We’ve discussed the benefits of having positive food experiences. We’ve outlined the factors that contribute to positive food experiences. Now let’s delve a little deeper into defining a positive food experience and how you can create positive food experiences in your life.
A positive food experience is often different and unique.
A positive food experience is not about eating just to eat. It’s about experiencing it, enjoying it, and creating memories. It’s about creating nutritious and delicious food, and also how the environment influences that food experience. Cooking is just as important to the food experience as meal presentation and eating.
Ask yourself if it is an experience with food or the food itself that is giving you the experience. Food can be the facilitator of the experience.
There are different factors to a positive food experience.
Putting the meal together can be a positive food experience in itself. You have fun as you are using unique ingredients, trying different techniques, using different cooking gadgets, etc. For example, we cooked a Moroccan dish that included salmon, vegetables, and couscous. The sweet and savory combination of the vegetables stood out. Being involved in the cooking process – grilling the meat and vegetables – played a big role in the food experience. It’s a fun experience when you get to cook together with someone.
Part of a positive food experience is interacting with others when cooking a meal.
When you are eating it, there can be another unique experience with the food. Having a barbecue, for example, can be a positive food experience. When having a group of people over for dinner, the entertainment, the food, and the people all make up that experience.
It’s all about relationships interwoven with food.
One of your guests may try a dish and say, “Oh, what’s that? Can you tell me about this food?” How people react to the food is part of the experience. It’s all about relationships. Cooking together, laughing together, learning together, and eating together is all part of the experience. It is fun to create a dish with the idea that you are going to share it. Sharing the food, the ideas, and the information is all part of the experience. Food itself is stimulating, it’s unique, and it’s palatable. It is also associated with an experience and the overall memory that you are creating.
A positive food experience is a memory.
It is something that you really enjoyed, not only the food, but the atmosphere, the people, and the interaction. How you made the food. How you presented it. All of those things together with the conversation and the flavors and the food make up the memories. You are creating a positive food experience, which is a memory. The more components that comprise the food experience, the better. Those components help to build positive food experiences. So if you could have that experience from the time you are looking at the recipe, to plating it – especially if you did that all in one day, think of what a positive food experience you could have.
Think about in Europe, for example, where the food experience starts at the street market purchasing the ingredients. You start with an idea that you are going to make an extraordinary dish. Then you bring it home and prepare the ingredients for cooking. Then you have friends or family join you for the meal. You then have a delicious meal that you spent time preparing. You interacted with the food as you put it together. The flavors are exploding. You are sitting down with friends and enjoying this beautiful meal that has such depth to the flavors. On top of that, you have depth to the relationships of the people who you are with. You are experiencing that all together. You are having a positive food experience that is a memory of friendships and the food itself. It is all linked together as a block of memory.
A positive food experience is experiencing the food and the things that went toward creating that experience.
A positive food experience is different for everyone depending on age, maturity, circumstances, and other factors. People tend to have a more positive food experience when they make the food themselves. One example is when my husband and I baked homemade bread together. It was fun putting the ingredients together, kneading it, letting the bread rise, baking it on a stone in the oven. All of those components create a memory that you want to recreate and share.
Teaching and learning are a large part of a positive food experience.
Even if the food doesn’t come out the way you planned (ours did not :), you still have those memories and experiences to share. You are learning from those experiences. Each of us has different experiences and different backgrounds that we can share with each other. My husband taught me how to filet salmon, for example. Because he has a background of knowing how to prepare different cuts of fish, he is able to teach those techniques to others.
A positive food experience is working with food.
That is a core to our existence: to create things that are stimulating, things that are memorable, having experiences working with it, preparing and cooking the food, and plating it. The food experience is also mentally stimulating. A positive food experience is where food is the main focus.
There are some social gatherings where nobody is even paying attention to the food – that is not what we mean by a food experience, let alone a positive one. You can expand the food experience by actually cooking with friends and family (rather than just preparing a meal for when your guests arrive). Then everyone is cooking and learning and has a hand in the experience. They have a sense of pride and ownership. Having your children help you cook is another positive food experience example – having a family food experience.
There are a lot of experiences that are built and memories shared from working in the kitchen, preparing the food, eating the food, the conversation that goes with doing those things, and the relationships that are created and strengthened as you are doing those things. Eating at restaurants can also be a positive food experience if it is a good restaurant. The more interaction you have with the food, though, the better the experience. Even though your interaction with the food is limited at restaurants (you are not preparing it, cooking it, etc.), it can be a positive food experience depending on the circumstances.
Two experiences come to mind as examples. Recently we went to Carmella’s Italian Bistro in Appleton, Wisconsin. That was a positive food experience as we sat together as a group, the interaction that occurred as we decided what to order, we talked about the food as we ate. Another example is when my husband used to make bread with his mom. He remembers working with her to make delicious bread. The focal point was the bread, but the side components were the interactions that went along with making the bread.
A positive food experience is comprised of memories created with food being center to that experience.
Munching on your favorite snack while watching television would not be considered a positive food experience, since people are focused on the show and not what they are eating. The food is there just to give you something to eat. The food is not the core of the experience. Whereas if the experience includes the cooking, the plating, the tasting, and the interaction with friends and family while doing those things, then the food is more central to the experience.
It comes down to creating memories that are focused on the food (facilitated by the food and interacting with the food itself). That creates fond memories. It’s nice when everything comes together: the flavors, the friends, the laughter, the teaching, the learning, the sharing, the enjoyment of the food – and when the people remember that meal. They remember not just that meal, but also everything that was associated with that meal.
You can have food every day, but not every day is a positive food experience where you remember the details of that particular meal, what you did, and how it all came together.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Consider how you experience and interact with food. What components are involved? What steps could you take to create positive food experiences in your life?