The results of her curiosity, her new book: A Taste of Generation Yum – How the Millennial Generation’s Love for Organic Fare, Celebrity Chefs and Microbews Will Make or Break the FUTURE of FOOD.
Turow interviewed Millennials and food world influencers such as Anthony Bourdain, Michael Pollan, and Mark Bittman. Turow’s theory: in a digital-first era, many people latch onto food as something that engages all of the senses and brings people together in physical space.
The term Millennials is used to describe people born between 1980 and 2000 or roughly about 80 million people, just over one-forth of the U.S. population. It is no wonder then why every company under the sun is trying to figure out how to reach them which means, how companies and trends bend to meet their preferences could dramatically change our world. The not so surprising and very encouraging thing Millennials have in common according to Turow? A serious obsession with food.
There are a lot of unknowns for this generation: we grew up in the recession, we’ve got a trillion dollars in student loan debt, we don’t trust our government (the first political event I can remember is the Lewinsky scandal, and then the Gore versus Bush election, when the popular vote did not get the presidency). What you eat is a decision you have—control you can exert—three times a day. – Turow
Joe Pinsker from The Atlantic spoke with Eve Turow about why food culture has changed, whether it’s confined to the Millennial generation, and what that means for the food industry—chains, grocery stores, and big corporations included.
Highlights from Eve Turow’s Interview for The Atlantic:
JOE PINSKER: I want to start with a simple definitional question. When you say that young people are obsessed with food, what exactly do you mean and what are the best examples of this obsession?
EVE TUROW: I think that a lot of people in our generation are thinking about, ‘What am I going to eat next?’ ‘Where am I going to go dine next?’ ‘What’s in the fridge and what can I put together tomorrow?’
I think that that’s expressed in social media. I think if an outsider were to come in and be like, ‘What’s your proof that people are actually interested in food?’ I would say, a) talk to anyone who lives in Brooklyn and b) go online. If you look at any of the statistics for Instagram or Pinterest or Twitter or Facebook: Pinterest, the food boards are the most popular boards. There’s a website that’s just foodporn.com where you can go look at food all day.
Then there’s the Food Network, there’s Chopped, there’s the food proliferation on cable channels. I think it’s the most obvious way, so that you’re seeing the user-generated content and then also the media market’s response to all of that interest.
PINKSER: Why has this happened?
TUROW: I really think it comes down to technology, for a few reasons. One, is sensory deprivation. We have formed into a society that’s so accustomed to sitting in front of a screen and typing, for the vast majority of the day. And the truth of the matter is that it’s not exciting all of our senses. Through interviews over and over again, I kept hearing that people want something that’s tangible, that they can see and feel and smell and taste and that we’re the guinea pigs of growing up in that [digital] world.
At the same time, it’s also making us more isolated. We’re craving community. And food is also allowing us to access the globe, so we can find out what harissa is made with and how to prepare something with it, in two seconds on our phones.
PINKSER: You brought up the idea of community in your book and you quoted Michael Pollan as saying “The food movement is really a communitarian movement.” But there’s also a large group of people who are totally pleased cooking and eating alone and obsessed about food anyway. What’s that about, then? Is it that eating can be broadcast out over social media, so no one’s truly alone?
TUROW: There are a few sides to this. First of all, there are probably going to be people who like cooking and eating alone no matter what generation they’re in. Another part of it is that one pleasure of cooking comes from breaking something down, feeling like you’re in control. We live in a time where we’re really not in control of very much. You can’t get a job, you can’t get a date without branding yourself properly on, you know, whatever app you’re using. You don’t really understand how the Internet works or how your phone works, but food is something you can break down. You can understand it, so you can have control over the final product.
PINKSER: So do you hope that food obsession, as you defined it, is something that could be used to raise awareness about those bigger issues?
TUROW: I hope so, but there’s a lot to tackle. Some people are concerned about pesticides. Some are concerned about antibiotics. Some are concerned about animal welfare. When I talked to him, Michael Pollan brought up the analogy of the gay-rights movement: It wasn’t decided on that gay marriage was going to be the one thing they fought for first, but that decision was made and then they could come together in a cohesive movement. And they’ve clearly been extremely successful in that and the next question is well, okay, what’s next for the gay-rights movement?
Then you see the food movement. Well, what is that one topic for the food movement and who is our leader? I don’t necessarily think that we have one. He just looked at me and said, “Well, that’s what I’m relying on your generation for.” And I was just like, “Oh, gosh. I wonder who that person is going to be.”
To read more check out Pinsker’s article.
Buy A Taste of Generation Yum book in print here from McNally Jacksons Independent Bookdealer