Food Friending in Work and Love

Food friending“How do you build rapport with a new employer or someone on a first date? It turns out that there may be a simple strategy that’s often overlooked: eat the same food as your companion.”*

Who among us hasn’t heard that food is love and eating together is good for us…mind, body, and soul. So, for example, students in families who eat together are generally less obese, are less prone to drug abuse, are less truant in school, get better grades, and feel closer to parents. But we are not talking about just eating together. Here we are talking about eating the same thing together – just as our ancestors did in the environment of evolutionary adaptation, way back when the big brain, aka The Social Brain, was formed to help us cope with the growing complexity of our social systems. Through food sharing of a single carcass we learned together about cooperation, fairness, and trust over who got what, and how we would resolve our conflicts over who got what. And, there we sat around the fire, eating together, telling stories, bonding in community to keep us safe and warm.

In last week’s post we looked at the human love of landscapes, some would say due to their reminiscence of our early days on the Savannah. Here we see University of Chicago researchers* suggesting a beneficial effect with eating behavior (eating the same thing together), possibly reminiscent of those earlier, formative days as well. That is, study participants eating like-foods reached negotiated agreements quicker than pairs who did not eat like foods, and participants who ate similar foods gave more money to individuals with whom they were paired, contrasted with participants who were paired but ate dissimilar foods.

A story told by one woman I know comes to mind. We will call her Mary.** Mary loved lamb chops. Her mother did not make them too often, both because her mother did not like to cook and because her family did not have the means to buy too many lamb chops too often. Mary grew up remembering her brother as quicker and somehow more entitled to take as many lamb chops as he liked, always getting more. One day, as adults, her brother said, “I remember that you never liked the lamb chops so there was always more for me.” Mary was stunned to learn, not only how wrong they had both been in their perceptions, but what an opportunity for this little family – to talk, to learn, to grow, to love, to build trust, to cooperate and bond together – had been right there on the plate before them – but missed.

In the workplace, “People tend to think that they use logic to make decisions, and they are largely unaware that food preferences can influence their thinking,” says Ayelet Fishbach, a professor in the business school at the University of Chicago. “On a very basic level, food can be used strategically to help people work together and build trust.”*

Some suggestions from the researchers for the workplace include limiting food choices at group luncheons to encourage eating similar foods, or purposely ordering food similar to the other at a business lunch. Can you think of others? Other ways in love and work to build trust and cooperation, maybe to heal wounds, to resolve conflicts, to remind us of our humanity, to build bridges…with food. Practice, practice, practice, and see what happens.

To work on this or something else, would love to hear from you:

Email:  Madelaine Weiss

* “A recipe for friendship: Similar food” July 8, 2016 This study will appear in the January, 2017 issue of the Journal of Consumer Psychology.

**Examples and illustrations are fictional composites inspired by but not depicting nor referring to any actual specific person in my practice or life experience.

Copyright © 2017. Madelaine Claire Weiss. All rights reserved.


  1. Incredible story there. What occurred after? Take care!

Speak Your Mind