Food for Thought: Documenting Food Experiences

computer screen to document food experiences

Documenting food experiences helps you learn to create positive food experiences in your life.

In order to learn from our food experiences, it is not only important to create those experiences (in our lives and in the lives of whom we associate), but also to document them.

Just like a history book helps us learn from those events of the past, so is the case with documenting food experiences. We want to understand the who, what, where, when, and why of the experience so that we can recreate the positive aspects of the food experience, and make adjustments in those areas that need improvement.

Documenting food experiences is different from keeping a food journal. With food journals, you document what foods you eat (quantity and type) and when. Documenting food experiences includes many other factors. In so doing, you are taking a more holistic look at the situation. In order to create positive food experiences, you need visibility of that additional information.

What are some benefits to documenting food experiences?

Gaining Visibility of Information

Depending on the level of detail by which you document food experiences, you have that visibility not only of what you ate, but also other aspects of the meal, such as the following:

·      How the meal was prepared (how you found the recipe, what techniques you used)

·      Your choice of ingredients

·      What the environment was like (eating a drive-thru meal on your way to an activity, having a sit-down dinner with your family, having a picnic in the park, etc.).

·      The types of interaction you have with the food: chopping, blending, slicing, dicing, etc.

Learning from the Past

Because you have those experiences documented, you can return to that information from time to time to refresh and relearn what happened, why it happened, how it happened, etc. If a certain cooking technique did not go well, you may document some things you should do differently next time.

For example, I currently struggle with breading and searing meats. Depending on the recipe, sometimes the breading just does not stay on to begin with, or it falls off during the cooking process. I am left with a mess! I am now looking at different web resources to help me learn how to make the meats just right.

Teaching Others

We also document food experiences to help others. If you create a new recipe, for example, and you have that written down (ingredients, instructions, tips, etc.), it is then available for others to replicate.

Recipes are an example of somewhat documenting a food experience, but not entirely. As we have learned from previous posts (see the article, The Six Principles of Positive Food Experiences), the food experience includes many other aspects. It involves planning and preparation, people, environmental aspects, developing your knowledge base of food, the interactions you have with food, as well as how those experiences motivate you toward the future. Recipes are one step in that whole process, but it is an example of documentation to some degree.

Increasing your Creativity, Self-Confidence, and Goal Achievement

Documenting your food experiences often helps spark new ideas for recipes and cooking styles. Ferran Adria, the world-renown Spanish chef and restaurant owner, kept meticulous documentation of all of his recipes and techniques. He and his staff reviewed that information from time to time, which in turn helped them to maintain a positive attitude and belief in their ability as they developed new recipes.

a person grating a potato representing practicing your culinary skills

Keep practicing!

As you keep practicing your cooking skills, accessing helpful resources and turning to people to help you, your self-confidence will increase, and you will be able to create positive food experiences in your life.

Is there a standard medium or format?

There is no specific format to documenting food experiences. You can jot it down in a notebook. You could pull up a word processing document on your laptop or other device. You could dictate a voice memo or other recording to yourself. The medium is not as important as the content.

Regarding the content, it is important to cover different areas. You could review each of the six principles of positive food experiences and take notes under each one. Or you could use a open narrative format, discussing each area in a less formal manner.

What should I write?

The following questions may help prompt your thoughts. This list is by no means exhaustive, nor is it all-inclusive. Instead, it is meant to conjure up thoughts on that which you experienced.

Food (What you put into your body for nourishment and sustenance):

·      What things about food were important for you to consider to create a positive food experience?

·      What resources did you use to make food choices?

·      How did you feel your food choices contributed to the food experience?

·      What was most important to you about the meal?

People (How others influence the food experience):

·      What was the level of people contact you had as associated with the meal?

·      Describe some positive influences on your food experience.

·      Describe any negative influences on your food experience.

·      What lessons have you learned from each of them (positive or negative)?

picnic in the park representing the food experience environment

What locations and situations work best for you in creating positive food experiences?

 Environment (The surroundings and circumstances in which you eat):

·      What locations and situations worked best for you in creating positive food experiences?

·      Did any situations not work out? Why?

·      What steps did you take or could you have taken to create a more relaxed, focused environment conducive to having positive food experiences?

Knowledge Base (Your level of culinary skills):

·      How did you use your culinary skills in creating the meal?

·      What new culinary skills did you learn? Where did you learn them?

·      What are some resources that you found useful creating the meal?

·      What kitchen gadgets (if any) did you use?

Interaction (Your relationship and level of interaction with food):

·      Were you involved in meal planning and preparation? How so?

·      How much time did you devote to the cooking process?

·      How did you interact with the food?

·      What factors influenced your interaction with food?

·      How were you able to adjust that level of influence to create positive food experiences?

Motivation (What you do as a result of the food experience):

·      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 because of the food experience?

·      What goals will you set because of what happened with this food experience?

·      What did you learn from those experiences?

·      What motivations do you have to make that recipe again?

·      Do you need to tweak the recipe a little (add more or less of something, find substitutions for some ingredients)?

Tips for Documenting Your Food Experiences

Ready to write it down? Here are some tips to help you as you document your food experiences.

Be Helpful

Documentation should be helpful to you and others. Can you replicate that food experience? What can you learn from it?

Be Uplifting

Denigrating yourself or others does not help anyone, especially concerning the food experience. Instead of complaining about something, write it down in a neutral fashion. Take ownership and responsibility for what happened so that you can learn from it. Negativity breeds negativity. Uplifting comments can direct and guide you to future success.

Be Thorough

Document as much as you can either in the moment or shortly thereafter, but then also revisit your notes and add to them appropriately. In so doing, you help yourself and others who review the information to better understand the experience.

Begin with the End in Mind

In his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, American author Stephen R. Covey stated,

“Begin with the End in Mind means to begin each day, task, or project with a clear vision of your desired direction and destination, and then continue by flexing your proactive muscles to make things happen.”

In terms of food experiences, it is important to understand how documenting food experiences is going to help you. Think about the food experience goals you have in mind. Maybe you just want to eat healthier. Perhaps you want to learn new cooking techniques (making a soufflé, for example). Maybe you are looking for different salad combinations. Perhaps you are trying to lose, gain, or maintain your weight. In doing so, keep the end goal in mind.

Monitor your Progress

The information you include, as well as the process of doing so, will help you later on. After a block of time (a week, a month, etc.), refer back to that information to see what you have learned. Do you make different food choices than when you first started? Do you put more thought into meal planning, etc.?

Some concluding thoughts…

Document what you can do differently the next time. If you are trying to change the way you present your meals and have a better experience, you get feedback from others and document that information so you can refer back to it later. You can get feedback on any aspect of the meal: how you cooked the meal, how you presented it, etc.

Call it what you will (diary, journal, story, etc.)! The main point is that you write down the information to learn from the experience and implement it next time.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: How do you document your food experiences? How have you used that information to create a positive food experience?

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