For the Love of Food!

Image: Hungry Monkey Kiama

Food: Physiological versus psychological needs.

Good food is the foundation of genuine happiness“-Auguste Escoffier. This quote sums up how important food is to a human being. The need for food is vital to fulfil the physiological needs of humans, as portrayed by Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. According to the infamous pyramid, physiological needs such as food are at the bottom of the pyramid as they are the most basic needs of all. Only after this need is fulfilled can human beings move on to the next level, to the more complex needs such as safety, love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization. Putting aside the criticism towards the theory, it perfectly depicts how food is a vital part of a person and, by extension, society and its culture. As humanity evolves, food is no longer just to fulfil the basic physiological needs, that is, to survive. Now, it has also evolved to fulfil a human’s psychological needs.

Food and the senses

Everything about food can bring joy to a person as it stimulates various senses. Not just eating, which obviously stimulates our sense of taste and smell and satisfies our hunger, looking at pictures of food also excites us as it stimulates our sense of sight and through it, induces craving. This is why ‘foodporn’ is a widely used term in food photography. It is a term to describe the styling of food or dishes provocatively in photos to entice the viewers, making them crave the food being shown. They start imagining the taste and how good it must be if they are the ones having the food. This is why the food industry and its advertisement are such a huge market and is continuously evolving and taking many shapes and forms. Another example is Korean mukbang, a booming trend that can also be seen as a form of advertisement, a very effective one it seems. It is an online broadcast of a host eating ridiculously massive amount of food. The focus is on the seemingly impossible-to-finish amount of food, coupled with the slurping and chewing sound enhanced by the microphone placed strategically. As viewers watch the videos on Youtube or any other platforms, they start drooling, and hunger (real or imagined) kicks in.

Food hunting culture

Food hunting is an up-and-coming trend around the globe, where it is now an essential part of travelling. People go anywhere and everywhere in search of great food, and more often than not, they travel solely to find great food! In Malaysia, where each state has its own identity and culture, food is undeniably a big part of it. When people go to Penang, they search for the best Nasi Kandar, Cendol, Char Kway Teow, Asam Laksa, and many more. When people travel to Malacca, they will find the best Asam Pedas and Nyonya dishes. People who travel to east coast states will search for Laksam, Nasi Kerabu, Nasi Dagang, and the assortment of sweet kuih.

The culture of food hunting actually has many benefits. For an individual, it improves mental and physical health. After working hard at the office, a short trip to find good food is definitely fun and enjoyable. They will come back happier and ready to face new challenges at work. As many of the local spots offering great food are quite secluded, they will have to walk to reach it, so it requires physical movement, which is good for our body. Viral spots will definitely have a long queue, and this is good to test our patience and endurance; both are important qualities in workplace!

Another benefit of the food hunting culture is it helps to boost the economy. During Movement Control Order (MCO), due to Covid-19, countless businesses were forced to shut down due to the obvious reasons, and people were fired left and right. After the MCO ended, as the economy started to heal, we could see that these businesses were trying to restart. A lot of establishments that offer great food, be it new or pre-Covid ones started their business again, and they need people to come in. As people can move around freely again after being holed up for so long, these establishments benefit significantly from the waves of customers in boosting their sales, thus helping the economy post-Covid. Since social media is crucial in disseminating information, the ‘viral’ trend also plays a significant role in popularising an establishment, which consequently helps the economy. We can see many restaurants or even humble stalls gain popularity overnight when they went viral on Tik Tok. Whether they meet the expectation of the swarm of public or not is a different story, the important thing is they have their names on the map now!

Everybody loves eating good food. It is a significant part of any culture in the world. What is important to remember is, just as with anything we do in life, moderation is the key. Any good deeds will be ruined if done excessively. “In everything, enough is good. Too much or too little do not seem so” – Democritus.



Nor Fadhilah Ahmad Powzi

Language Teacher

Centre For Language Studies

Universiti Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia (UTHM)