Last week I wrote about the Nordic Food Manifesto, and how Denmark created a strong “real food” culture largely from an intentional effort led by Claus Meyer. It wasn’t political lobbying or public petitioning that resulted in food reform, but rather a grassroots effort led by citizens with the power to actually implement and follow-through with change.
I ended the post alluding to one question: Why is it so hard for us to do this ourselves, as individuals? If an entire country can implement and spread a common view towards food, why can’t we?
There’s nothing really stopping us from mimicking Denmark’s success. The problem is, we’re inundated with so many messages about what we should be eating, and how we should be living, it’s hard to know where to start. So rather than following successful frameworks that have been shown to work (like the Nordic Food Manifesto), most people jump from diet craze to diet craze, trying to find the “right way to eat.”
But how did Claus Meyer succeed? What was the secret sauce that helped the Manifesto take hold? And is it reasonable to think we can apply those lessons to our own lives?
As mentioned in my previous post, there were three factors that led to the Nordic Food movement’s success: clarity, inclusivity, and proof it could work. These attributes allowed the movement to spread beyond the foodies of the high-end culinary scene, and take hold among the masses.
I believe these principles can be applied at an individual level, and actually think it’s an effective way for the “real food” ideology to spread. We just have to know how to apply the lessons to our own lives.
Claus Meyer and 12 other chefs explicitly stated their intentions from the start. They wanted to created a strong food culture that represented the region, using real food and sustainable practices. They wrote down their ideals in a bullet pointed list, and shared that list with industry leaders and influencers.
As individuals, our influencers are friends and family. Applying Meyer’s tactic means identifying how we view food personally, and the ideals we strive to attain, then sharing those thoughts with people close to us. This will feel uncomfortable, and probably lead to criticism at first, but it’s important we put ourselves out there and let people know where we stand. Many restauranteurs and food entrepreneurs initially doubted Meyer’s ideals could succeed in the Nordic region, but his bold statement drew attention and interest. Even if his peers weren’t onboard with his philosophy yet, they watched to see whether his new restaurant Noma could succeed. This early attention was probably stressful, but stating his intent so publicly created buzz and attention, providing a platform to deliver his message.
Stating our personal food manifesto gives people a baseline view into our beliefs (check out my food philosophy for an example). The goal is to pique their interest in learning what we’re about, hoping they’ll pay attention to how we apply our principles in everyday life.
Opening ourselves up to anyone interested can help provide this platform. By framing the story as one of self-betterment and improvement, and sharing it candidly with others, we reduce the “us vs. them” mentality that can create a toxic environment and make people defensive about their own choices. Especially when it comes to something as personal as food.
Claus Meyer did this brilliantly with the Manifesto. He didn’t say Nordic cuisine should be better than Italian, or French, or Japanese. He simply wanted to uplift and celebrate the region’s food culture, a noble goal everyone could get behind. He also merged the “what” with the “how” of his mission, stating that using local, seasonal, and sustainable methods was the best way to highlight the region.
By getting everyone aligned with his mission first, it was easier to bring them along for the ride when it came to how he wanted to execute his plan.
As individuals, we can take the same approach. Rather than attack other lifestyles or philosophies, we can frame our choices as a way to improve ourselves. Most food movements strive to create polarity, turning one food ideology against another as a way to strengthen one group’s identity. But this often backfires, as it confuses the masses with mixed messages.
People don’t like being preached to. They want to improve, but are often curious about what works for other people before making changes on their own. We have an opportunity to use our lives as a platform to show others a different way, and make them feel included to learn from our journey.
Once we’ve done that, it’s up to us to show them it works.
Meyer did this with his restaurant Noma. It was the embodiment of the Manifesto, meant to be a living, breathing example that his ideals were attainable. But there were many restauranteurs and food entrepreneurs who didn’t think his farm-to-table seasonal concept could work in Denmark. Writing the Manifesto and opening the Nordic Food movement to the masses created a platform that provided a lot of attention, but also opened him up to criticism and doubt.
This only made the restaurant’s success more powerful. It showed everyone there was substance behind the values, that what Meyer preached could actually be implemented.
The same can happen between individuals. If someone sees you improving your life, they know whatever you were doing must have worked. They’ll concede their curiosity, and ask how they can improve themselves in the same way. And if you’ve been able to show real progress, they can use your path as a model to better themselves.
It Starts With Us
If we’re clear, open, and authentic about our approach to eating real food, we will attract people interested in following our journey. If we can show it’s possible to think and live differently, and have the health and vitality to prove it, others will follow our path.
We can share all the articles and PubMed studies we want, but real change comes from interacting with real people. If we can all be the living proof of what we believe, it will slowly spread to the masses.