The Glass House Blog

Why Do You Eat The Way You Do?

Tracie McMillan

Tracie McMillan

Join in our online Glass House Conversation on food inspired by the upcoming Glass House event Dine with Design! The Conversation is hosted by Tracie McMillan, author, journalist and Senior Fellow at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University. McMillan writes about food and class for publications including The New York Times; O, The Oprah Magazine; Harper’s Magazine; Saveur; and Slate.

 As America enters its second decade of the obesity epidemic, there’s little debate that we need to change the way we eat — and there are two schools of thought dominating our discussion of why we eat the way we do. One holds that our food problems are strictly cultural; Americans, goes the thinking, don’t properly value good and healthy food, instead preferring the salty, fatty, processed food we colloquially call “junk.” The competing hypothesis is that America’s food habits are primarily structural, with limited access to healthy foods driving our food choices.

This Conversation on food is inspired by the Glass House event Dine with Design, a benefit picnic featuring artisans and chefs from around the country drawing inspiration from the Glass House.

Why do you eat the way you do?

Share your thoughts, join McMillan, food writers and others as they discuss the question at!

Filed under: Dine with Design, Glass House Conversations, , , ,

One Response

  1. Andrea Lipps says:

    To add a bit of levity to the conversation, I’d like to think we are indeed having fun with food again. Within the past few years, there has been a resurgence in hand-crafted regional cuisine served in an informal way. Ephemeral food events have sprung up, ranging from Outstanding in the Field, which gathers chefs and diners to enjoy a meal in the fields where the food was grown, to food trucks and carts serving unique local eats that dot street corners in cities around the country (and of course we cannot forget the Glass House’s own Dine with Design event!). In many restaurant designs, architects and chefs have exposed the kitchen, treating the preparation of food not just as a performance, but as a process to be made transparent. Indeed, these trends and events serve a very particular demographic, but it is encouraging that more attention is being paid to where food originates and how it is prepared.

    As a design curator (full disclaimer: I am developing an exhibition on design and food), I often consider how design impacts our food choices. Design is not a panacea of course, but it does play a role in the way we engage with food. How can a smartly designed graphic campaign better inform the public about food choices? How do farms designed for urban rooftops provide the public with better access to the food we eat while accommodating urban density? How can the design of agriculture and food systems shape cities and build communities, not to mention better minimize transportation while maximizing our access to healthy, natural food? What can design do to make food, and the experience of eating, more fun? Could design contribute to our healthier relationship with food, say by making it difficult or unappealing to make bad food choices? (Granted there is a billion-dollar industry at work to ensure that last point doesn’t happen, but I do wonder.)

    In the end, I agree with the other contributors that food choices are an amalgamation of education, income, culture, geography, and health. For me, one of the biggest considerations is convenience. As an incredibly busy professional couple, my husband and I simply don’t have the time to prepare our own meals. Yet we don’t fall back on the convenience of overly processed fast food, rather we take advantage of healthy prepared food options at our local markets in New York City. No doubt we’re fortunate we have that choice, and can afford to make it. There are many people who can’t and don’t, and it is largely those people for whom economic, political, educative, and ecological forces must converge, along with the design processes that complement (and often drive) them, to bring about a focus on and demand for healthier food choices.

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