Why does food and wine make you happy?

VINTAGE_FOODWhy does food and wine make you happy? I often ask myself (usually after a few glasses) why some cultures are so obsessed with food/wine. Yes, I often think about random, academic explorations when consuming the vino. Damn you grad school!

But the question still remains. Is it an emotional, familial, religious, political, or cultural attachment? Is it boredom? Is it to stay current on the wave of new social media outlets? Maybe it is a biological reaction.

Let’s explore the history. Food and wine has played a significant role in history by providing basic survival, cultivating societies, and defining cultural and social identities.  Open a random history book and food or wine (or lack thereof) is usually an accompanying theme to any event. Discoveries of new lands introduced new foods. Great victories in war were celebrated with great feasts and copious amounts of wine. Marriage contracts were negotiated with food and wine. Death rites often incorporated food and wine to carry over into the next life. From a historical perspective, it is an integral part of our existence.

However, the modern food revolution of the 1950’s gave way to processed food and allowed the middle-class to dine conveniently; effectively freeing the housewife from the kitchen.  Food became a liberator of women.  The 1960’s brought on our first celebrity chef: Julia Child. It was also a time to explore and innovate. Food and wine started evolving into a diverse sub-culture of its own. The 1970’s introduced more exotic cuisine. The 1980’s was all about nouvelle cuisine and expensive wine. Now we are obsessed with fad diets: low cal, dairy free, gluten free, paleo, organic, etc.

But why does it make us happy?

I think it is a combination of various influences. I think it is in part a social experience and a way to connect with the world around us. The online food and wine social concept has exploded the last few years with blogging, Instagraming, Tweeting, and events. According to the 2012 Nielsen Social Media Report, 163 million people in the U.S. use social media. Even if we can’t travel to another country we can experience the food, wine, and culture on a social level.  This can make us feel connected, informed, curious, and energized. People are happy when they are interacting with like minded individuals.

I think food and wine makes people happy on a primal level as well because we are biologically programmed to seek out the best: best job, best mate, best food, etc.  Some people may not agree, but seeking out food is fulfilling one of our basic needs. When basic needs are met, we are better aligned to be happy.

For me, food and wine is emotional as well as social. I love to feed my family and friends. My Mamaw (the Texas pronunciation y’all) taught me that you can show love through cooking. Food is directly linked to my memories and experiences and that is what makes me happy. Wine represents discovery for me. Trying new things makes me happy too.

What about you? Why does food and wine make you happy?

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