Why is eating seen as a social activity?


I always wondered why humans eat together, such as in families or among friends as a bonding tool. What’s so important about ingesting food that we do it in a group?

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It could originate from the gathering of materials for food being a group effort, thus enjoying it together is only right

The ingesting isn’t the important part, the *sharing* of the food and the social interaction (talking, enjoying each other’s company) are.

Everyone has to eat at some time. And in general, it’s difficult to eat while performing whatever else people do during a standard day such as work or study. As such, it has been a time to take a break and socialize. While in modern times, it is easier to eat while doing other stuff, it’s still a good opportunity to sit down with family or friends as there may not be much other opportunity to do so in a given day.

Humans are social creatures – banding together in small groups was advantageous for survival (and for the most part, is still a benefit). Early humans spent an inordinate amount of time hunting for, gathering, and preparing food – there wasn’t a ton of “free time” to just hang out and shoot the shit. And even in more modern times since the dawn of agriculture, for much of human history families didn’t spend time together as a complete unit much outside of meals.

So, basically all human cultures formed a lot of rituals around bonding over food since that’s really the only reliable time bonding could be done for the bulk of human history.

I’d imagine at some point that eating alone could be dangerous. Something bigger could decide they wanted your food…or you (or both)

Cooking food used to be a lot more work, and shelf stable food/ preserving fresh food was impossible or a luxury. When food was ready, that was The food.

Food isn’t divisive. Everyone *needs* to eat. It’s one of the most basic requirements for living. And because of that, your brain rewards you greatly for eating, that’s why it’s so satisfying.

That means that eating is one of the great unifying activities that everyone understands. We all need it, it makes everyone feel better. That already makes it an easy activity to bond over.

On top of that, food is very meaningful. You need it to live but not everyone has an equal capacity for obtaining it. For most of human history, everyone plays a role in getting the food on the table. Whether it’s hunting the meat, finding the vegetables, fruits and nuts or simply cleaning and preparing the food. Everyone has a part in it so everyone gets a share in it.

And if you can’t take part in providing for some reason, then having food provided for you by a parent, a friend, a host or some other party is deeply meaningful. These people are helping you survive.

Humans are deeply social creatures. We *want* bonding activities that strengthen social cohesion. And few activities are so universal as eating.