One of my favourite things to do is observe other people eating, watching how they sit, use their utensils and wrestle with their food. Everyone is different in their approach and I am just different in that I am in the food game and it fascinates me to speculate in my mind how some people might have arrived at such good or bad behaviour. It mostly stays in my mind however and if I am commenting on it in public I try to be constructive and informative.
What is happening now is that everyone is starting to stare at what people are doing with their food and then judging them on aspects of it that would have not mattered before. They are then not afraid to then critical speak their mind be it to family, friends and work colleagues or post their displeasure online. We are now harshly judging what others have in their trolleys, in their lunch boxes and cupboards and above all on their plates.
In groups eating together people are more on their guard than ever now so as not to be ridiculed or food shamed when they reveal they want their steak well done or to leave out the garlic in a dish. If someone wants a well done steak it’s their business and they should get it, ditto with the garlic. We really have no idea about the private lives of people and their diets but they are unfair game these days. This is body shaming for eating.
The fear of being mocked by the mob as to how on earth they cannot like garlic or not appreciate blood running around their plate or whatever their particular food preference might be is making some people behave differently than they ought to. In public people with an innocuous food choice will go for a safe option rather than cause offence or intrigue to their fellow diners by revealing something unusual that will set tongues wagging.
I know one couple where one of them is vegan and the other appeases by endeavouring to be the same but when alone or with others they devour meaty dishes unbeknownst to their other half. Eating has become yet another vehicle or instrument for hurting. It’s not as if our relationship with food is not already strained with the obesity, ethical and GM debates to keep us infighting. Now we have the added worry of not picking the right dish or endorsing a controversial ingredient that someone at the table is going to admonish you for. That shaming can lead to negative thoughts and disorders for vulnerable minds so it is a serious issue.
There are some companies that will employ an etiquette expert posing as a future colleague to have lunch with you to assess your dining habits and how your manners are in public before they offer you a job. There used to be pure food snobbery whereby you got looked down upon if your diet was poor or you simply could not afford better by buying yellow packs. I have seen the richest customers ask for the most mundane requests in their dishes like a squirt of ketchup over a beautifully crafted sauce. Conversely I have seen sophisticated meals cooked from the cheapest ingredients and leftovers, a few of which I have produced myself.
So the message is simply that food is personal, it’s how we were brought up, it is who we are as part of our identity. Old food habits die hard. I still do things I saw my mother do when I was a child. It certainly does not deserve to be mocked, so let’s hope this new era of food shaming culture is nipped in the bud. Kids especially are going to be victims of this trend so be gentle with your big and little fellow diners. Food is already in a bad enough place without us getting dragged there with it.