A familiar saying that characterises the idea of food and identity is, “You are what you eat.” We symbolically consume identity through our food choices; what we eat defines who we are. To set yourself apart from others by what you will and will not eat is a social barrier. (Fox 2002) Our food choices, like various other cultural expressions and practices offer insights on how we present ourselves, shape our identities, define our membership and express our distance from others. The opposite of this is that you identify yourself with others by eating the same things in the same way. (Fox 2002) Eating is an intensely personal act. What we eat communicates to others our beliefs,cultural and social backgrounds and experiences.
(Source: Donna, 2015)
A research conducted by Sadella and Burroughs (1981) shows the relationship between the foods people consume and how they view other based on what they eat. The researchers listed foods, which were distinctive to five different diets: fast food, synthetic, health food, vegetarian, and gourmet food. People who eat fast food and artificial food were classified as religious conservatives who often wore polyester clothing. Health food personalities were characterised as antinuclear activists. Vegetarians were likely to be perceived as peacekeepers who drive foreign cars. Gourmet food eaters were seen as individuals who were liberal and sophisticated. These stereotypes were established through self-descriptions and personality tests, which were completed by individuals whose diets fell into the five categories. (Almerico 2014)
(Source: Goldenberg, 2015)
Food has such a powerful impact on people and groups in our society that we create stereotypes and judge people depending on what they consume. Those who eat better are perceived as fit, happy, more practical and analytic than those who do not. We have learned that people want to eat what those they admire eat. We are influenced by the need to be accepted for our food choices.
Almerico, G.M. 2014. ‘Food and identity: Food studies, cultural, and personal identity’, Journal of International Business and Cultural Studies, vol 8, pp.3-4.
Culture Decanted, 2014, Eating Yourself: We Consume Identity Through Food? Available from https://culturedecanted.com/2014/10/19/eating-yourself-we-consume-identity-through-food (Viewed 15 August 2017)
Fox, R. 2002. ‘Food and Eating: An Anthropological Perspective’, Oxford: Social Issues Centre, p. 2.