Need State and Food
Note: I’m on vacation this week, so I hope you enjoy revisiting this post from 2017.
Do you think much about how food makes you feel? Or do you consider if you even want food to make you feel a certain way?
This isn’t something I’ve consciously thought about, or at least not in those terms, but I do think it’s there subconsciously. For instance, when I eat comfort foods, I’m certainly looking for something that will make me feel secure and cared for.
But according to the book The Dorito Effect: The Surprising New Truth About Food and Flavor by Mark Schatzker, some people spend a lot more time thinking about this, and in a lot more detail, as they try to determine the need state of food for different people.
What is need state?
I’d never heard of the term “need state” before, but in this context, it’s the emotional requirement for the food we eat. In order to fulfill this, it’s important for those in the food world to consider not only what the current need states are, but also to understand the emotional profile of food, or how it makes you feel.
For instance, speaking of comforting foods, the author found that cinnamon is “the flavor equivalent of being hugged by your grandmother.” (p. 53) Nor is he alone – this is similar to the way everyone reacts to cinnamon. No wonder I like using it as a flavoring!
So for those working on creating prepared or packaged foods, such as Doritos, they want to consider the person buying it, and what their days are like, and what they might be looking for out of dinner. Do they want something comforting or daring? Something that relaxes them or challenges them?
It’s a fascinating way of thinking about food, but I also find it a little worrying. Not the fact that food has emotional overtones or connections, but that people are out there predicting what I might want to eat based on my emotional state. I feel like that’s something I should choose for myself, since it could be different on any given day, and that I might choose for myself to make something specific to what’s going on at a certain time.
You don’t have to follow the trends
Then again, I’ve never been one to follow fashion trends, so perhaps this is just another aspect of that rebelliousness. Either way, it’s interesting to think about, and I’m going to try to pay more attention to my own need state, and where that leads me, the next time I start cooking.