the westminster news
Published by the students of Westminster School
By Chip Genung ’25 and Hannah Small ’25
Food is an amazing thing. It brings people together, everyone needs it, and meals are a good time to slow down and talk to those around us. What makes food even better is when it is our favorite food. When you have had a long day of classes, sports and homework and you are tired, you just want to eat a nice meal. Then as you walk into the dining hall, there it is, your favorite meal as if it has been waiting for you. We all know this feeling, and what makes it special is that the “favorite meal” is different for everyone. So this leads to the question: What is the most popular dining hall option?
In order to answer this, we surveyed a dozen students to find out their favorite meals at the dining hall. Unsurprisingly, General Tso’s Chicken was the most popular with over one-fourth of respondents ranking it as their favorite and many others placing it among their top three choices. Chicken parm, grilled cheese and mac and cheese were all tied for second place with over 10% each. Other popular dining hall options included hamburgers, penne pasta, salmon, and quesadillas.
But why are some foods more popular than others? What makes different people gravitate toward different foods? Scientists and chefs alike have studied this question and boiled it down to two main reasons. The first is known as “flavor-nutrient learning.” This is when a person likes a food because of their physical reactions to it. For instance, children love sugar so much because they enjoy the energy — the “sugar high”— that follows eating copious sugar. The second reason is more interesting: our favorite foods can be determined by what our mother ate when pregnant. A study found that children whose mothers drank carrot juice when she was pregnant or immediately after birth due to breast milk liked carrot flavored-cereal more. Additionally, food preferences can transfer through generations due to genetics.
Food is so much more than a substance for consumption. Instead, it is something that reflects our preferences. This is what makes it so intriguing and why we should learn more about it.