Updated: Feb 11

“My cousin delivered a baby, the baby was crying, we fed it soft drink. I went to a funeral, I took a box of chocolate pastries for the grieving family. I went to a big fat North Indian wedding, the menu was thin sambhar and boiled rice.”.

Crazy! isn’t it.

Have thought of something like it? Just think, went to a dinner party, took out two pieces of dried bread from the purse on the dinner plate, and started eating it !!! Totally abnormal. These are all food items but the food is intimately woven into the physical, economic, psychological, intellectual, and social life of man. It is a part of his culture and is filled with many different meanings and symbolism for all individuals at various ages and stages of their maturity.

Man’s basic drive for food is to satisfy his hunger. A would-be mother is fed her favorite food on the occasion of the baby shower. A child is fed payasam or rice kheer or rice pudding on its Annaprashan. A birthday is incomplete without cake. Wedding parties are served with a variety of food. We celebrate any occasion with a variety of food items. So food has a SOCIOLOGICAL factor.

All through history food has played important roles besides that of nutrition. WARS WERE FOUGHT FOR FOOD. People had stolen, robbed, killed for food. Explorers have searched the world for new foods.

We all are individuals. A toddler also has his own choice of food. Some of us like sweets, some sour, some spicy, some sweet and sour. Some like crispy food and some soft mushy food. So there is INDIVIDUAL PREFERENCE related to food.

Food is a SOURCE OF POWER. People have been starved for submission. Wars have been won by blockading food supplies to the enemies. The power of food is used in society and in the family as a reward or punishment. A child may be sent to bed without food because of bad behavior or given something special for some achievement.

Food is a SOURCE OF SECURITY. An infant learns security from the way his mother feeds him. His behavioral pattern will be influenced by the extent to which he feels secure regarding his food supply. Similarly, a growing child gains confidence and a feeling of belonging when he is assured that there is food in the house and he is well fed. People feel secure when they have enough food at a time of scarcity. Familiar foods give a sense of security when one is eating away from home.

The economically poorest society spends sixty percent of their monthly budget on food and the top quintile spends about forty-four percent of their monthly budget on food in India. The ECONOMIC FACTORS depend on food selection, purchase, and consumption.

The well-to-do eat food, the common man cannot afford, may not be nutritious. It is prestigious to buy expensive food items like white rice, white flour, etc. We serve certain foods for family meals and different foods when we have guests. Food is a STATUS symbol.

India is famous for its CULTURAL diversity. Food is related to FESTIVALS, LOCALITIES, RELIGION, and part of India. Sevaiyan is related to Eid, Gujiyas for holi, til laddoo for Sankranti. Some food is specifically designed for certain areas of India like Hyderabadi biriyani, Agra petha, Amritsari Kulche.

“Loose motions, eat thin khichri. Non-oily food for stomach ailments, Non-spicy food for liver disease, green leafy vegetables to cure anemia. Acceptance of food is related to our PHYSIOLOGICAL factor.

Food is a symbol of HOSPITALITY AND FRIENDSHIP throughout the world. We express our hospitality to a guest through an offer of food or drink. In times of disaster or sorrow, we take food to the affected person. Offering a cup of tea or coffee is a gesture of friendship.

Feeling happy, enjoy with food. Feeling stressed out, frisk out in refrigerator or cabinet for something to munch or stop eating anything. Loneliness and boredom are relieved by continuous nibbling of food. Anger and frustration may turn one against food. Specific foods are associated with unhappy experiences. Food consumed by some is unacceptable and even revolting for others. These types of concepts have no rhyme or reason nor are they related to nutritive value; they are just emotional reactions. Food is an OUTLET OF EMOTIONS.

Food fads are also a factor for accepting food. Foods are classified as “hot” foods and “cold” foods. People avoid milk and fish together in some communities and are believed to produce white patches. Some people avoid onion with curd as onion is hot and curd is cold. There are numerous fads.

Food is not just to fill the stomach but the factors that are more important to lead a healthy life.

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