Children sometimes fight over food the way monkeys do. By the time we reach adulthood, we learn to restrain that impulse, but the longing for power doesn’t stop when you stop grabbing other people’s bananas. We look for ways to stimulate that one-up feeling, and food often gets involved. Your mammal brain finds ways to be special and fill your belly at the same time.
Status food is an obvious example. Everyone has seen the iconic image of a wealthy big shot with a bib on eating a lobster. Each generation creates its own food-based status symbols. In tribal societies, you would get status by providing a banquet for everyone you know. Such banquets were the only chance to eat meat for many people. When my mother was a child, meat was such a luxury that having a slice of ham in your cheese sandwich was a status symbol. Today, status foods come and go, but you know what they are. In a world of food abundance, the biggest status indicator is being thin. Many people starve themselves to achieve this status. They enjoy the serotonin but starvation triggers constant cortisol.