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erbazzone and espresso.

The connection between diet, food and culture seems obvious, but how are food, culture and innovation intertwined?  According to Claude Fischler, who joined us during the EATING module of the Food Innovation Program, culture is about understanding the rules, knowing the little things, acting in a certain way because it “goes without saying.” These small details add up to a larger cultural syntax – a special kind of dialect spoken and understood by people who are like you. 

 

This “cultural syntax” is especially strong in our decisions about food - what we eat, how, when, where and with whom. Clearly understanding this syntax and speaking food dialects in both familiar and novel ways is crucial to innovation in the food space.

 

As an American living in Reggio Emilia, I’m learning new Italian food dialects every day. For example, my Italian colleagues have taught me that you don’t drink wine with pizza, like we do in the States - you drink beer. Another food grammar lesson: savory breakfasts and strong coffee do not mix. When I combined a slice of the regional savory pastry erbazzone with a simple espresso one morning, my new Italian roommate almost choked on her cappuccino.

 

But how does learning and speaking a cultural food syntax help us innovate – what’s the connection?  As Fischler pointed out, we are a species who is biologically programmed to be socially re-programmed regarding food. Our paradoxical anxiety and delight about food, ‘magical thinking,’ and heuristic decision-making are what force us to speak our familiar food language. We think we are being rational when we decide what/when/where/with whom to eat.  In fact, our “logical” food choices are steeped in a deep, rich sauce of cultural syntax. Another reason we fall back on our food dialects: many of us have more choice about what to eat than we ever have in history, yet we are paralyzed by the sheer number of options.

 

This ‘tyranny of choice’ and uncomfortable sense of paradox around our food languages is actually a prime opportunity for smart food innovation to step in. Using informed culinary grammar, food innovators can actually help remove some of the decision fatigue by making familiar foods novel, and novel foods familiar. For example, in Texas (Italians will love this): some people add BBQ sauce to their pizza, making the familiar pizza “novel,” and a Japanese ramen in Texas shop adds BBQ pork to their bowls, making a novel food “familiar.”

 

 

 

The connection between diet, food and culture seems obvious, but how are food, culture and innovation intertwined?  According to Claude Fischler, who joined us during the EATING module of the Food Innovation Program, culture is about understanding the rules, knowing the little things, acting in a certain way because it “goes without saying.” These small details add up to a larger cultural syntax – a special kind of dialect spoken and understood by people who are like you. 

 

This “cultural syntax” is especially strong in our decisions about food - what we eat, how, when, where and with whom. Clearly understanding this syntax and speaking food dialects in both familiar and novel ways is crucial to innovation in the food space.

 

As an American living in Reggio Emilia, I’m learning new Italian food dialects every day. For example, my Italian colleagues have taught me that you don’t drink wine with pizza, like we do in the States - you drink beer. Another food grammar lesson: savory breakfasts and strong coffee do not mix. When I combined a slice of the regional savory pastry erbazzone with a simple espresso one morning, my new Italian roommate almost choked on her cappuccino.

 

But how does learning and speaking a cultural food syntax help us innovate – what’s the connection?  As Fischler pointed out, we are a species who is biologically programmed to be socially re-programmed regarding food. Our paradoxical anxiety and delight about food, ‘magical thinking,’ and heuristic decision-making are what force us to speak our familiar food language. We think we are being rational when we decide what/when/where/with whom to eat.  In fact, our “logical” food choices are steeped in a deep, rich sauce of cultural syntax. Another reason we fall back on our food dialects: many of us have more choice about what to eat than we ever have in history, yet we are paralyzed by the sheer number of options.

 

This ‘tyranny of choice’ and uncomfortable sense of paradox around our food languages is actually a prime opportunity for smart food innovation to step in. Using informed culinary grammar, food innovators can actually help remove some of the decision fatigue by making familiar foods novel, and novel foods familiar. For example, in Texas (Italians will love this): some people add BBQ sauce to their pizza, making the familiar pizza “novel,” and a Japanese ramen in Texas shop adds BBQ pork to their bowls, making a novel food “familiar.”

 

Despite the inherent danger of trying new foods, humans have consistently ventured outside our food comfort zones as an evolutionary necessity to survive.  By learning and understanding their markets’ preferred cultural food syntax, food innovators can tap into some very basic human behavior to nudge us towards eating food in new ways. We may think we want zero risk when it comes to food, but we like a little innovation on our plate – dished out incrementally, radically, and with or without technology. According to Claude Fischler, innovating in food is all about becoming a native speaker of food languages and finding the space between the novel and the familiar in food dialects. Buon appetito! 

liquid communities.

feeling creatures that think

tomorrow's traditions

connection between diet, food and culture seems obvious, but how are food, culture and innovation intertwined?  According to Claude Fischler, who joined us during the EATING module of the Food Innovation Program, culture is about understanding the rules, knowing the little things, acting in a certain way because it “goes without saying.” These small details add up to a larger cultural syntax – a special kind of dialect spoken and understood by people who are like you. 

 

This “cultural syntax” is especially strong in our decisions about food - what we eat, how, when, where and with whom. Clearly understanding this syntax and speaking food dialects in both familiar and novel ways is crucial to innovation in the food space.

 

As an American living in Reggio Emilia, I’m learning new Italian food dialects every day. For example, my Italian colleagues have taught me that you don’t drink wine with pizza, like we do in the States - you drink beer. Another food grammar lesson: savory breakfasts and strong coffee do not mix. When I combined a slice of the regional savory pastry erbazzone with a simple espresso one morning, my new Italian roommate almost choked on her cappuccino.

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