Remember when food took the form of teddy bear-shaped ham and Müller Corner yogurts, and was little more than a welcome distraction from your mum's tea time chat on Sarah Beeny or Tesco clubcard points?
Well, times have changed and we can't afford property anymore (sorry, Sarah) because we're spending all of our disposable time and income on food: pouring over its transformative properties on #cleaneating blogs, ogling it in the elaborate recipe pages of Sunday supplements, queuing outside "pop-up gyoza joints" to eat it (or at least say we did), and Instagramming its every Sriracha-doused crevice.
As fellow noughties Channel 4 heroine Gillian McKeith once said, "You are what you eat," and it's never been more pertinent than now. What and where we eat reflects our social, economical, and political standing—or at the very least how seriously we take the Evening Standard Going Out section.
To help make sense of who's eating what in this brave, new, bone broth-bothering Britain, MUNCHIES carried out the first ever Great British Food Census: a comprehensive mapping of 2016's key food tribes and what they're eating.
Behold the big names and their eating habits. Read, observe in any major UK city or twenty-something's social media feed, and remember: go easy. We all have to eat, the hard part is trying to not be a dick about it.
Now excuse me while I find the right filter for this kimchi eggs Benedict pic …
The Fast Food Faker On Instagram, you'll see these girls posing under the harsh lights of their local fried chicken shop in Palace tracksuits, 90s Nike forward caps, and boxer braids. They chow down on doner kebabs, drink squash out of massive Sports Direct mugs, or stand in corner shops wielding utilitarian-looking own-brand snacks and giving the camera the middle finger. For friends' birthdays, they make frosted cakes with "Sorry you hate cake, bitch!" written on them in swirly icing. They always seem to be "on the road" in America, cradling an In-N-Out burgers while wearing a mini top and timeless Levi jeans.
But like the female mates they appropriate for homo-suggestive photos, the fast food in these photos is just a prop for an "ironic selfie." They'll never actually go through with the deed. The reason the Fast Food Faker can afford the trips away (and pull off that belly t-shirt) is because they're still living at home, eating wholesome tagines in their parents' Tunisian tiled kitchen.
The Freegan Waster "I guess the one good thing about this fucking Tory scum government and all its cuts is that at least now I've got a place to lay my hat!"
The place? A recently-defunct-library-turned-guardianship-property in the centre of town where the rent is £300 including bills, but there isn't actually any heating or water or internet to pay for. The hat? His trademark hemp trilby.
When the Freegan Waster isn't building sculptures out of hubcaps or biking along the canal, he's "dumpster diving" for his dinner. This attempt to help the environment and reduce food waste by going Freegan is genuinely admirable—you're even tempted by the idea. Don't be. Wading through the industrial skips outside Sainsbury's for four hours and only having a packet of bacon to show for the "day's catch" isn't worth any amount of good karma.
Plus being friends with a Freegan Waster makes you feel a tiny bit like David Cameron telling Jeremy Corbyn off. "Put on a proper suit," you wish you could scream at him, "do up your tie, and just do a weekly shop at the big ASDA like everyone else!"
The Normcore Devotee Breakfast is avocado, tomato, and poached eggs on Vogel toast. Lunch is avocado, tomato, and poached eggs on Vogel toast. Dinner is avocado, tomato, and poached eggs on Vogel toast.
Very sporadically, the normcore follower's diet will be rudely interrupted when they cycle to a nearby Japanese or Scandinavian restaurant for a simplistic yet tasty meal involving beansprouts. On the way back, after popping to a local deli for a jar of herring which they pop in their tote bag, their bike chain snaps. As they wheel their ride home, wondering why they can't afford to buy a new one, they stop by their favourite artisan coffee shop for the third time that day.
The Fashion Foodie Her appetite for the internet is insatiable, her thirst for pop culture unquenchable. When she's not inhaling generic Monday memes, zealously consuming clickbait articles (actually, what does that child star look like now?), or gorging on Bill Murray's latest escapade, she's 'gramming the latest "foodie" fad.
The first sound of milk being splashed on pastel-coloured cereal, or the initial whiff of a toasting rainbow bagel have her pegging it down the road to join the back of the queue. "I can't believe they're red and yellow and pink and green!"
She's "checking in" at Burger & Lobster, complete with requisite bib. She's posing while slurping on an oversized milkshake topped with a precariously balanced cupcake. She's hashtagging #treat_yoself, even though she's more into 2 Broke Girls than Parks and Recreation.
She misses home though, so she cooks nostalgic "kiddie teas" like fish fingers and potato waffles. They remind her of a time when her only worry was keeping her Tamagotchi alive and finding the AWOL Blockbuster video ("OMG, remember those?"), rather than the debt escalating from her rampant ASOS and brunching habits. Maybe one day the internet will envelop her and she'll only exist in megapixels. Maybe not.
The New Lad The lovely British Lad has changed, guys. Yes, he still drinks beer, but now he guzzles Brooklyn beer out of a can or craft beer that's at least £2 more per pint. He still likes pizza too but not the deep pan Pizza Hut ones anymore—now he likes Franco Manca and chorizo. He can even cook these days (if it's from a Gusto box, with the exact recipe and precise ingredients delivered to his door.)
OK, he'll admit it, his guilty pleasure is a McDonald's after five-a-side on the Astro, but now he's only going through that Drive Thru if it's the McDonald's Signature menu. Guys, the lad has evolved … Guys? GUYS! LADS? LADS? LADS?! LADS! LADS! LADS!
The Student The UK's diminishing club scene and an exponential increase in student loans mean that the fabled scurvy-ridden student dipping slices of quiche Lorraine in a Pot Noodle, chased by some sour methodrone for "brekkie" has become something of an anomaly. If you're going to burden yourself with a lifetime of crippling debt, what's the point in usurping finals revision with Black Cherry VKs?
The new breed of sensible students came to their halls equipped like the rest of us did: with £100 worth of IKEA kitchen utensils. But unlike us, they actually know what to do with them. After a day at the library, these students will throw a Great British Bake Off party with ten friends in Cath Kidston pyjamas, eating homemade beetroot cake.
Sporcle and Beyoncé videos are lovely—and there'll be less Hepatitis B—but we'll miss the students of yesteryear who garnished microwaved lasagne with crushed crisps and considered Angel Delight eaten straight from the packet with a spoon as "pudding." RIP.
The Fitspo Girl The last few years have seen the health and wellness epidemic sweep the UK, and most of us have not been immune to its force. Note: there are no silent, asymptomatic carriers of the Deliciously Ella Bug. If people aren't popping peanut energy balls in their mouths, then they're telling you why they're popping peanut energy balls in their mouths, and maybe the arguments against popping peanut energy balls in their mouth.
The infected clean eaters are split into two camps. The first is the rich girl. Of course it's easy have a great body when you can get up at 10.30 AM to do hot yoga followed by a nap and spend £9.50 on an almond-based drink before popping to your Dad's house on the Algarve to eat tomatoes straight from the vine. The other camp is the rest of us: choosing to get a Savse juice drink instead of an Orangina in our Boots Meal Deal and eating three Trek bars a day.
But wait, your friend Annie has been talking a lot about "alkalines" recently. The next time you see her, her skin is lucid her eyes too wide. She talks feverishly about 26 Grains, crowdfunding, and how she's "actually always been passionate about kohlrabi." Oh no! The Deliciously Ella Bug got her too! Please Annie, don't give up your career in marketing to jump on the health and wellness bandwagon! You're at least four years too late.
The City Boy The extremes of the City Boy's diet are as bipolar as his public schooled, coked-up personality. He has the indulgent eating habits of 17th century squire: fine meats, wines, and cheeses. "And not necessarily in that order! Lololol!"
But in 2016, the City Boy is a modern man with modern pressures and vanities. He goes to the gym beneath his dystopian-looking office and tries to eat as much protein as possible. He carries a pack of beef jerky next to his vaper in his breast pocket at all times. He's been to Hawksmoor about 300 times but he takes his girlfriend to Petersham Nursery for an anniversary treat. David's not looking her in the eye though, he's grinding down on a piece of jerky.
The Perpetually Dieting Colleague Chloe has been on a diet ever since you started in the office. Her desk is littered with the flotsam of washed-up attempts to get that beach bod: a NutriBullet, a copy of Honestly Healthy, a fruit-infusing water bottle, a box of Dorset Cereal.
Whatever you do, don't ask her about how the diet is going because she'll give you a verbatim rundown of her food diary from the last fortnight. "Well, I was naughty and had two caramel shortcake bites and then I had a sachet of pistachios from my Graze box, but half of them were closed, so it doesn't really count." Agree that it doesn't really count!!
Even with this array of dieting paraphernalia, PDC has still not reached her weight loss targets. You suspect it's because she has a bag of "emergency choccie" in her desk draw at all times and no one has the heart to tell her that her daily platter of mayonnaise-drenched sushi is probably about 400 calories more than her MyFitnessPal entry says.
But then it's Joe's birthday in the office, a cake is bought out, and her conflicted facial expression gives insight to a world of inner turmoil. Hand PDC a plastic fork and tell her that the only thing she's really starved of is self confidence and that actually, she's really great.
For more groundbreaking anthropological research, check out the MUNCHIES Guide to British Food, running every day this week on MUNCHIES.
Illustrations by Tom Delves.