Ge­ne­ra­tion X the lost food ge­ne­ra­tion

Ge­ne­ra­tion Xers grew up in an era when food was fun­ctio­nal and bo­ring. As a re­sult, many don’t cook and ha­ve little in­ter­est in the cu­li­nary cul­tu­re

La Jornada (Canada) - - ENGLISH SECTION -

Ge­ne­ra­tion Xers don’t cook. They ne­ver ac­qui­red the skills. Most of this group (born bet­ween 1965 and 1976) grew up when food was es­sen­tially an af­tert­hought.

Dif­fe­rent ge­ne­ra­tions ha­ve dif­fe­rent re­la­tions­hips with food and co­oking. Re­cent stu­dies show that baby boo­mers (born bet­ween 1946 and 1964) ha­ve ti­me to cook and most do. Mi­llen­nials (born bet­ween 1977 and 1995) not only want to, but can and do cook - alt­hough they al­so go out to eat a lot. Mem­bers of ge­ne­ra­tion Z (born af­ter 1995) be­lie­ve they don’t ha­ve enough ti­me to cook.

So­cial fac­tors af­fect how each ge­ne­ra­tion per­cei­ves food and food sys­tems.

Boo­mers we­re ge­ne­rally ex­po­sed to so­me food edu­ca­tion, with wo­men pla­ying a lar­ger ro­le. Re­ci­pes we­re pas­sed on­to the next ge­ne­ra­tion with pri­de. Li­fe was of­ten about con­nec­ting th­rough food.

Mi­llen­nials con­nec­ted th­rough so­cial me­dia. But sin­ce food has been such a fo­cus sin­ce the la­te 1990s (in­clu­ding in so­cial me­dia), it’s im­pos­si­ble to find a mi­llen­nial wit­hout an opi­nion on so­me food is­sue. Sus­tai­na­bi­lity, ani­mal wel­fa­re, fair tra­de, or­ga­nics - mi­llen­nials ha­ve ad­ded la­yers of al­truism to food that ha­ve com­pe­lled the in­dustry to think dif­fe­rently about the mar­ket­pla­ce. Af­ter all, mi­llen­nials now out­num­ber boo­mers, ac­cor­ding to Sta­tis­tics Ca­na­da.

Ge­ne­ra­tion Z is be­ne­fi­ting from the foo­die phe­no­me­non, the hy­pe around co­oking and the ce­le­bra­tion of cu­li­nary he­ri­ta­ges. So they’re ea­ting out mo­re of­ten than any ot­her ge­ne­ra­tion.

The­se at­ti­tu­di­nal dif­fe­ren­ces in­fluen­ce the tug-of-war bet­ween the food ser­vi­ce and food re­tail sec­tors. The li­ne is de­fi­ni­tely be­co­ming blu­rred bet­ween the­se two di­men­sions of the food sys­tem. As mo­re res­tau­rants of­fer meal kits and on­li­ne de­li­very ser­vi­ce, gro­cery sto­res of­fer mo­re ready-to-go meals. By 2035, Ca­na­dians could spend mo­re on food from the food ser­vi­ce in­dustry than from gro­cery sto­res, lar­gely thanks to mi­llen­nials and ge­ne­ra­tion Zers.

Ge­ne­ra­tion Xers ha­ven’t really been ex­po­sed to the sa­me ex­pe­rien­ces, so their in­fluen­ce on the food in­dustry has been li­mi­ted. They mostly ex­pe­rien­ced a couple of de­ca­des of not­hin­gness, food-wi­se. In the 1980s and ‘90s, most hou­sehold we­re eco­no­mi­zing. And food sto­res, ex­cept so­me in Que­bec and Bri­tish Co­lum­bia, of­fe­red unin­te­res­ting, li­mi­ted se­lec­tion. The­re we­re few co­oking shows on TV. School ho­me eco­no­mics cour­ses we­re strip­ped from most cu­rri­cu­lum. Kids me­mo­ri­zed the food gui­de wit­hout any real mea­ning behind it, whi­le con­ten­tedly drin­king their sub­si­di­zed milk.

Food was anyt­hing but an ex­pe­rien­ce - it was just a lear­ning out­co­me, li­ke mat­he­ma­tics, En­glish or phy­sics.

Things ha­ve com­ple­tely chan­ged. The­re are mo­re co­oking shows than ever. Sto­res are laby­rinths of sti­mu­la­ting fla­vours, vi­brant co­lours and aro­mas, hoo­king you to foods you want to eat on the spot. And if co­oking isn’t part of school ac­ti­vi­ties, many com­mu­nity groups des­pe­ra­tely try to build awa­re­ness around good ea­ting.

Es­sen­tially, du­ring the 1980s and much of the ‘90s, food was me­rely a fun­ction of peo­ple’s li­ves. Mul­ti­cul­tu­ra­lism was al­ready a reality but it ne­ver really af­fec­ted din­ner ta­bles un­til Ca­na­dians star­ted to tra­vel - and tra­ve­lling be­ca­me mo­re af­for­da­ble at the end of the 1990s. But by then, gen Xers we­re al­ready set in their ways.

The In­ter­net wasn’t around when gen Xers we­re gro­wing up to gi­ve them a fo­rum to ad­vo­ca­te for and in­fluen­ce food sys­tems.

Gen Xers are es­sen­tially the lost food ge­ne­ra­tion. Whi­le most ge­ne­ra­tions we­re sha­ping their food des­tiny, this group just took what was avai­la­ble wit­hout dis­cri­mi­na­ting.

The­re’s ho­pe, though. So­me da­ta shows that gen Xers are be­co­ming wee­kend co­oks. Al­most 55 per cent of them cook on wee­kends, mo­re than any ot­her ge­ne­ra­tion. As a re­sult of pro­fes­sio­nal and per­so­nal pres­su­res, they’re tur­ning to co­oking for pea­ce, tran­qui­lity and en­joy­ment.

Still, Gen Xers are doing all right. Mu­sic from the 1980s and ‘90s re­mains popular. Per­haps a mu­sic cul­tu­re helps com­pen­sa­te for tho­se lost de­ca­des of food cul­tu­re. -TROYMEDIA

Sylvain Char­le­bois is dean of the Fa­culty of Ma­na­ge­ment and a pro­fes­sor in the Fa­culty of Agri­cul­tu­re at Dal­hou­sie Uni­ver­sity, and aut­hor of Food Sa­fety, Risk In­te­lli­gen­ce and Bench­mar­king, pu­blis­hed by Wi­ley-Black­well (2017).

www.la­jor­na­da.ca

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