For instance, taste. Like, one day an alien notices the human crew member dumping something bright orange on their midday ration.
Alien: Does your supplement not have the right nutrients/? Human: No, it just tastes bad. Alien: ???? Human: Well, not precisely bad, but bland. It’s boring. So I thought I’d spice it up a bit. *waves bottle of bright orange substance* Alien: You add items to your food that provide no necessary sustenance??? Human: Oh, just wait ‘til you hear about junk food.
‘Cause humans eat stuff that is not good just for the sensation. Like really spicy foods, chewing gum, and all these spices. And the aliens don’t get it. You put that in your body? Doesn’t that mess up your digestive system? What purpose does it serve?
Or human eating rituals. If you eat with one group of humans there are all of these utensils, some of which look extremely similar, but each with it’s own unique purpose. And if you don’t use the right one at the right time it’s a social faux pas. Then another group mostly uses their hands and lick their fingers. Does this not introduce pathogens? And you’ll see the same human doing both behaviors.
And there’s the whole concept of a meal as a social endeavor. Humans will have a meal with those they are close with as a sign of affection. Humans don’t even spend the entire meal eating, no they use it to talk. Business is done, friends catch up, families share news. All over a meal.
Aliens considering food a necessity not to be discussed in public. Yet here are these humans, who post pictures of their food to social media, share recipes, use food as a social catalyst, and as comfort. Hell, comfort food as a completely human idea that aliens don’t understand.
So culture is fluid and changing, so why can’t we see humans adapting to alien culture? We already emmulate others, if not blend it to our traditions, so there should be a mix of alien/human traditions. Humans dress in the style of alien dress because it looks good. Humans adopting alien slang or creative new slang based on alien words. Or learning alien games and try to teach it to other humans. Or learning about alien food, then blend it with human cooking styles (Lomo saltado is Peruvian food cooked Chinese style so it happens) or just really studying alien culture and teaching it to people at home. Not for any academic reason, but because they are super interested. Like when you want to travel to your dream place you study every little bit about, or those culture clubs in schools. Aliens could be flattered, or confused, because Humans who can adapt to any place chose to adapt to their planet.
So it’s established that a lot of the time, humans would be the ‘weird space orcs’. But what I want to see is aliens who are totally baffled by the complexities of food we would consider 'simple’ meals. Like ramen. I just made a ramen with corn, an egg, and sliced Ham and Turkey I chopped down into bite-sized chunks. Like, aliens would be so confused by that.
“Human Jess, why are you putting two substantially different meats together? What is the purpose of the corn? Humans can not digest corn. What is in the little spice packet? Why are there noodles? Is that an egg? Why?”
And we’d be like 'nah, man, it’s good, it’s just soup’ while their soup is just what we would call broth. And the aliens would be so confused and amazed because it smells really good actually?