The Power of Story: How Names, Myths, and Dramas Shape What We Eat

  When I was reading French novels as a child, I found that the heroes and heroines in the stories often ate oysters.
  What is an “oyster”? It sounds so high-end! At that time, I thought that oysters must be a very high-end food.
  Later I learned that the so-called “oyster” means “sea oyster”. But they sound so different in style.
  Same thing, different names, is the difference that big? It’s not a difference in the taste of the food, it’s a difference in the taste of the story!
  Have you ever eaten “roasted bird”? “Yakitori” is actually the grilled chicken skewers in Japanese restaurants. Many meat skewers called “roasted birds” are at least twice as expensive as meat skewers in Chinese barbecue restaurants. The extra price can be called the “story premium” of meat skewers. Not only that, in many Japanese food restaurants, the gross profit margins of sweet shrimp, salmon, arctic clams and other dishes exceed 70%.
  Whether we go to eat steak or Japanese food, what we eat is not only the food itself, but also a string of symbols and a set of stories. Eating is also a process of self-identity confirmation. In the story, symbolic foods are “markers of class.”
  Sociologist Bourdieu wrote in “Distinction”: “In terms of food and eating choices, the working class emphasizes a ‘generous and uninhibited’ environment and rejects the pretentiousness and restraint of middle-class culture. On the contrary, the middle class is more Pay attention to the quality, style, presentation and beauty of the food.” When
  we go to a high-end restaurant to eat, it is like participating in a “sacred ceremony.” The waiters in high-end restaurants are very elegant and restrained in their movements and expressions. All services strictly follow the rules. The ingredients and cooking methods provided by the hotel are very exquisite, but this is only the “high-end” side of the hotel. What is more important is the placement and presentation of the dishes. For example, the dishes that are served are served on clean large plates with bright colors and elegant presentation, which makes them look more classy.
  ”Symbolic consumption” in high-end hotels has already surpassed the consumption behavior itself. We are not there to fill our stomachs, but to experience a whole set of emotions and tastes. We will consciously follow the rules of the story. If someone wants to undermine the rationality of this set of rules (for example, by calling it “fake” or “flashy”), we will also defend the rationality and sanctity of the story.
  To gain insight into a story, start by gaining insight into a name. Names set the tone for the story. Is your name Cuihua, Ergouzi, Emily, or Mike? Different names definitely have different connotations. The spirit of the story is condensed in one name.
  Think again about the names of the colors. White? It’s too ordinary. It’s much better to call it “Mont Blanc White” instead! Emerald green? No, if it’s called “Feileng Cui”, does it immediately become more advanced?
  When Qianlong celebrated the Empress Dowager’s birthday, he was very particular about the names of the dishes. The Guandong duck is called “Pengdao Bird”, the peach is called “Xianyuan Ruiguo”, and the peaches stuffed with chicken are called “Fengji Taoyuan”! In this way, these dishes have a royal flair.
  Nowadays, newly popular tea products usually do not use the names of common tea categories (Maofeng, Dahongpao, Lapsang Souchong, etc.), but have some new names. “Orchid Latte”, “Matcha Bodhi”, “Human Fireworks”… There have never been these types of teas on the market. New names establish new categories of stories. The new name makes people think of it, but it makes you unable to guess the true nature of the tea. You have to buy a cup and taste it to know what it tastes like.
  When I visited Guilin and toured the Li River, I couldn’t help but marvel at the miraculous craftsmanship of nature when the bamboo raft reached the “Nine Horse Painting Mountain” (one of the most famous scenic spots on the Li River). I don’t know which master came up with the name “Nine Horse Painting Mountain” first. This name has provided jobs for many tour guides. Many tour guides will ask tourists: “Let’s count how many horses we saw on the cliff.”
  With the finishing touch of names, a few stones are no longer stones, but a symbol of animism. . Once you believe the name, you will gradually enter the story. As a result, the stones and patterns on the hillside looked more and more like what the names refer to.
  Secondly, a new story is effective because it makes full use of people’s old cognition – producing consensus elements that can mobilize the majority of people to have a consistent understanding of the story. For example, the actors who play “experts” in TV commercials are usually white-haired, kind-hearted elders. If some local township enterprises want to launch high-end fashion brands, they must first come up with an exotic brand name and then hire a few foreigners to act as models or spokespersons. Consumers have similar basic perceptions of the appearance of “experts” and the image of “foreign fashion brands.” With such clues, it seems that “experts” and “foreign fashion brands” look very credible. If the soil of cognition does not change, I am afraid that this simple and crude cognition will continue to be effective for a period of time.
  It is generally believed that carbonated drinks are less healthy, while juices are healthier because juices come from fruits and are “natural”.
  People use “essentialization” to infer that after removing the redundant parts of fruit, juice is the “most useful essence”. But in fact, this essence is not very good.
  We all know that juicing will destroy the dietary fiber of fruits and also deplete a large amount of vitamins and antioxidants in fruits. Tasty fruit juices are quite high in sugar. Research shows that the sugar content of apple juice and orange juice is more than 8%, while the sugar content of grape juice is even as high as 15% to 20%, which is almost twice the sugar content of the same amount of cola. Drinking a cup of “pure juice” is equivalent to consuming 20 to 40 grams of sugar, and consuming 40 grams of sugar is equivalent to consuming half a bowl of rice!
  ”Health stories” about juice rely on people’s natural associations. This “health story” has also been jointly promoted by stakeholders such as juicer manufacturers, juice producers, and fruit sellers, and related commercial communication makes use of the story thinking that consumers take for granted.
  Finally, powerful stories often contain dramatic structures with ups and downs. In his book “When Human Stars Shine”, Zweig specifically extracted 14 important moments in human history, using a magnifying glass to focus on the great moments of “destiny comes”, especially the dramatic performances of heroes. In this way, thousands of years of history are summarized and refined into some key story scenes. In the famous biography written by Romain Rolland, great historical figures such as Beethoven and Michelangelo are portrayed as magical and romantic people who conquered the top and turned their fortunes around. Most Hollywood blockbusters still follow the “Hero’s Journey” model. The protagonist of such films, the “hero”, is summoned, mobilizes his potential, transforms and grows, and finally defeats the bad guys. The music sounded, the story came to a successful end, and a surge of passion surged in the audience’s chest. Popular movies that do not change the medicine, romantic stories of heroism, and dramatic story logic have been tried and tested, and are most in line with people’s cognitive habits of drama.
  Yuval Harari believes that the secret to Homo sapiens becoming the master of the earth lies in his ability to create and believe in certain “fictional stories.” Awareness of “fictional things and stories” makes one human. And people who are constantly searching for meaning are consuming the symbolic taste behind the story. We not only have to live, but we also need to constantly “insert” meaning into our lives through stories. By choosing a name, a story, we acquire a corresponding identity. People’s ordinary lives also have flavor with the blending of “story sauce”.
  Overall, oysters, yakitori, stones, or juices all lack meaning on their own and only have meaning within the context of a story.
  Only by learning how to create “consumer stories” can we engage in creation and dissemination and make a living from it. At the same time, we can also understand the illusory pattern of the story, so as not to get too caught up in the confusion of noun weaving. We can also distance ourselves, examine ourselves, and appropriately curb our material desires.

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