The era of single meals intertwined with Corona...  Transformation of a 'healthy food culture' beyond the perception of 'bullying'

The era of single meals intertwined with Corona… Transformation of a ‘healthy food culture’ beyond the perception of ‘bullying’

Single-person households now account for the largest proportion of all households. Moreover, as Corona 19 has gone through the process of being fixed as a kind of endemic disease, it makes you feel that ‘single meal’ is becoming a culture. Alone-bap, which had a strong negative perception due to ‘depression deepening’ and ‘social bullying’, is transforming into a healthy food culture where people eat simple and proper food even if they eat alone.

▶“Are you eating well today?”

Among the most common greetings among Koreans who are serious about rice were “Have you eaten?” and “Let’s eat rice soon”. However, as the COVID-19 pandemic prolongs, even the usual greetings have changed to the following. “Is Kosi soup healthy?”, “Let’s eat rice when it calms down a little”. Although the number of confirmed cases has been declining day by day and the social distancing policy is being eased (as of April 13, when the article was written), we are still anxious about meeting someone and taking off our masks to eat or drink coffee together. Accordingly, the number of contact with others has naturally decreased over the past three years according to the daily quarantine guidelines, and the food culture is also changing. As the number of people going out decreases, it is becoming one of the mainstream cultures to naturally find home-cooked meals or eat alone.

This can also be seen from the results of various investigations. In the 2020 Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, the keywords that will lead the eating out trend in 2021 are ‘dinner alone’, ‘evolving greensumer’, ‘consumption of taste’, ‘safe food tech’, ‘rediscovery of local business district’ has been selected Among them, ‘dinner alone’ refers to a tendency to eat out at a desired place alone due to the increase in single-person households, the spread of single-dining culture due to the impact of COVID-19, and the launch of a variety of single-serve delivery foods.

In fact, according to the ‘Single-person households in 2021 statistics’ announced by the National Statistical Office, as of 2020, single-person households accounted for the largest share, accounting for 31.7% of the total households, or 6,633,000 households. In addition, in the case of the ‘2020 Seoul Food Statistical Survey Report’, 69.2% of the survey subjects (all members aged 18 and over in households living in Seoul, sample size of 2000 households) eat alone at least once a week, regardless of location, and The average number of meals alone was 2.33 times. The reasons for eating alone were ‘because there was no one to eat with’ (72.3%), ‘because there was no time’ (37.7%), and ‘because I did not want to eat with others’ (11.6%). Below, there were many reasons for active eating alone, such as ‘I want to eat my favorite food’ (32.4%) and ‘because of my unique eating habits’ (10.3%).

“I don’t eat alone, you all eat together.”

In the mid-2010s, ‘single-bap’ and ‘single-bap people’, which were selected as domestic trend keywords, are still gaining importance in the food service culture industry in 2022. However, we will be vaguely feeling that the quality contained therein is changing little by little. The following are some sentences from the article ‘between a solitary gourmet and a solitary eater’, which was written by an editor 4 years ago on ‘single meal’. ‘Recently, I realized after seeing people eating alone. As if everyone had made a promise, their heads bowed and their crowns in front of them, their eyes on the phone, and their mouths repeated meaningless up-and-down movements. It was a moment when eating seemed to be simply an action to satisfy one’s appetite. Compared to the speed at which the single meal culture is being established in Korea, I thought that the quality could not keep up. Also, while focusing only on eating alone, is it not possible to miss the most important thing?’ (-2018.12. Maeil Business News)

In the past, when the culture of ‘Bab alone’ began to spread, it was more important to exclude ‘acts that were conscious of others’ (to us, who are accustomed to the culture of ‘together’) beyond having the thought ‘Why don’t you eat alone?’ it was difficult When eating, other customers might look at the person who came alone, or when the employee asks ‘Are you alone’ or ‘Are you in a group?’ Because of this perception, even if you eat alone, you will focus on easy food, something you can eat quickly, and a meal that does not care about anyone’s gaze even if you eat alone. Fast food restaurants, snack bars, and convenience stores are typical examples. Of course, this is not to say that food like this is bad. However, if someone really asked the question, ‘Did you eat well?’, would these menus leave an answer with a ‘question mark’?

how about now Looking at the results of the ‘2020 Seoul Food Statistical Survey Report’ described above, our perception of active food alone is changing little by little. In the Corona era, where there are many unpredictable and first-time experiences, consumers are considering health, safety and taste at the same time, even if they pay a little more in the consumption process. Now, people don’t just want to satisfy their hunger, they want to eat simple and proper food even if they eat alone. The food carefully prepared in beautiful tableware, the challenge of new food, and the pleasure of cooking itself. In the process, enjoying leisure and space, and even going through a humanistic approach to food is also a topic. The perception of honbap itself is also changing. On SNS, a post that changed the idea of ​​’I’m not eating alone, you guys are eating together’ became a hot topic for a while.

As the Greek physician Hippocrates said: ‘What we eat becomes ourselves.’ Although this is a sentence that speaks of the close relationship between food and health, it can be used in a broader sense if you apply it to the modern eating culture. What we eat now becomes a measure of our present and future.

Now that the single meal culture is becoming mainstream, we are standing in the process of deciding whether we can answer the question ‘Did you eat well?’ of course or not.

Passing the corona crisis, the form of eating alone in 2022

▶#1 A restaurant that welcomes single guests

Shinhan Card has selected ‘reVALUE’ as the keyword for consumption trend in 2021. ‘Revalue’ is a word with the meaning of re-evaluation, and it contains the image of an era in which the existing stereotypes are broken and the value of each area is newly defined in the non-face-to-face era accelerated by Corona. Among them, the first keyword ‘V’ defines a safe society (Vary the standard of Safety Society) and represents the ‘consumption purpose’ of willingly opening a wallet and paying for safety. Through the Corona era, safety has led not only consumption but also lifestyle changes. In particular, new words such as gaanbi (which emphasizes safety) and safe restaurant were created, and the restaurant industry’s interest in quarantine and safety management increased significantly. While the number of restaurant establishments has decreased due to the spread of COVID-19, the number of single-serve and single-serve restaurants that value safety has increased significantly. Recently, a brand specializing in single meals for one person is spreading. ‘God’s Alone Food’, ‘The King of Alone Food’, ‘One More Meal’, ‘Suyuri Alone Rice King’, and ‘Yukcheop Bansang’ are representative examples. These restaurants, which have begun to spread around university districts and offices where there are many office workers, mainly offer food that can be easily enjoyed alone. The menu usually consists of a one-person meal plan consisting of a main dish, three side dishes, soup, and drinks. In particular, samgyeopsal, bulgogi, and stew, which are difficult for single-person households to enjoy alone at home, are considered popular menu items.

▶#2 Small packaging, 1 serving

Meat restaurant 'Yukcheop Bansang', a simple and enjoyable meat restaurant menu for 1 person (Photo Reporter Lee Seung-yeon)

Meat restaurant ‘Yukcheop Bansang’, a simple and enjoyable meat restaurant menu for 1 person (Photo Reporter Lee Seung-yeon)

A self-contained mini brazier series specialized for single meals alone (Photo: Shinsegae International)

A self-contained mini brazier series specialized for single meals alone (Photo: Shinsegae International)

Unless it is a restaurant that specializes in serving one person, there are still many cases where you have to order more than two servings depending on the menu at general restaurants. In particular, it is difficult to find a meat restaurant or a sushi restaurant alone. However, ‘one serving’ is gradually becoming a trend in restaurant districts. Small package menus for one serving are expanding, or the ‘delivery category for one serving’ within delivery companies is also expanding. According to ‘Baemin Trend 2021’ published by Woowa Brothers, the operator of ‘Baedal People’, 18.9% of all orders in 2020 were for one serving, which is an increase of 8.7 percentage points from 2019. This means that 1 out of 5 people who place an order for delivery place an order for a single meal for one person.

In January, CJ CheilJedang launched three types of ‘Gourmet One-Serving Square Pizza’, which are good for snacks and light meals. It is a rectangular-shaped product that comes with a paper tray so that it can be eaten with one hand, and is a kind of handy food. By reducing the time and cost of cooking, we considered the taste of consumers who pursue simplicity and taste at the same time. CJ CheilJedang announced that it plans to sell mainly online malls and home shopping in line with the expansion of the online market.

▶#3 From HMR to RMR, according to luxurious taste

Shinsegae Department Store Premium Rice (Photo: Shinsegae Department Store)

Shinsegae Department Store Premium Rice (Photo: Shinsegae Department Store)

Due to Corona 19, people spend more time at home as ‘home’ has become the safest shelter that protects us from external viruses. As interest in safety and health has increased, more and more people are naturally looking for home-cooked meals, and the number of people who want to eat properly even if they eat one meal has also increased. This is the era of so-called ‘home-cooked meals’. In the food service market, various products targeting them are being introduced. In November of last year, at the ‘2022 Food and Dining Industry Prospect Contest’ held by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, Professor Moon Jung-hoon of Seoul National University’s Food Business Lab selected ‘RMR craze and convenience food of third-party collaboration’ as one of the 2022 food trends. As the proportion of home-cooked meals increases due to the prolonged COVID-19 outbreak, the convenience food market is growing rapidly, and the size of the domestic convenience food (HMR) market is expected to exceed KRW 5 trillion this year. And now, RMR (Restaurant Meal Replacement) with premium quality as well as health is emerging one after another. With the RMR craze containing popular menus from famous restaurants, a new type of convenience food is expected to emerge in collaboration with restaurant-distribution-manufacturers.

As ‘home-cooked’ rises as a trend, rice sales are also increasing. The trend is to find good varieties even if they are expensive, and interest in premium rice sold in department stores has also increased. Shinsegae Department Store’s grain sales in the first half of 2020 increased by 18.5% compared to the same period last year. In particular, in the case of February and April, when many days were spent at home due to COVID-19, the high growth rates were 41.9%, 20.4%, and 29.9%, respectively. Next, Shinsegae Department Store introduced premium rice, recommended by ‘rice sommelier’, both online and offline. Shinsegae Department Store Rice Shop, a grain specialty shop, was opened in the online mall, and premium rice was presented in a newly designed package for Shinsegae in collaboration with the grain specialty brand Gyeongseong Miga.

▶#4 Good content to enjoy with a meal alone

I am used to watching TV and YouTube content while eating alone. And design elements such as good tableware, good lighting, and a pretty dining table cannot be excluded. Cooking and food YouTuber ‘Yuki’s Japan Story’ uploads videos on various topics related to Japan. Among them, contents such as ‘Make food from Japanese animation’ are constantly being uploaded. Whether it’s convenience store food, restaurant food, or home-cooked food, such as the New Year’s food in ‘Can’t Dry Crayon’ or the ramen making in the Ghibli animation ‘Ponyo on the Cliff’ , it shows the cooking process, setting, and meal scenes by finding ingredients that are as similar as possible. This is an example that shows that even single meals can be eaten with quality and fun. Even if you are not a creator like this, if you are used to eating alone at home, how about reflecting the scenery of overseas travel destinations with a beam project on a white wall? You can make a meal by yourself into France, Italy, or Japan in an instant. Eating meals under the Tokyo travel scenery of cherry blossoms in spring will be another memory of eating alone.

▷ A story in literature that helps ‘Food Literacy’, the essential power of healthy eating alone

※What is food comprehension and eating comprehension? ‘Food comprehension’ is a concept derived from comprehension of health information, and refers to the skills and knowledge that can be used to understand and utilize various information related to food selection (basic nutritional information, cooking methods, storage methods, etc.). Furthermore, food comprehension in a comprehensive sense includes not only maintaining one’s physical, mental, and health, but also maintaining a good relationship with food, and the ability to consider the community and community’s ties through food and the sustainability of the environment.(- References and excerpts: 2020 Seoul Food Statistical Survey Report)

• 『The Taste of Living These Days』 Kim Gyeol et al. / Published by Wisdom House

There are those who show that ‘rice’ is not just a meal to fill, but a warm time and opportunity to take care of yourself. Twelve writers, each armed with their own food cravings, gathered. How about the ‘taste of living these days’? The meaning of ‘eating’, which is more important than anything else, is contained in various perspectives. From hymns to favorite ingredients such as tomatoes, cheese, and yogurt, to a delicious bowl that decorated your childhood, to a warm meal with your loved ones, sometimes it gives strength, sometimes a memory, and sometimes a promise. Meet the stories.

• 『Prose for Lunch Alone』 Jihee Kang and others / Published by Hankyoreh Publishing House

“As the youngest in the office, I had no choice. Samgyetang and sashimi were all I didn’t like. The lunch menu I wanted was the cafeteria rice that I ate alone without a word.” It has different meanings depending on where and how you do it. For some office workers, lunch is the only long-awaited break and time to enjoy solitude. Kang Ji-hee, Kim Shin-hoe, Shim Ne-wool, Uhm-hye, Lee Sera, Won-do, Lee Hwon, Jung Ji-don, Han Han-hyeon, and Hwang Yu-mi add new texture and volume to the time and space of lunch that is repeated every day through five prose pieces. This book is also written in a short length so that it can be read at a restaurant or cafe using lunchtime.

• 『Confessions on the Table』 by Hyemi Lee / Published by Changbi

Since her debut in 2006, she has presented the first collection of essays by Lee Hye-mi, who has presented new and fresh sentences, giving a fresh shock to the reader with every article she writes. 『Confessions on the Table』 is about the author’s long-time hobby and main specialty, cooking. Starting with avocado, which is as bitter as snow, but goes well with any ingredient, from writings about ingredients such as carrots and tomatoes, to a fragrant sweet treat made with seasonal ingredients, to pasta, steak, cheese, soups, stews, etc. Sometimes alone, sometimes by someone else. It also introduces dishes to enjoy together and the process of making desserts. The author, who went back and forth between the rooftop and a small room, caring for a flower bed, learning to cook, and writing poetry, introduced the long journey of making maron glace (simmered chestnuts wrapped in sugar syrup) on a deep autumn night as ‘A Week with Companion Chestnuts’. A recipe that succeeds only when you have patience, consistency, and consideration and delicacy to worry about your safety at night. As if reading a poem, each sentence introducing and expressing food warms the heart.

• 『Samgak Gimbap: Don’t Tuna When You’re Tired』 by Bong Dalho / Semicolon Published

This is a book by writer Bong Dal-ho, who has talked about moments of joy and sorrow as a convenience store owner through the books 『I go every day, Convenience Store』 and 『I keep it today, Convenience Store』. If I had to tell you what I felt as a store owner so far, this book is an essay on the so-called ‘Omniscient Triangular Gimbap’, written from the point of view of ‘triangular kimbap’ sitting on the shelf rather than the store owner. “You are eating Shintobuli Samgak Gimbap, which is made with the best rice and the best laver in the world.” In these days, where everyone lives on their own, Samgak Gimbap is a way to satisfy someone who is busy and tired. From the TMI feast that you can’t hear anywhere else, you can meet small messages of support for Samgak Gimbap.

[글 이승연 기자 사진 및 일러스트 포토파크, 매경DB, 각 브랜드]

[ⓒ 매일경제 &, 무단전재 및 재배포 금지]

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