What is Your Food Language

What is your food language? Do you think each of us has a primary food language in the same way we have a primary love language? Why not? Anthropologists study the way language and food intersect, positing that food and its uses provide setting and structure for language.

I feel like we could develop a questionnaire that could indicate a primary food language. Perhaps we would use that language to guide our choice of dining companions. Perhaps we would use it to encourage healthier diets for our children. Perhaps we could use it to improve compliance with medically beneficial eating plans or prevent/treat eating disorders.

If we were going to design such a test, what would we look for?

Mind you, I’m not going to be incredibly scientific or statistical about this. It’s more a flight of fancy, and since that seems to be where my mind is determined to go this morning, I’m going to run with it. If I don’t, I’ll just be fighting myself (some people call that writer’s block).

So, back to our questionnaire. How about some questions like these, followed by multiple choice answers?

In what way do you associate food with conversation?

How often are you able to feel the hunger in your body?

How do you feel most often when you prepare a meal?

How do you feel most often when you order a meal from a restaurant?

If you reach for a snack between meals, what is the reason?

What foods do you choose when no one is watching?

How does the quantity of food you consume change when you’re alone?

In what way do your feelings change after a meal?

How does the temperature of food affect its appeal?

How does the texture of food affect its appeal?

What words would you use to describe a meal you enjoyed?

What words would you use to describe a meal you did not enjoy?

What sort of lighting enhances the flavor of a meal?

What sort of sound enhances the flavor of a meal?

How do you pair flavors?

How often do you think of food when it is not mealtime?

How do you feel when the pantry is full?

How do you feel when the pantry is empty?

How often do you buy kitchen tools you do not use?

These questions may be a good beginning or others might serve better. And multiple choice answers must be carefully chosen to give us an accurate picture of what they indicate. One way to hone the questions and answers is through research.

Research studies often begin with curious flights of fancy. Mine could lead to identifying food languages. Yours could lead to something even more significant. Even if you’re not a researcher, there are ways to contribute ideas to the research community. Colleges and universities, medical schools, and nonprofits in your community are great places to find opportunities.

And if you’d rather do than imagine, you can volunteer to be a research subject. In college, I participated in an exercise study measuring the effectiveness of isokinetic workouts. A few years ago, I participated in a study surveying attitudes toward cybersecurity.  

Whether or not today’s flight of fancy leads you toward research participation, hopefully it will encourage you to explore your internal food dialogue. You may discover you have a well-defined food language just waiting to be discovered.

https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/search/index

https://www.researchmatch.org/

https://www.seattlechildrens.org/research/research-studies-clinical-trials/how-to-decide-to-join/

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Push Through or Move on

How do you determine when to push through or move on? This is an issue that keeps rearing its head for me and for others I know. It’s often discussed regarding intimate relationships or life partners, but it comes up in every area – business, finance, sports, career, parenting, friendships, recreation, and healthcare.

I’ve been reading and rereading a policy I’ll be voting on this week. I’ve seen this policy before – more than once. I pushed for changes and got a meeting with the stakeholders. Some things were changed. Some were not. I felt like that was progress.

Now I see that most of the changes I fought for are gone and the policy disregards the segment I represent more than it did the first time around. It’s not particularly surprising. Change is a constant battle in certain organizations.

But I’m a volunteer. I’m giving time and energy that might be better directed to organizations that are more receptive. And yet, the entities most resistant to change are typically the ones that most need it. Knowing that makes me feel like I should push back again.

I also realize there is a point at which pushing back creates more resistance. I can hold up a vote, but I have no real authority within the organization. I can be circumvented with a simple procedural change.

The problem in this particular instance is that the stakeholders with the most power are not concerned how this policy affects my constituents. In the past two years, many of us have had the opportunity to see this kind of disregard in action.

No policy will be perfect for everyone it affects. But when husbands, wives, CEOs, legislators, law enforcement officials, physicians, or parents lack regard for those who are governed by their policies, it becomes more likely that rules will be created that result in real harm.

I am attempting to lessen that possibility. But I’m doing so from a position with limited power and authority. And I can easily be replaced. This is a singular situation, but also a recurring theme and it always leads to the question:

How can you know when to let go?

There’s no way to be absolutely sure how any situation will play out so there’s no absolute answer to this question. The best you can do is approach the decision mindfully, exploring as many sides as you can see (the more, the better). In other words, when you can step back and incorporate many points of view, your decision will be more informed.

You can also gather input from other sources. While this is helpful, it’s important to make a decision you feel comfortable owning. If you allow another’s opinion to influence you to do something you can’t feel peace about, the decision will continue to haunt you.

Many people may advise you to make a pro/con list. That can be helpful in showing you whether you see more positive than negative about moving on or pushing through, but the items on the list may follow the human bias for justifying our actions while taking the easy way out.

Here are a few questions you may want to consider when deciding to push through or move on. The situation will help you determine which ones apply.

What are my intentions? Which action is more in line with my intentions?

What are the risks of pushing through? What are the rewards? Do the rewards align with my values?

What are the risks of moving on? What are the rewards? Do the rewards align with my values?

What will I lose if I move on? What will I gain? Which aligns more with my values?

Have I been in a similar situation in which I regretted my decision? Why did I regret it? Do I feel a need to do things differently this time? Would doing things differently be a selfish decision, or would it benefit all parties?

Can I live with myself if I move on at this point or will I feel I have neglected my duty or failed to work through some issue I need to resolve?

Do I believe I have done everything I can do and further action on my part will be more destructive than helpful?

Is there another person who may be better suited to play my role from this point forward?

Is it costing me too much to continue this work or this relationship?

Would a short break give me the perspective I need? Can I take a break and come back to the decision?

How much is fear guiding my decision? (This is a good question to ask when anger is what I feel.) Can I sit with the fear until I’m more clear on its role?

If I feel strongly about the path I should take, but am afraid, can I enlist an advocate? Who would that advocate be?

If I need allies to affect change, should I redirect my energy to building an alliance?

Do I recognize that making no decision is actually making a decision? Am I able to set a deadline for making a decision and then remove the pressure and allow myself to process through all the feelings around it?

Am I keeping in mind that behind all policies are human beings?

Humans can be kind, supportive, inclusive, and compassionate. They can also be cruel, sadistic, dismissive, manipulative, and selfish. Sometimes the cruelty is a deliberate choice. Sometimes, it’s an inadvertent result of a lack of awareness. Raising awareness will most likely have the most lasting positive effect in any given situation. But it won’t automatically make someone care about an issue you believe they should care about.

Sometimes the moment requires a strong stand. Sometimes, it requires subtle pressure over a long period of time. And sometimes, it requires walking out the door and letting go. I’ll be keeping all of this in mind as I decide my response to the policy I’m reviewing.

I wish I knew whether to push through or move on. I don’t. But I am confident I will be at peace with my decision once I make it because I trust my process.

Ghost Kitchens

Ghost kitchens are a hauntingly hot trend for 2022. They’re a perfect fit for new dining habits developed during this pandemic. 

Ghost kitchens provide a take-out or delivery experience only. They may be operated by known brands or chains. Wendy’s, for instance, is planning to open 700 ghost kitchens over the next five years. Or they may be owned by a local chef.

In the rural south, we have a tradition of barbecue served out of the back door of a house. There’s no written menu and once the ribs are gone, they’re gone. Word of mouth is the only advertising. But don’t be fooled by the circumstances, the food can be superior. Around here, you can also find drop-by-the-barn fish fries on Friday nights in the spring. 

As ghost kitchens have grown in larger cities, rural versions of the trend have expanded into plant-based establishments like vegan twisted potatoes served from the back of otherwise abandoned (and perhaps ghostly) industrial buildings. Food is available for pick-up only. 

In a similar fashion, a church near my home rents out space in its industrial kitchen for food startups. Some place their products in local grocery stores or sell at farmers’ markets. A few have grown into brick-and-mortar venues. 

While brick-and-mortar was the previous goal of such startups, the increase in takeout prompted by the ongoing pandemic may mean ghost kitchens will revise their objectives. Not only is the market more friendly for take-out, remaining a ghost kitchen eliminates many of the staff shortage problems currently experienced by full-service restaurants.

The best restaurant dining experience I’ve had in the past year was consuming a salad delivered from Goop Kitchen’s ghost kitchen. Known as GP’s Clssic-ish Cobb, the salad contained a 7-minute egg, avocado, tomatoes, Point Reyes blue cheese, roasted golden beets, Mama Lil’s peppers and house pickled shishitos, little gem, and radicchio served with dijon mustard vinaigrette. 

Compared to my favorite over $20 local salad, Goop’s seems like a bargain at $16.29. Having less staff means less overhead which can mean less expense for the same food. Goop takes  advantage of owner Gwyneth Paltrow’s celebrity making it seem less ghost and more stealth. 

Another successful ghost kitchen concept comes from Guy Fieri in the form of Guy Fieri’s Flavortown Kitchen. Guy along with chef Robert Earl partners with existing restaurants to cook and sell his products in new markets. 

Beyond these, Virtual Dining Concepts offers ghost kitchens in the form of TikTok Kitchen, Barstool Bites, NASCAR Refuel, MrBeast Burger, Larray’s Loaded Mac & Cheese, Mariah’s Cookies, Mario’s Tortas Lopez, Pauly D’s Italian Subs, FoodGod Truffle Fries, Steve Harvey’s Family Food, Wing Squad, Buddy V’s Cake Slice, P.Za Kitchen. 

As staffing remains difficult and pandemic surges continue, the environment seems conducive for ghost kitchens to expand. 

Having had some mediocre to bad restaurant meals recently, I can see that putting more funds toward food and food preparation rather toward food service has the potential to improve quality. As a consumer, that sounds great to me.

On the other side of the equation is the permanent loss of jobs in the food service sector. I don’t know whether a significant number of those jobs can be made up in other industries. There could be skill, education, or experience barriers that prevent some workers from making a transition.

While there may be a temporary downside, I feel like ghost kitchens are a great avenue for bringing new food concepts to market quickly. I love innovation so I’m embracing this change. Won’t you join me for a take-out experience?

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Fast or Slow?

Is time moving fast or slow? In general, we accept that time feels as though it moves slowly when we’re young, gradually speeding up as we age. But I’ve become increasingly aware of  other factors that affect my sense of time. On the surface, that seems inconsequential. But on another level, it feels incredibly important to thriving.

When a vendor’s business burned years ago, I remember someone saying that from that point on, his time would be divided into before the fire and after the fire. That sounded right since we mark time in unexpected life-changing events as well as cultural milestones- birthdays, graduations, jobs, marriages, and anniversaries. 

Our perception of time forms the basis for setting priorities, making decisions, establishing commitments, and meeting deadlines. It’s not uncommon for someone who faces a life-threatening event to suddenly be ready to commit to a relationship. When we feel the shortness of time, priorities change. 

On a daily basis, my sense of time is affected by the presence or absence of family, deadlines I must meet, how safe I feel, the goals I’ve set and my sense of accomplishment. When I have family in the house, time seems to stretch out. It’s an odd paradox. There’s often more to do, but it feels like I have more time to do it. 

For over 20 years, my work had an understandable flow. It wasn’t predictable exactly, but each job had a particular flow and collectively, there were repeating rhythms. Most of it was driven by customer or reporting deadlines. I’m an expert at creating backward timelines. All I had to do was coordinate 60ish timelines at once.

Now I have fewer established deadlines and a wider variety of tasks. Each of those utilizes different tools and has multiple moving parts. While I have more control over the schedule, I also wear more hats that require me to shift my attention. This affects how I perceive progress and the time each task takes. 

I could say that your priorities are reflected in the things on which you spend your time. I think I have said it. And it’s true, but not necessarily in a one-to-one kind of way. If you spend a lot of time doing laundry, your priority could be laundry. It could also be your children. Or it could be other people’s opinion of how you take care of your family.

Becoming aware of your perception of time is important when you begin to map what thriving looks like for you. Each intention will require an investment of time. It may not be possible to achieve the maximum goal in each area and still have a calm, peaceful life. If thriving for you includes calm and peace, you may need to back off of the ideal and choose an achievable goal.

No matter how lofty your goals, how efficient your system, or how intentional your choices, time is a limiting factor that will determine what you accomplish. If you devise a life plan in which accomplishment moves fast while feeling slow and easy, you’ll have achieved the balance I like to maintain.

Sometimes, it’s just hard to know whether time will feel like it’s moving fast or slow.