bestselling author and food scientist, highlights that “the ritual of cooking and sharing is entrenched in our psyche (...)” and that there’s research which “shows that regularly eating with others improves wellbeing”. We’re not surprised at this equation: food + people = increased wellbeing.
Did you know? On average, we spend about 4.5 years of our lives eating - that’s over 39 thousand hours of chewing, delighting in new flavours, and feeding our bodies.
Food is a big part of our everyday lives. And so is community (we’re considered a social species, after all, heavily relying on cooperation to thrive*). It seems only natural these two go hand in hand.
“Life is a combination of magic and pasta” - Federico Fellini
One can argue that restaurant culture is a reflection of how food brings people together. Besides serving food and drink, restaurants have always been considered a place where people build and strengthen social connections. Think of pubs where co-workers meet to share a drink, or watch the Euro football championship.
Fun fact: If you search for “food to share” on Google, you’ll discover over 9 million results - from the best dishes to bring to a party, to plate recipes for easy entertaining.
To put it succinctly:
Eating is seen as a meaningful experience
Many age-old traditions revolve around food
Sharing food with others is proven to increase wellbeing
Humans are social animals and cooperation is vital in society
*The Joy of Food, National Geographic Magazine, Accessed July 2021
The Science of Cooking, Dr Stuart Farrimond, Published by Penguin Random House, 2017 Dorling Kindersley Limited
**The cooperative human, Nat Hum Behav 2, 427–428 (2018), Accessed July 2021
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