This Examiner has been telling everyone who will listen about Eve Turow’s new book A Taste of Generation Yum: How the Millennial Generation’s Love for Organic Fare, Celebrity Chefs and Microbrews Will Make or Break the Future of Food. In it, Turow unpacks some of the nagging questions surrounding food culture and media among twenty- and thirtysomethings in America.
Plenty has been written on Millennials, but not as much on their relationships to food, and certainly not on what underpins it. Despite the well-known facts around Millennials’ economic position in society, Turow notes: “42 percent of Millennials eat at a fine dining restaurant at least once a month, which is twice the rate [of their] parents, the Baby Boomers.” Chef Lenny Russo of Heartland in Minneapolis noted that at his Chef’s Tables, where the minimum is $130 per person, “many of [the diners] are not old enough to order alcohol.” Russo calls them “foodie savants”.
Peppered with funny (and all too accurate) headlines like “Don’t Eat That Yet, I Have to Take a Picture” and “You Are What You Eat and What You Post About Eating”, the book will, in turns, make you smile and cringe. An impressive volume of primary-source research went into the effort, including interviews with recognized food culture leaders Michael Pollan, Mark Bittman, Marion Nestle, Rick Bayless, Ken Friedman and Anthony Bourdain. “Generation Yum” also features the writings and reflections of up-and-coming influencers like Diane Chang, Nate Pollak, and Katherine Markovich. A Millennial herself, Turow does not hesitate to put her own stories, confessions, and reflections on the butcher’s block as well.
Of all the trends, theme, and connections that Turow lays out in her book, the one that most resonates with this Examiner is the psychological draw of food as a healing experience for our perpetual sensory deprivation. Sure, we use our eyes and fingertips all day, but what of the rest of us?
Pollan puts it bluntly: “This strikingly powerful interest in all things having to do with food coincides with a progressively more mediated, digitized life. We spend our time in front of screens. We don’t exercise our other senses very much. And food is this complete sensory experience. It engages all five senses. It’s a sensual pleasure.”
Sherry Turkle of MIT adds: “We are tempted to think that our little ‘sips’ of online connection add up to a big gulp of real conversation. But they don’t.” Turow surmises that shopping for food, preparing it, and “eating together is the single most obvious way to break our isolating habits.”
A Taste of Generation Yum is a must for anyone working in food marketing, media, education or consulting. Get it. Some good New York restaurant tips are tucked in there too.