Sometimes we close our eyes and transcend into a sublime state of being by simply tasting something delicious. There is a theory that food rituals make people pay more attention to food and thus many of the culinary traditions are at the root of making our food taste better through simple ritualistic customs around food.Just imagine the rituals of Thanksgiving or a traditional Passover meal.
A new study in Psychology Today explored the root causes of why we perform food rituals such as swirling wine, setting a beautiful table, or even unwrapping a chocolate bar in a slow ritualistic manner. What the study found is that people enjoyed and valued food more when it was connected with a ritual. It worked for chocolate as well as for carrots. But why? The theory is that people who are more involved with their food, had a natural flavor tune-up. I believe that this is a natural evolution, with our digestive function at its core: slowing down the eating process is good for our health!
A further experiment showed that food that people were personally involved in making tasted better than food they watched being made. So, get away from the TV and into the kitchen! Rituals make people more personally involved with the eating experience, which leads them to enjoy and value it more. So, it's no surprise that our ancestor created rituals: food tastes better, is better digested and assimilated and you create more with less. Lastly, through food we are more connecetd to each other and to the land around us—something we're all trying to get back to.
What’s great about this study is that there is no need to repeat old rituals that would be meaningless (although some may be very much worth keeping!). I remember one of my favorite family rituals was on the day when my mom made bone broth: we smelled the broth simmerin away all morning and it was heavenly. Just before we would sit down to eat, my mom would take out the bone marrow and spread them onto a slice of dark sourdough rye bread, then sprinkling it with salt, pepper and paprika. She cut the slice into small bites and, we would crowd around the stove to savor these delicious morsels while still hot. Unvelievably delicious!
Feel free to create your own rituals: try going to the farmer market together as a family and then preparing new dishes that you later savor together or make an interesting heirloom dish, and tell the story of where it came from and talk about the family members whose memories you associate with this dish. I like to imagine what my grandmother served in the various dishes I inherited and I try to recreate those dishes, even in a more healthful fashion… Make your own traditions. There are no downsides!