It is after all, is a sacrament of every society. It is its own language – a metaphor for everything from authority to love. It’s an act of defiance, a past-time, a comfort, a marker of status and identity. All the major passages of our lives – from weddings to wakes, are punctuated by feasting and fasting. For our ancestors, life was shaped and determined by the search for food. Our need for it remains unchanged, but particularly in Western cultures it has come to embody something entirely different. Coffee for example, is no longer just a beverage. Instead, it’s a double-decaf soy frappaccino for the time-pressed urban warrior – and that’s just in Sussex. When we walk into the supermarkets, we are overwhelmed by surplus and choice – aisles dedicated to olives and Crunchy Nut cornflakes.
If we believe the hype, then modern foodstuffs are imbued with magical properties. The tabloids for example, suggest the existence of only two food groups – those that cause cancer and those that cure it. We’re constantly reminded ‘we are what we eat’, that ‘what we wear can change our lives’ and that the purpose of existence is to look good naked. Instead of sitting down with others and sharing life, we tune in to programmes like ‘Come Dine With Me’ and watch in silence as other people feast.
It is really surprising then, that our anxieties often come out in what we eat ( – or don’t)?