Millennial Culture, Food and the Pursuit of Happiness

A #CulinaryCurious Blog @theculinarycelt & @Drniallmc

Culinary Curious Celts

Both of us are intensely interested in millennial culture here at the Book Hub Publishing Group and are contributing a range of chapters to the seven-volume ‘Mental Health for Millennials’ Series. In these, we explore several aspects of millennial status. Depending on whose research you read, millennials are defined as having been born between 1981 to 2000 or from 1981 to 1999 or 1980 to 1995.

In this first #culinarycurious blog, we set out our food stall and flag just a few areas that we want to develop over our coming blogs.

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Why food you might wonder? Well, to state the obvious, food is required just like air and water. And yet, so many of us are largely unaware as to the origins of our foods, the ethical standards of production, and the identity of producers, distributors and retailers in the journey from tide to table and farm to fork. Food comes up over and over again in the literature on millennials and happiness. Indeed, one of authors of this blog, Cathy, uses the alias ‘The Culinary Celt’, to educate and promote in the areas of food sustainability and food tourism. Let’s explore just a little of the food discourse but first, a few words on happiness.

The Happiness Discourse

There isn’t a global consensus on the meaning of the word ‘happiness’, and this includes the scientific literature from psychiatry and psychology because it includes an ideological debate pertaining to value priorities. The recent perspectives connect several related concepts to happiness (such as well-being) and goes on to divide these concepts into two main categories; subjective and objective conceptions. Eudaimonic and Hedonic Happiness appear across the literature.

Our colleague, Dr. Phil Noone has developed a model she terms ‘BePresentConnect’(1) to identify and sustain a state of happiness. She picks up on the theme of ‘signature’ moments of happiness from the literature and surely this applies to the experience of consuming food. Millennials are much more interested in the mere eating of food, rather they want to arrange it on plates, photograph it, post it out to the virtual world, receive feedback and be part of an online community of millennial ‘foodies’ and ‘culinary curious tourists’. The literature is clear. Millennials are reported as being happy around food.

Digital Food Footprints

Millennials tend to look online to see what other millennials are eating. The mutually interactive landscape of social media helps them fuel new and different food trends. Online platforms are rapidly transforming this ‘foodie generation’ creating new food consumption patterns by way of digital food footprints. Millennials are really a game changer generation in terms of this new philosophy in the way they fuel and accelerate their digital food footprints through the use of hashtags and millennial slang. This exclusive lingo makes no sense out of context but seems to be part and parcel of being a millennial. When something is “Lit” it’s especially awesome – as in, “this curry is lit” and the word “Tea” takes on a whole new meaning “gossip” – as in “spill the tea”! “The struggle is real” keeping up with is new slang! #lol. Millennials continually offer an array to gustatory imagery.

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Wake-up when it comes to Food

It’s important to know what we want our food footprints to constitute, be it digitally online or in real time. When millennials surf the internet and use their social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Pinterest and Twitter they constantly leave cookies and crumbs that are literally delicious to marketing and food companies (excuse our #foodporn pun). We can see this by the manner in which certain businesses pay to sponsor and promote targeted online adverts for the millennial generation. Food related data is gathered from the digital food footprints that are created online and are used to develop and tailor-make food products to match these new millennial consumer trends. New food products such as vegan sausages and cauliflower rice, to name but two, have emerged from online food conversations and are being marketed to this foodie generation. So, we all need to pay attention to the virual world. It’s ‘lit’.

Conclusion: Generation Foodie

Being a sensory driven generation, millennials are rapidly changing the way we all consume food. Seeking adventure, food-orientated millennials are eclectic when it comes to what they eat and they are prepared to pay for it and travel for it. Indeed, they are confident and engaged when it comes to the rationale in terms of their food choices. Millennials are increasingly shaping their food conversations online by asking core questions about their food sources: Is it seasonal? Is it sustainable? Is it in tune with our natural environment?

And, it seems to us, these are the three most important long-term questions as they will ultimately sustain millennial overall health and happiness into the future. Then, it will be up to the next generation (Generation z) to map out new food trends with the natural resources that will be available to them. Of course, what might soon be left of our natural environments and resources to constitute ‘natural’ is an entirely different debate.

References

  1. Noone, P. (2018) ‘Stress and its impact on my wellbeing’, Mental Health for Millennials, Vol 2. Galway. Book Hub Publishing.

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