Food as a Form of Communication

When we say ‘communication’ to a Communication professional, the things that come to our mind are strategy, key messages, thought leadership, brand PR, presentations et al. Do we step back and think about the various other ways we can communicate besides the usual tools and vehicles? In the regular humdrum of meeting timelines, subtle things that can play a key role in story telling seem to skip our thoughts.

There are various other forms available to communicate – communication through food, culture, sports and music.

I decided to pick up food as my first!

Food has always been seen more as a necessity, a need to survive in everyday life. The food industry rose and started gaining prominence in the twentieth century. There was a new found interest and fascination with different kinds of cuisines, food magazines, cookery shows on TV – master chefs, food festivals, food bloggers … countless ways to communicate about food. The meaning and relevance of food altered completely. It had changed from the routine ‘have to do’ to an engaging activity which brought to life a special skill. It is no longer only for pure survival, but has a multifaceted dimension attached to it involving both sociological and psychological aspects. This is clearly represented in television, movies, literature and mass media.

The dictionary meaning of communication is, “the imparting or exchanging of information by speaking, writing, or using some other medium.”

So how does food come into the context of communication? Well, it does! Food goes beyond a mere act of satiating ones hunger and nourishing one’s body. It tells us stories. How it is prepared, who sits on the table strengthen bonds between individuals, families and communities. Family bonds are the strongest and food plays a crucial role in defining this. It defines culture and traditions.

Visit a new place, what is the first thing we try out? The cuisine! And the cuisine tells us stories about the culture. Isn’t that a form of communication? When we look at our Indian cuisine, it is a reflection of the diversity of the country. Though quite a complex cuisine, since each state has different food preparation styles, techniques, presentations, ingredients and spices, it clearly talks to us about unity in diversity. It tells us about the culture and the people…the vibrancy!

The main reason one can view food as a form of communication is because of its direct linkage to culture and rituals. Food is the centre of every important event in our lives…birthday, holidays, weddings or any other festivity. There are different kinds of food for different festivals.

Interestingly, there has been some research which shows that food functions symbolically as a means to communicate by which one can create, manage and share with others. Food is one of the best ways to understand cultures, habits, rituals and traditions.

Nandini Goswami
Director, Corporate Communications at Kellogg India
With 24 years of communications experience, Nandini has worked across various sectors in a number of companies including GSK Pharmaceuticals, Bharti, Reliance Energy, JM Morgan Stanley/JM Financial and Nomura. Prior to working in the corporate sector, Nandini has worked in the South African High Commission followed by a couple of PR agencies. She began her career as a journalist with The Hindustan Times.
Nandini has worked extensively on reputation and issues management, media management, business & internal communications and corporate social responsibility.
Nandini is a speaker at various communication forums and communication & business schools. Besides, she has been a jury member for various Indian and international PR awards. Nandini is the recipient of The Women’s Leadership Achievement Award at the World Women’s Leadership Congress in 2016.

2 Comments on "Food as a Form of Communication"

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