John Lanchester analyzes food obsession:
By the end of the twentieth century, it seemed that more or less the entire developed world was shopping and cooking and dining out in a way that was given over to self-definition and self-expression and identity-creation and trend-catching and hype and buzz and the new new thing, which sometimes had to do with newness (foams! gels! spherification!) and sometimes with new ways of being old (slow food! farm-to-table! country ham!).
My mother was thinking about food like that from the start of the nineteen-sixties. I have spent a fair part of my working life writing about food, and have often been asked how and why I got interested in it. I was never able to give a full answer, because the pattern became apparent to me only years afterward. By now, it’s clear that my interest in food came from growing up with someone to whom food mattered the way that, to a great many people, it matters now.
Most of the energy that we put into our thinking about food, I realized, isn’t about food; it’s about anxiety. Food makes us anxious. The infinite range of choices and possible self-expressions means that there are so many ways to go wrong. You can make people ill, and you can make yourself look absurd. People feel judged by their food choices, and they are right to feel that, because they are.