One of the six key principles to creating positive food experiences is People. People influence us, and we influence them. It’s a reciprocal balance that is integral to the food experience.
In this article, we will examine how that is the case, and what things you can do to accentuate that principle as you work toward creating positive food experiences.
With more than one person in the meal process – in the cooking and dining experience, you have the opportunity to learn from each other. You can exchange ideas with one another. You can gain more insight into such things as cooking skills, décor and environment, and food research.
Why the People Principle is so Important
People gain ideas and receive feedback from each other. Two people may have different ways of cutting broccoli for a particular meal, for example. Each person adds his or her unique contribution to the meal. They may want a certain look or texture to the dish. Either way, the dish would likely taste great.
Personal contribution is a key factor in the food experience process.
Giving a dish different personality adds variety and diversity to the meal. By cooking together, you allow each person to contribute parts of the meal and make the meal unique. The person also feels a sense of accomplishment, ownership, and responsibility for the meal. Instead of just cooking the already prepared ingredients, the person helps to actually shape the meal in a different way that may be unique. People gain knowledge, experience, and ideas from each other. Just like any interactions with individuals, we all have different points of view and we all contribute based on our strengths and ideas.
One person may come up with an idea, and another person may build on that idea. Both people learn from each other and are being creative in the process.
Contribution, personality, and creativity all play vital roles in the food experience.
These components also help to form interpersonal connections among the people involved. The people work together, expand their minds, and create something that they have contributed toward. The involvement of people makes the meal that much more unique because it not only tastes, great, but it was a result of a melding of unique ideas.
Here are 5 ways to maximize the reciprocal nature of the food experience:
1. Being Open to New Ideas and Learning
In order to fully utilize the People principle and create positive experiences, it’s vital to being open to new ideas and learning. Having that openness and flexibility helps all the people involved to spread their wings and strut their stuff in the kitchen.
For example, my husband and I cooked dinner together the other night. We made a stuffed pork loin. Since we are currently a two-person family, it is logistically easier for us to just stuff some pork chops – so we don’t have a lot of food left over (and then have to eat those leftovers for many days). Initially I just planned to cut a pocket in each of the pork chops, add the filling into the pocket, and cook it that way.
However, my husband had a different idea that proved to be easier and whereby we could get more filling in each pork chop. He pounded each pork chop with a meat mallet until the meat was flat, pliable, uniform, and tender. He pounded the meat at an angle instead of straight down, which helped the meat fibers to break down easier. We then placed a hearty scoop of filling into each pork chop and just fold it over (instead of trying to stuff filling into a pocket).
By being open to new ideas and learning, I expanded my knowledge of stuffing and flattening meat. If I had been intent on only preparing the meat a certain way, I would have remained unaware of the possibilities.
2. Developing Teamwork
Each person contributes to the outcome. Each person has different strengths and areas of improvement. As you allow unique ideas to emanate from each person, that melds the group together. When you allow things to develop, you create things you otherwise would not have. The end product (the meal) becomes better than it would have otherwise.
This learning and teamwork builds character and allows that uniqueness to blossom. The people feel that they have given a piece of themselves to the meal: their ideas, their labor, their laughter, and their enjoyment and fun.
A friend of mine related an example to me of how people help each other as part of the food experience. She and her husband prepared to have guests over for dinner. They worked together to prepare the meal. They decided on décor, place settings, etc. Then they set out dishes and place settings the night before the event. They planned the menu. Writing the menu on a small chalkboard ensured they did not forget anything, and also to provided their guests with information on what will be served during the meal.
They worked together to utilize and express different ideas of what to cook, how to decorate, etc. so that they learn from each other. As in the first example, there is no right or wrong answer in this situation. It is a question of people working together to use ideas and to make a meal work.
3. Keeping It Simple
This reciprocity in the kitchen does not have to be some large, organized event. It can be as simple as a child cutting up vegetables or retrieving items from the refrigerator. No matter what the size of the contribution or the number of people involved in the process, each person gains a sense of accomplishment.
4. Fostering Interaction
Even though Interaction is a key principle of positive food experiences in itself, it is also vital for the social aspect. The biggest factor surrounding reciprocity in the kitchen is the interaction that develops among those involved in the meal. You don’t make a meal by having separate people doing things. Everyone works together to make something delicious.
You connect as individuals through the food. You allow yourself to be creative and to show love. In reality, the meal could only have been created with that comradery. During the meal is also a unique experience because of the individual contributions. Each person has a personal connection to the meal, which gives the food and the environment a different feeling.
There is a difference between just eating something that is placed before you (that you may or may not know anything about) and eating something that you personally have helped to prepare, cook, and serve. The closer the giver and receiver are to each other and to the meal, the greater the responsibility and enjoyment each of them has to food and mealtime.
5. Engaging in Skill Building
Reciprocity in the kitchen also aids in skill building. Each team member brings his or her own skill set. He or she may not necessarily have perfected that skill set (it’s often a work in progress), but the person contributes those skills to the process. People help each other to perfect those skills. It’s a process of teaching and learning.
You also gain an understanding of the background and experiences a person brings to the meal. As one person teaches another, they give instructions, share stories, and show appreciation for the experience. You learn who they are as a person by cooking with someone.
Working together to create a meal is not limited to a special event or large dinner party. Doing menu planning as a family, for example, not only ensures participation, but also cooking and eating foods that people enjoy. Depending on logistics, family members can stop for groceries on their way home or do some meal preparation earlier in the day. Working together is about doing what works best for everyone involved, and to lighten the load for each other.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT: How can you work more effectively with others to plan and prepare meals and create a positive food experience?