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Principle 6: Motivation – Reaching for Positive Food Experiences

Motivation is the driving force behind everything we do. It leads to action or inaction depending on the circumstances. Motivation is the reason why we do something.

Why do we do what we do? The reason for attending a sporting event, for example, may be your enthusiasm for the team, the love of the stadium, or the taste of a hot dog or other concession food. Our motivation for attending a child’s soccer event, for example, may be because we want to encourage them to participate in a sport, and to develop those social and coordination skills they will need for the future. Our motivation for entering a certain career field may be because of our love for that subject matter, our desire to serve and give back to the community, or because it is a well-paying career field with which we can support our family.

Picture a child incessantly asking why to everything we say. We may go through a whole cycle of questions and answers with that child to help them understand the situation.

“Mommy, why are you going to the grocery store?”

“To get food.”

“Why?”

“So that we can eat.”

“Why?”

“So that we can keep our bodies healthy.”

“Why?”

“So that we can grow and play and learn.”

“Why?”

“So we can live productive lives.”

“Why?”

“So we can care for our family.”

“Why?”

And so on and so forth, until we give up or the child loses interest.

The Before, During, and After of Motivation

In terms of positive food experiences, motivation is reflective, analytical, goal setting, and forward looking. Here we look at the before and after of the food experience.

Motivation is reflective as we look on our past food experiences.

The before is what drives us toward the food experience. Was it a recipe from your childhood that you want to recreate? Was it the experience you had as a college student of trying certain foods that you want to recapture? Do you have a desire to blaze your own trail and create positive food experiences for your family? What food experiences have you had, and how have they shaped your current attitude toward food? What drives you to create a positive food experience?

Bakeware in the kitchen signifying how recreating childhood recipes is the motivation toward positive food experiences

Recreating recipes from your childhood can drive us toward positive food experiences.

The after part of motivation includes an analysis of what happened, why it happened, what were the results, and what goals you have based on that experience.

How did you feel as you created the dish? What emotions did you feel? What apprehensions did you have?

With motivation, we not only focus on the question of why, but also of how and what. It is a question of looking back on our food experience (answering the why), but also examining the experience itself (answering the what), and how we achieved that food experience (answering the how). Why did I have a positive food experience? How did I feel as I was having that experience? What goals will I set because of what happened with this positive food experience? What can I do to keep having positive food experiences like that one in the future?

Motivation includes looking at your current status.

What is your current attitude toward food? Do you even think about what you put into your body? Is food for you just background noise, or do you take an active role in your food intake and overall health?

Motivation is also forward looking. Motivation is having a desire to be better today than you were yesterday, and better tomorrow than you are today.

Evaluate what happened, why it happened, and how it happened. Take stock in all of the factors previously discussed that went into that positive food experience. Think about how you feel as a result of going through that positive food experience. What emotions come to fruition based on that experience? What apprehensions, if any, do we feel? What excitement did we feel? What teaching and learning moments were present during that experience?

The Barbecue Analogy

A recent barbecue that we hosted provides an example of what we mean by motivation. A few months back, a thunderstorm brought down several trees in the local neighborhood, including one of ours. The tree and scattered limbs lay across our property for several days before a “rescue” party could be put together.

Several friends banded together and came to our rescue. In the heat of the day, and with plenty of water and Gatorade to refuel, our friends (along with my husband) were able to cut up and clear the tree from our yard (we now have a nice stack of firewood for future barbecues and bonfires).

Barbecue Planning

To thank our friends for their efforts, we hosted a barbecue in their honor. After sorting out the schedule conflicts, were finally decided on a date for the barbecue. For several days, my husband and I brainstormed possible menu items.  What could we serve to feed a crowd, but would also feed our foodie creativity and motivation?

We purposely had several items to choose from to satisfy picky eaters or those with different preferences. In preparation for the barbecue, I planned out the grocery menu, and was able to make a few of the dishes a day in advance, as well as prepare the condiments. We eagerly anticipated our friends and fellow foodies to talk about the food, get their reactions and other ideas, and just chat about the events of the day.

The Big Day

About ten people joined us that day. We started with homemade guacamole with multigrain chips (to munch on while the other food finished cooking). We like our guacamole fresh and hearty. I purposely do not puree it in the food processor in order to keep it chunky, and to retain the textures and flavors of the different ingredients.

We then had an array of three types of burgers to choose from – some people even had more than one type: sirloin burgers (from Costco), Alaskan Pollock burgers (from Costco), and homemade turkey burgers from a recipe my husband found on Beachbody.com.

Each of these burgers had its own set of condiments. For example, there was a Tzatziki –style sauce that went with the turkey burger. We had a hickory smoked barbecue sauce and some veggie toppers to go with the sirloin burger. We had fresh homemade tartar sauce and sliced beefsteak tomatoes to go with the fish burger. Sliced gourmet cheeses also accompanied the burgers. As a side dish, we had pesto potato salad. For dessert, we had chocolate mousse with fresh berries.

Our friends eagerly gobbled up the guacamole and chips. They were impressed by the bold flavors and hearty texture. After placing their burger orders, our friends were able to relax and enjoy the beautiful late August weather. We even had a fire going on the patio to enhance the ambiance.

Our friends thoroughly enjoyed all the dishes. At first we were a little nervous about the turkey burgers since the recipe was untested. But there were absolutely no leftovers of that dish. Everyone enjoyed it, as well as the other burgers and side dishes. Our friends enthusiastically participated in the conversation, sharing different foods they enjoy, and different ways of preparing guacamole. Needless to say, the environment was full of lively conversation.

After we engaged in many conversations, hugs, and compliments, the guests left and we were left to clean up and reflect on the day’s events. Was this a positive food experience? Undoubtedly yes! Let’s review our experience in terms of the remaining five principles of positive food experiences before returning to our motivation topic:

FOOD

All of the food items contained fresh, hearty ingredients that we made time and effort to research and select. We carefully selected the foods based on our chosen budget: being able to feed a crowd while keeping the budget under control – and still have a gourmet quality meal.

PEOPLE

With regard to people, the excitement began with me and my husband as we selected menu items, understood what people would like or not like, and tried new recipes. Everyone’s reactions before, during, and after the meal helped to fuel the fire of motivation and excitement. My husband and I felt a sense of giving and a sense of satisfaction, knowing that we helped our friends. We showed appropriate appreciation for their service in the tree cleanup – and, of course, for just being our friends. 🙂

ENVIRONMENT

We created a relaxing, outdoor environment to have the meal. We have a large patio area, including a fireplace, which offers rest and relaxation. We kept the food indoors to avoid bugs or animals from indulging in our meal. Some of us needed light jackets as the evening went on, but it was generally a beautiful evening.

We were able to relax, enjoy the flowers and other plants, and of course, enjoy the food. We purposely and thoughtfully created an environment that focused on the food itself. The environment also generated many conversations about the food. Our friends shared ideas and insights surrounding food (commenting on what was served that night, and reflecting on other food experiences).

KNOWLEDGE BASE

Both my husband and I are gourmet cooks. For many years we have learned on our own, taken cooking classes, and sought after culinary information on the Internet, at the library, and through other resources to fine-tune our cooking skills. We are by no means perfect cooks (see other posts for “fun” disasters), but we actively seek to enhance our skill set day by day.

My husband found the recipe for turkey burgers online and was eager to try it. Having cooked for many years, we have a broad understanding of compatible flavors and textures, complementary seasonings, and accompanying dishes. We then put the meal together based on that experience. Whenever we make and serve a meal for others, we are interested in their feedback, and perhaps learn of other ideas and techniques.

INTERACTION

In terms of our barbecue, the filters that may have clouded our interaction with the food included the uncertainty of how our new-found recipe (the turkey burgers) would turn out, and how the food would be received (how our friends would enjoy or not enjoy the items). We certainly did not use any extreme foods or ingredients, so the degree of disliking the foods was minimal. We felt confident enough, and we felt comfortable enough with the food.

MOTIVATION

So what were our motivations based on this experience? We have thoroughly documented the what, why, and how this experience has happened. Because of this experience, I felt more confident in introducing new recipes to a crowd instead of trying new recipes ourselves first and ensuring that they make the cut before sharing those recipes with others. I felt exhilaration in having our friends come over for dinner.

Both my husband and I love entertaining. We really get an adrenaline rush when we serve and interact with friends, family, or other associates. Our goals because of this experience are to continue to entertain guests on a regular basis, regardless of whether a tree falls in our yard. 🙂 We intend to spread our gourmet wings and try new recipes. We also want to bring up the topic of food and mealtime with our friends more frequently and in more depth, to get their reactions about their own experiences.

Table set for four to signify a motivation to entertain guests

Food experiences can motivate us to entertain family, friends, or other associates.

Motivation propels us forward and keeps us going.

As you can see by this example, motivation inspires us to try new things, to seek and act on correction (if a recipe did not come out right, for example, or if we couldn’t get a technique right), and to become better people, both inside and out.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: After considering what happened regarding your food experience, why it happened, and how it happened, how do you feel as a result? What are your reactions? What will you do differently? What goals will you set because of this experience?

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