Arguably the chefs of the 21st century are possibly some of the best in history. Restaurants compete for Michelin Stars and, for those who can afford it, a meal at one of these fine establishments is a special occasion. Equally, many of us regard an evening with friends at a local restaurant as an important part of our social calendar. We enjoy the company of close friends with an atmosphere of community in an environment focussed on providing us with an experience we want to repeat. Ensuring good quality delicious food, prepared by a chef who is a master of his craft, is an essential ingredient to this event.
Contradictorily we live in a fast passed world where food has been relegated to a fuel in our daily priorities. Ready cooked meals are graded in ‘time to cook’ rather than how enjoyable or memorable the food will be. Fast food giants, such as MacDonald’s and KFC, add addictive ingredients that deliver a unique taste that hooks people into wanting more. However, the quality of the underlying ingredients, it’s provenance, and health benefits are not really the most important consideration of global businesses looking for large profits.
Tens of thousands of years of evolution engrained our DNA with a need to ‘break bread’ as a central part to the development of a community. Indeed, in some remote parts of the world today, generally in deep jungle, tribes still see the sharing of a hunt as a community event where social interaction is key and where eating freshly harvested food is not regarded merely as a fuel ingestion task. It would be easy to argue that these ‘poor’ tribe folk don’t have the same pressures of modern living to contend with and don’t understand the importance of running an online business or developing new technology, mapping the genome, or flying into outer space. It could be said that the infotech and biotech revolutions will pass these poor people by and their lives will be lesser as a result. If that were the case, why is it therefore that for those of us living in this ‘modern’ world where we are accelerating at break neck speed into a whole new global structure we see eating out with family and friends as a ‘special occasion’?
In millennia gone by our sense of smell used to be one of our critical, life dependent senses. Not only could we smell aromas but we could smell feelings such as fear or happiness. Today, we can hardly differentiate cooking smells, let alone detect the odour of deer over cattle. It’s a case of ‘if you don’t use it, you lose it’. The writing therefore is possibly on the wall for taste. With good meals becoming a special event only conducted occasionally, the concept of fast food and fast eating, where taste buds are stimulated from coatings and sauces rather than the essence of the underlying meat or vegetables, may signal the start of the end of our ability to really savor not only the real taste of our food but the importance of sharing food with other people as a major part of our daily lives.
For those of us who hunt, fish and grow vegetables, cooking and sharing the results of our efforts is the most enjoyable and important part of those activities. Knowing the difference between different meats, vegetables grown in our own gardens rather than bought from supermarkets, and wild fish as opposed to farmed is something we take for granted. Maybe therefore we are some of the fortunate few who will continue to understand the consciousness of sharing hard won food amongst friends and family whilst those living exclusively in the fast-paced modern world see it as special occasion which they can only enjoy on rare occasions.