You wake from restless sleep in a cold sweat. You grab at the last wisps of memory. What were you dreaming? A large rolling object was chasing you, a boulder, and you were wearing a fedora... no, that's Raiders, concentrate. It was... you've got it! A giant bagel chasing you through a saffron field! Then you turned into a bartender serving yourself butter and a finger of whiskey. A food dream. But does it all mean?
According to dream dictionaries, you might be avoiding a deceitful lover and escaping life's demands by indulging in its pleasures — at the peril of losing friends.
"You can interpret a dream forever," noted Ryan Hurd, who runs Dream Studies, a blog that blends dream education and consciousness studies. "But sometimes they are merely expressing the body's desires and feelings through the emotional/visual/long-term-memory-enhanced way of knowing we call dreaming."
Looking through online dream dictionaries, you see what Mr. Hurd means. One notes that seeing asparagus in a dream can be a symbol of prosperity, but that eating it may indicate your actions will result in an unpleasant outcome (yeah, a bad smell). So which is it?
Then there's the intersection of food and sex. Apples, bananas, figs, mangos, nuts, pineapples, pomegranate, and strawberries are all said to represent sex or sexual desires in some form.
According to Dr. Vernoica Tonay, a licensed psychologist and author of three books about dreams, "Dream dictionaries are basically useless as they are written by people who think something like, 'Hmm... dreaming of a hamburger, well, that must mean the dreamer is wanting some meat in life. That is, they just make up the interpretations from thin air."
So how to make sense of food in dreams? According to Dr. Tonay, if dreaming consists of a metaphorical language, and food is the nurturing sustenance, the dreams with food often reflect ways we nurture ourselves, and how well.So how to make sense of food in dreams? According to Dr. Tonay, if dreaming consists of a metaphorical language, and food is the nurturing sustenance, the dreams with food often reflect ways we nurture ourselves, and how well.
"Ideally, when you dream about food, you dream about eating things that are good for you, that actually do provide nutrients and sustenance and energy," Dr. Tonay explained. "But if you dream about pastries, desserts, and so on, that may indicate you are attempting to nurture yourself with unhealthy, but briefly satisfying, 'food' (which may represent actual food, people, situations, or activities)."
"On the other hand, if in dreams you feel deprived of or tempted by a certain food, you may actually need the specific kind of "nurturance" that food represents. For example, you love donuts, and dream while you're eating a salad, that you long for a donut. Beyond the obvious wish-fulfillment motive of the dream ('I would love to eat a donut!'), consider that what you really need is what donuts represent to you."
Dr. Tonay suggests an exercise to reveal that meaning. Write the word "donut" in the center of a piece of paper, imagine the donut, then write the first thing to come to mind. Do this until you've exhausted all associations. They will reveal what a donut means to you.
For instance, you may have had a memory of eating your very first donut (from one of your most favorite donut places in the world) at a birthday party, which suggests you may need to experience feeling celebrated, or whatever you felt then. "Then think of a way you can give yourself wonder or celebration without eating a donut, and do that for yourself," noted Dr. Tonay, "This technique helps reduce cravings for specific foods while awake, too!"
If you're not ready for the work that the recommended exercises above may involve, check out the more eyebrow-raising interpretations of iconic and interesting foods adapted from the online dream dictionary, Dream Moods. From abalone to watermelons, you may be surprised what you'll discover.