As the UK begins to reopen, we ask “why does food bring us closer together?”

Despite all the various news items that run, society is becoming gradually closer together. Arguably food and restaurants have played a central role in achieving this; more than all the politicians arguments. Research has shown that we love to come together and that we need more shared spaces, not fewer. Workplaces all across the country and discussing about to create central social hubs for collaboration like never before. Schools have a new focus on the importance of food service and most cannot wait to go out to dinner again with friends. It has become clear that breaking down barriers and bringing people together over food should be central to the recovery process.

Research into the lockdown has unsurprisingly shown that the two things missed the most have been eating and drinking out and meeting friends socially. Research has also shown that the work culture, developed in the 90s of short lunch breaks and eating at the desk has been counterproductive and that people need time to spend with others in informal conversation. It is now proven that the less face to face time one has with another, the less productive they are. As workplaces decide upon their strategies for offices, then food and restaurants should sit centrally on those plans.

It plays such an important role in daily life, it has taken so long to be recognised for its role. “To break bread together,” is a phrase as old as the Bible; it is a simple phrase that describes the power of a meal to build relationships, break down barriers and provoke laughter. It makes people feel safe which as many psychologists will tell you is a primary need for most. Whose bright idea was it to reduce the importance of time together at breakfast, lunch or dinner?

In adversity, whether in the pandemic or beyond, food has been a central force. In the Antarctic in 1902, during Scott’s Discovery expedition, the men prepared a fancy meal for Midwinter Day, the shortest day and longest night of the year. Hefty provisions had been brought on board. The cold, the darkness, and the isolation were forgotten for a while. “With such a dinner,” Scott wrote, “we agreed that life in the Antarctic Regions was worth living.”

If ever there was a time to argue for the importance of food in daily life, it is now.