As a culture we're obsessed with food, no question about it. It's so engrained most people don't even realize it's happening. I once counted during a 60 minute commute, and there were over 100 advertisements or mentions of food (billboards, radio, signs, restaurants, foodservice trucks, etc) during that 1-way drive alone. It's essentially functioning as subliminal messaging because we're so saturated with the food references that we're unaware it's even happening.
Marketers in the food industry know this. They did it to us intentionally. The more we think about food, the more we eat, and the more money they make. As we've become increasingly obsessed with food they've expanded on the ways in which they get us to spend more. Consider the ways that food has become a form of entertainment.
Shopping: Specialty grocery stores and farmers markets are increasingly popular. It's not uncommon for people to visit multiple stores per week because they think shopping for food is fun. Research shows that the more frequently we grocery shop the more we spend. The other way they make more money off this is by charging more for items at these specialty stores. Another popular trend is artisinal and gourmet items that carry a higher price tag.
Cooking: Cooking used to be something that was just a normal, mundane part of every day, sort of like brushing your teeth. It's now a sport. There are entire TV channels dedicated to food. Cooking shows have now become cooking competitions, further fetishizing the food. It's also trendy to take cooking classes and use it as a form of social entertainment.
Eating: Eating contests are broadcast of ESPN – literally making it a sport. And we've all been to restaurants where you win a tshirt (or some other lame prize) for eating an outrageous portion of their signature food (e.g. a 50 oz steak). It baffles me why some people want to challenge themselves to eat to the point of such extreme physical discomfort. Anecdotally it appears to be mostly men that take on these overeating challenges. For women the winner of the sport is the one who eats the least. If you've ever eaten with a group of women you know what I'm talking about. Ordering a salad with lite dressing on the side and picking at it, declaring that you can't possibly eat it all. (And then going home and frantically eating whatever you can get your hands on.)
Photos: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat…and whatever other social media is popular at the moment. It's become a "thing" to take pictures of your food for the universe to see. News flash – I don't care what you had for dinner. Sure, I hope you enjoyed your dinner, but I don't need the photojournalism to accompany it.
I'm not saying that food as entertainment is entirely a bad thing. It can be a lot of fun to try new foods, cook with friends, make food look beautiful – these can all make eating more enjoyable.
My concern is when our obsession with food becomes disproportionate to the rest of our lives. Clinically speaking, it's called the TCT or "Total Conscious Time," and thinking about food more than 15-20% of your day indicates that you may be having a problem with disordered eating.
Food enjoyment is important. It's also important that it takes up space as only 1 important area of your life among many other things.