Food shouldn’t be center of every social interaction

Why does everything have to revolve around food?

Yes, we need it to survive, but food is here to serve us, not the other way around.

Some may say that you have to eat, so why not do it while spending time with people? You’re going to be having lunch, so you might as well do it with a friend.

Family meals are often the only time everyone is together to catch up on each other’s lives.

I have fond memories of Sunday dinners with relatives, even if I wasn’t allowed to change into play clothes until after all the company left.

But why can’t we can’t get together to have a class, meeting or activity without eating? It’s as if we aren’t capable of having a conversation unless we have food in front of us. Certainly, there is nothing wrong with having people over for supper when you’re going to need to eat anyway, but it seems that events that otherwise have nothing to do with a meal get complicated when food gets involved.

A good example of this is a women’s retreat we were planning at church. We were going to have a speaker, then a break for lunch, then continue the discussion in the afternoon.

A few days before the gathering, no one had signed up to bring food, so the coordinator of the group was panicking, thinking that she would have to do it all herself.

The whole event ended up getting canceled, despite a suggestion of just skipping the luncheon and having the meeting in the afternoon.

I thought if we had planned it with only the speaker and discussion in the first place, without hassling with lunch, then it might have actually happened.

I’ve been in other groups in which almost the first order of business is to determine who is going to bring snacks — for an evening group that starts at 7 p.m. Didn’t you just eat dinner?

As a nonsnacker, I get annoyed because I don’t feel like being roped in to buying items I’m not interested in eating.

If I am hungry, then I eat a meal, and I don’t want snacks.

If I’ve had dinner, then I don’t need to snack. I’m not sure why this is such a radical concept, but when I say things like this, people look at me like I’m from Neptune.

I recently read a book about our eating habits as Americans and how living in a land of abundance has shaped our eating tendencies.

We can now eat anytime we want with very little effort because of fast food and prepackaged items. We don’t eat because we’re hungry; we eat as a result of social cues — it’s dinnertime, and that’s when we’re supposed to eat, or we feel obligated to nibble on appetizers at the party to be polite.

Eating has become a habit rather than solely a biological need.

This mindless eating is particularly dangerous when you add television.

We tend to eat more when we’re paying attention to something else, rather than to what and how much we are putting into our mouths.

I wonder if we eat more empty calories today to make up for the emptiness we feel inside; we need comfort food because we are not comforted in our relationships.

Before we eat we should ask: Am I truly hungry or just bored and feeling empty because of a lack of nourishment in the form of human connection?

If we expect food to take the place of people, then we are asking it do so something it can’t.

Eating satisfies the body but not the soul.

And if what you really want is companionship, then can’t that be accomplished without food?

Is spending time with someone not enough?

Again, there’s nothing wrong with eating together, but it shouldn’t be a prerequisite for socialization.

This is especially true for those with food allergies or particular diets.

Are they to be excluded from events simply because they can’t eat the same things others do?

Should they show up to the party after dinner and miss half the fun? Or come and not eat and feel awkward?

People should take precedence over food. We may need to get a bit creative to find ways to get together without eating, maybe a game night or take a walk in the park. I imagine we will find that if we focus on social connections we won’t feel so compelled to constantly chow down on everything in sight.

Just some food for thought.

Stephanie Haines is a writer from Greenfield who now lives in Bloomington. She can be contacted through her website,