Food: what confinement has changed … or not

This article comes from the magazine Sciences et Avenir – Les Indispensables n ° 205 dated April / June 2021.

And the star of the stove was: the bread! During the first confinement, France under a bell began to knead. Google France even places in second position, for the past year and in the “recipes” category, the query “homemade bread”. The first place going to “recipe Cyril Lignac”, star chef of the small screen who hosted a daily program throughout this parenthesis. Among the other keywords falling within the culinary lexical field widely typed on the search engine, we find “baguette”, “baking powder”, then “naan”, “baker’s yeast”, “bread”, “shortcrust pastry”. “Bread is the ideal recipe: we all have water and flour at home. added time, the essential ingredient that we do not usually have ” , explains Christophe Lavelle, biophysicist, researcher at CNRS.

If the crumb has seduced so much, it is also because it occupies the mind in more than one way. Symbolic, first of all: bread is the historical staple food. When the fear of running out and the fantasy of scarcity were reactivated, it became a kind of safe haven. But also because the recipe is as simple as it is fascinating. “The process is magical , confirms Christophe Lavelle. People began to try to make their leaven and keep this mysterious and spontaneous element alive. Besides handling the dough, watching it, is an anti-anxiety activity. “

According to data from France Agrimer (National Establishment of Agricultural and Seafood Products), if consumers first siphoned off the “pasta” and “toilet paper” shelves of supermarkets, they then rushed for flour , which was regularly out of stock for seven weeks. Crème fraîche, butter and eggs also saw their popularity skyrocket – their sales increasing by nearly a third during this forced confinement. Because it was necessary, in a way that was both unprecedented and inevitable, to eat and provide food for the household three times a day. The reign of the home-made, good for taste and health, could it seem.

A quarter of respondents lost weight – on average 2 kg

The reality is, of course, more nuanced. On the eve of deconfinement, a survey carried out by Ifop announced that 57% of French people had put on weight 2.5 kg on average since March. A movement followed by part of the Nutrinet Santé cohort which, since 2009, has brought together 170,000 participants to study the links between nutrition and health. More than one in five said they snacked more frequently, and 18% ate – more – to make up for boredom. The robot portrait of the eaters in this group corresponds to a woman, having low incomes, working from home, with children at home, usually consuming a high proportion of ultra-processed foods.

France Agrimer also notes that the sale of ready-made meals or kits of ingredients to assemble has skyrocketed! Desserts to prepare, for example, which allow you to bake a chocolate cake in five minutes flat: + 68%; pizza dough, puff pastry, broken, shortbread: + 45%; ready-made sauces: + 31%. But the Nutrinet survey also indicates that nearly a quarter of participants lost weight – on average 2 kg. It is moreover to achieve this objective that a fifth of the respondents admit to having sought to control their diet by putting themselves in the stove. These are rather men, more often partially unemployed, with a higher level of income, alone, smokers and overweight. What was the trigger that allowed them to roll up their sleeves? “Is it because they were particularly encouraged to do so through social media? Because a plethora of advice was available at the time? Or because they had more time? asks Mélanie Deschasaux, researcher in the nutritional epidemiology research team which coordinates the Nutrinet study. It would be interesting to understand the reasons for this behavior in order to be able to activate levers that are useful in terms of public health. “

How? ‘Or’ What ? By collecting, for example, the stories of those confined in front of their pots. This is what a mixed team from CNRS and CIRAD did, through the ConfiTure project (for “containment and food”), a study carried out among twenty households, which is preparing to replicate its survey. to see what traces this experience may have left over time. Deprived of a canteen, company restaurants, improvised diners in the bistro, alone, in a forced roommate, everyone had to sit down at home, for better or for worse. “What surprised us the most is the reconfiguration of commensality, that is to say of sharing, explains Tristan Fournier, sociologist behind the project . The confinement has generated enough anxiety for some to perceive the meal as a reassuring space, something ordinary in an extraordinary situation, and others as a place of tension, even of settling of scores. “ An Ifop survey for the Darwin Nutrition site revealed that 42% of confined couples had entered into conflict over the question of who was going to prepare the meals, and up to more than one in two among those under 35; 41% on the menu and 38% on the choice of products to buy.

Poultry and local vegetables delivered to the foot of the building

But for some households, the questioning of products has resulted in a craze for short circuits, that is to say without intermediary between the farmer and the customer. “On the one hand to be reassured, these products having by definition traveled less, undergone less handling. But also out of solidarity with producers on the part of consumers not necessarily accustomed or activists “, underlines Yuna Chiffoleau, research director at INRAE. According to France Agrimer, supermarkets remain the big winners of containment. However, at the margin, the organization notes a new interest in local purchases of vegetables and poultry, for example. Purchasing groups have thus been organized, using a message in the neighborhood’s WhatsApp thread or a note in the stairwell, in order to facilitate delivery at the foot of the building. Some farmers, when they could, urgently set up online ordering tools.

By experimenting with grating carrots rather than buying them in trays, the “containment cooks” were able to rediscover their true taste, for a low price… and with limited effort. The researcher is betting that there will be something left of it. “Talking between neighbors to receive a joint delivery compensates for a form of conviviality lost elsewhere, she explains . In the short circuit, what is sought is as much the social link as the right product. ” A rare commodity in these times of pandemic.

The site of the exhibition “I eat therefore I am” of which Christophe Lavelle is curator:

Yuna Chiffoleau, Catherine Darrot and Gilles Maréchal (dir.), Eating in the time of the coronavirus, Peak, 2020

By Cécile Cazenave

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