Food and Human Integration with Outside World

  February 08, 2021   Read time 2 min
Food and Human Integration with Outside World
It is safe to say that food serves as a vehicle through which man reaches the world and gets connected with the outside through objective elements. Food allows man to have a sense of his body and the necessity of consideration of its urges in an intelligent and intelligible way.

A fundamental element of social as well as psychic construction, no pleasure more than our encounters with food defines us more, offering as it does great opportunities for conflict and communion. As a literally incorporated foreign substance, food offers up an emblem of the individual’s relationship to the outside world. At once intensely individual and vividly social, our often convoluted relationships with the food that we consume allow, even invite, us to reflect on the dynamic interrelation of the private and the public, the individual and the communal. A total social phenomenon, food is also a “total sensory phenomenon.” It addresses the baser senses—the tongue, the nose, and the palate—along with the traditionally nobler eye and ear. The two totalities are intimately connected. To survive, every individual, every society must discipline that sensory experience and put it to social account. The production, enactment, and expression of that discipline inscribe this totalizing pleasure in an evolving economy of both use and power. What we do with food, therefore, how we think about it and use it, inheres in what we are, as societies and as individuals. To understand how food operates in an economy of use and power means understanding food as a source of pleasures as various as they are complex, passionately experienced, and ambiguous. The many roles food plays in society reflect as they reproduce this complexity and this ambiguity. A material product that engages the senses and appeases appetites, food is at the same time a symbolic creation tied to the intellect and the spirit, as an end in itself and a means to any number of other ends. Like sex, to which it is insistently compared and invariably linked, eating grounds us in the terrestrial and points us to the divine. We taste the beloved and also the fruits of divine love. The closer edibles come to the volatile, mysterious realms of desire, the more they identify us, individually and collectively. To reach beyond the singular to the collective, beyond the individual to the social order, these antitheses have to be negotiated. Or, rather, we must negotiate. The ephemeral, irremediably private nature of the material culinary product confines actual consumption to the individual. After all, food must be destroyed to be consumed, and in rigorously alimentary terms, consumption is strictly individual. To gain cultural currency, to circulate in society, the material artifact has to be recast in an intellectual mold.

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