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Culture & Religion

Why Are We in Love with Cute Food?

The American cupcake craze has come to savory foods. Dishes like pizza and lasagna are being served in dessert tins, perhaps because we have an evolutionary attraction to cute things. 

What’s the Latest Development?

The trending cupcake craze has crossed an important boundary into savory food territory. Individualized portions of pizza, lasagna, quicheeven macaroni and cheeseare being baked in dessert tins and served out one by one. American cuisine may be making an old tradition its own, says Alice Julier, director of food studies at Chatham University. “The desire to shrink beloved dishes into individual servings pervades the global gastronomical landscape, she says. Think about [Spanish] tapas, [Chinese] dim sum or the [Japanese] Bento Box.”

What’s the Big Idea?

Julier says that miniaturizing food brings us a little closer to what we eat. At a time when Americans feel a disconnect with our food, changing its form makes us feel more in control. For evolutionary reasons, humans may also be hardwired to respond positively to things that remind us of needy infants. From “the young of virtually every mammalian species” to “a colon, a hyphen and a close parethesis typed in succession,” we are likely to respond positively to ‘cute cues.’ According to Julier, making calorie-rich foods smaller in size also allow us to indulge a small pleasure without the guilt of overdoing it. 

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