Humans are not compelled to eat food where they find it, and this is one of our most important distinctions from other animals, according to food theorist Margaret Visser (1991). Forget opposable thumbs; if you can resist tucking into your ready meal in aisle number 4 of Sainsbury’s, then you have proven your advanced development as a homosapien.
Think of lions devouring their kill where the animal lies, or cows grazing in the fields. You don’t often see a cow collecting grass and then putting it to one side to have a nibble a bit later. If an animal finds food, and they’re hungry – they just eat it. Simples.
Hibernating creatures like squirrels or bears are perhaps one of the few exceptions to this rule, as they store food to survive the winter. Bears actually go into a ‘topor’ state, where they overeat before retiring to a warm place of inactivity and hibernation – so it’s just a bit like Christmas Day for us, then.
Eating food as and when you find it is a singular way to live, but collecting food to eat later and share with others is an essential way to create communities and social cohesion. It’s the ‘gathering’ in the hunter/gatherer theory of human culture that really comes into play here: hunters find food, but gatherers bring it home.
Quicker tastes better
Yet when I think of all the times I eat immediately, there can still be a deep sense of satisfaction:
- Eating straight from the fridge has that primal element to it, as you pull slices of meat, random pickles and forgotten salads to make the ultimate sandwich in front of an open, chilled cornucopia.
- Take aways are almost impossible to resist until you get home. “Just one chip, go on!”
- Picking fruit straight from the tree, as you forage for blackberries on a walk or pick-your-own on a farm.
- Street food is a modern, urban reinterpretation of hunting, where foodies track down restaurant quality meals that are served almost immediately (as long as the queue isn’t too long)
Most of the time we may be civilised enough to hunt, gather, and then eat our food at home, but there are certainly times when food tastes better straight away.
What tastes best when you eat it immediately?