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High Standards


jaybee
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Complexity in the food and wine industry always means better except for the rarest exceptions.

No way. Maybe in the wine industry, about which I know nothing, but to say that complexity is always used to mean better, or to say that complex is always better than simple with respect to food is just plain ridiculous.

Jonathan's extraction of the doctrine of reasonability is intended, I believe, to provide some context for the use of certain terms, rather than the unproductive atmosphere of absolutism that is more prevalent here.

"jaz is wrong to dislike blue cheese" is nonsense. It doesn't mean anything. Say all you want about who likes it and why, but to attribute wrongness to her for disliking it is unreasonable. It doesn't follow that because lots of people who know all about cheese and eat it all the time like blue cheese, then someone who doesn't like it is wrong. I'm sure the logicians here can lay this out in clearer terms.

Who said "There are no three star restaurants, only three star meals"?

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No way. Maybe in the wine industry, about which I know nothing, but to say that complexity is always used to mean better, or to say that complex is always better than simple with respect to food is just plain ridiculous.

Sure it is Robert. That naked peach you like better then Peach Melba can only be "better" if it is a complex peach. There is no way that a commercially grown peach that you would buy in Food Emporium for $.99 a pound can be complex enough for you. The difference between a good NY Strip Steak and a lousy one is that a good one has a more complex flavor, deeper and beefier, and the texture is better.

What you want to do is to distort the semantics like Glyn did so you can reserve the use of words like better to describe your personal preference. You want to say that raspberries and bologna are complex too and that is an example of complexity that is bad. Poppycock I say because that is not how the food industry uses the word. The DB Burger is a "better" burger then the Kobe Beef one because the flavors and the textures are more complex. No other reason.

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One step forward, one back. We've returned to where we started.

"Reasonableness" of course implies shared context, some shared set of criteria. In the kitchen of the culinary school it is reasonable for the chef-instructor to say that the student's stock is "wrong". The statement is being made in the context of a teacher-student relationship, with clearly identified and accepted authority.

In this community, it is probably not reasonable to say that JAZ is "wrong" to dislike blue cheese, or that someone who prefers medium steak to rare is "wrong", or that cooked peaches are always better than uncooked. (The latter statement seems eccentric and unreasonable in any context I am aware of, but let that pass.)

We don't have a clearly accepted authority here. Nobody has even suggested how that authority might be identified or constituted. "The food industry"? What is that? Dieticians? Chefs? Food writers? Marketing managers for McDonald's? The well-dined? Frequent posters on food and wine boards?

Paradoxically, the deepest problem I have with this absolutist language is that it gets in the way of our moving past total relativism. It inhibits our ability to create intersubjective agreement, and to find where we disagree.

With that I exit this thread, followed by three squabbling food experts.

Jonathan Day

"La cuisine, c'est quand les choses ont le go�t de ce qu'elles sont."

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That naked peach you like better then Peach Melba

For the record, I don't like naked peaches better than peach melba. I like naked peaches. I like peach melba. I wouldn't say you were wrong for disliking either one. My head hurts. With any luck I'll be able to keep myself from clicking on this thread any more.

Who said "There are no three star restaurants, only three star meals"?

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Jonathan's extraction of the doctrine of reasonability is intended, I believe, to provide some context for the use of certain terms, rather than the unproductive atmosphere of absolutism that is more prevalent here.

"jaz is wrong to dislike blue cheese" is nonsense. ...It doesn't follow that because lots of people who know all about cheese and eat it all the time like blue cheese, then  someone who doesn't like it is wrong.

I don't actually think that Steve was saying that I'm wrong for disliking blue cheese. I think he was saying I'd be wrong if I said that blue cheese is "bad," and that's a different point entirely.

Since I'm the one who brought up the blue cheese example in the first place, let me add just one more thing. I do often say that blue cheese is bad -- actually I use much stronger terms than that: "vile," "nasty" and "loathsome" are the ones that come to mind.

But Steve's right (egads, did I actually write that?) -- I don't and can't really say it's "bad" in a serious, gastronomic sense. The reason I can't is the same as Steve's oyster example -- there are too many people whose palates are educated and with whom I'm in agreement on most other culinary matters for me to ignore them. And in that sense, I'm "wrong" about blue cheese.

I can understand everyone's reluctance to talk about being "right" and "wrong" in such cases, but I think Jonathan hit the nail on the head -- if we use it the terms context and understand that they're merely shorthand for something more, they're useful.

Janet

Does that mean I ever think I'll like blue cheese? God no. It's vile.

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I don't actually think that Steve was saying that I'm wrong for disliking blue cheese. I think he was saying I'd be wrong if I said that blue cheese is "bad," and that's a different point entirely.

It's worse than that, Janet, he actually says both. If you can hit a moving target, you're a better shot than I am.

(Damn, I looked.)

Who said "There are no three star restaurants, only three star meals"?

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But the language isn't absolutist. That is the mistake everyone keeps making, or I should say where everyone goes wrong :wink:. Follow the bouncing ball now. If standards are a matter of what people agree on, that leaves room for disagreement and there still being a standard. So lets say 50 people tasted blue cheese and 5 people hated it, i.e., thought it was bad. 45-5 sounds to me like it would be reasonable to say those people (the 5) are wrong about it. Isn't that the context that Jonathan spoke of? If the standard is a function of a statistical result and not a mathematical formula and that is what the language tracks, how can the language be absolutist?

Edited by Steve Plotnicki (log)
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Well I have a hard time agreeing about the language. We respond emotively to language. When someone tells me I'm "wrong" about something I require a more absolutist explanation than "most people think so". People tend to react defensively to being told that they are "wrong" and it is a natural response to demand to be shown where, or, to shrug one's shoulders and say "so what?"

People also react badly to being told fault lies with them in matters of taste. Telling Jaz she is "wrong" about blue cheese or that her palate is "defective" or that she is "incapable of understanding" it are all responses calculated to irritate and alienate. Better to say: are you open to being persuaded about blue cheese, or rare beef, or whatever because lots of people love it and it would be good if you could enjoy it too? The ball is then in their court and they can either say yuk-no way, or OK I'll give it a go.

Either way the language is more positive, encouraging, inclusive, rather than exclusive and alienating. And there's just a chance (though maybe not in Jaz's case) that they'll end up seeing what you're talking about and another culinary soul will be saved. Hallellujia!

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If you say that "blue cheese tastes bad" and mean it tastes bad to you, you're right.

If you say that "blue cheese tastes bad" and mean it tastes bad to me, you're wrong.

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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You have a hard time agreeing about the language because of ego, which is why this is a recurring problem (I don't mean with you I mean in general.) Because all the statement means is that you have evaluated it incorrectly, or you are incapable of evaluating it. What's the big deal about that? There are loads of things that I am incapable of evaluating correctly or evaluating at all. And Jin's good point goes much further when the "me" she is describing is the collective me, meaning it describes a group of people. When Jaz says that blue cheese is bad, can she really be saying that all the people who like blue cheese are wrong about it? How far exactly does her bad go?

It seems to me that in order for us to have an intelligent discussion, the verbiage we use has to transcend personal feelings about food and wine. Especially when so many people are lined up on one side of an issue like oysters tasting good. In those instances one has to take an objective view about it, meaning that they need to evaluate their own personal preferences against opinions that have been formulated by knowledgable groups of people and which have been reasonably stated. To say that oysters are good isn't controversial yet there are people on this site who will come on and argue they are bad, with the implication that others are wrong about it. But how can they be bad when you can go into places like J. Sheekey's, Grand Central Oyster Bar or Bofinger in Paris and see that countless people are eating them? Isn't that overwhelming evidence that they are good? How can anyone who doesn't like them not take that into consideration when they do their own personal evaluation and then stating their opinion?

Edited by Steve Plotnicki (log)
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No way. Maybe in the wine industry, about which I know nothing, but to say that complexity is always used to mean better, or to say that complex is always better than simple with respect to food is just plain ridiculous.

Sure it is Robert. That naked peach you like better then Peach Melba can only be "better" if it is a complex peach. There is no way that a commercially grown peach that you would buy in Food Emporium for $.99 a pound can be complex enough for you. The difference between a good NY Strip Steak and a lousy one is that a good one has a more complex flavor, deeper and beefier, and the texture is better.

What you want to do is to distort the semantics like Glyn did so you can reserve the use of words like better to describe your personal preference. You want to say that raspberries and bologna are complex too and that is an example of complexity that is bad. Poppycock I say because that is not how the food industry uses the word. The DB Burger is a "better" burger then the Kobe Beef one because the flavors and the textures are more complex. No other reason.

You whine about semantics, but it's typically foolish notions like this that force us to define terminology. Of course, you are at complete liberty to misuse language in whatever way you wish, but it is an act of gross arrogance to attempt to foist this misuse onto others.

Complexity is not synonymous with good; not even in wine jargon.

Complexity can be positive when that complexity is harmonious, but alone 'complexity' is a neutral and descriptive term that carries with it no associations.

And regarding Rightness & Wrongness, if we follow your 'logic', it may be wrong to have certain preferences. If cheese A is a wrong choice and cheese B is a right choice, what about Dish A and Dish B. Not liking something is on a cline that runs between extremes and also covers ‘liking something a lot’ and ‘indifference’. Clearly it is not possible to like everything equally and thus we have to have our preferences.

Hate Game; Like Oysters; Love Fish.

Is it wrong not to love oysters, but merely to like them? Is it wrong not to choose Dish B because you don't like it as much as Dish A? What you are saying is, in essence, that it is wrong to have preferences that differ from an established hierarchy of all things culinary. However, this hierarchy, like God perhaps, does not exist, rather, it is longed for by fearful and insecure people like you who obsessively need to categorize everything.

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Is it wrong not to love oysters, but merely to like them? Is it wrong not to choose Dish B because you don't like it as much as Dish A? What you are saying is, in essence, that it is wrong to have preferences that differ from an established hierarchy of all things culinary. However, this hierarchy, like God perhaps, does not exist, rather, it is longed for by fearful and insecure people like you who obsessively need to categorize everything.

Well here is another aspect of the kind of blowback you get on this topic. Instead of someone being able to say to themselves, the world loves oysters, I don't, I guess that I might be deficient in this area, those who can't admit that to themselves turn to calling the speaker insecure and then try to make the conversation personal.

And of course they also want to argue that the things you say have a certain inference that just isn't there. Like LML's post about complexity. If you read what I have written about the word and its use, all I have said is that the trade uses it in a way that identifies something as good. What I haven't said, even though I am being accused of it, is that someone will never describe a dish as being too complex. In fact here is an example,

"the addition of pipe tobacco to the brownies added a level of complexity that was offputting."

But that is wholly different then saying that the reason that Latour sells for twice as much money as Pichon Lalande is that it is a more complex wine. In my experience, "complexity," unless it is qualified to identify it as something that is bad, is always good. But of course you can argue that it isn't untill you are blue in the face. And that is because the standard is not factual, it is reasonable, which I submit LML is not being considering the accepted verbiage among trade and amateurs.

Edited by Steve Plotnicki (log)
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The notion that there is a body of knowledgeable people out there whose expertise determines that food's place in the hierarchy of gourmet delights is misconceived.

Often a food's market value is determined more by its availability than any innate qualities it may or may not possess. Oysters are a good example. They were never thought of as a luxury food until the 20th century. Before then they were so ubiquitious and so cheap that they could be considered the equivalent of fast food.Salmon was the same, with the massses in Victorian times complaining about how much of it they were forced to eat.

Truffles aren't the price they are because of their complex flavour. It is simply because no-one has figured out a way of cultivating them en masse yet. If truffles were as available as mushrooms their price would plummet. There is nothing about the taste of caviar which would lead you to know that it costs fifty times more than any other single foodstuff and I refuse to believe that a "knowledgeable person" could identify such qualities if the shelves were stacked from floor to ceiling with tins of beluga.

Of course I am NOT saying that some wines, truffles, caviares,oysters etc are not better than others. But a hierarchy is only meaningful WITHIN categories not across them. You can say Latour is better than Pichon Lalande because you are comparing like with like. But you cannot say that someone is "wrong" to dislike red wine per se.

And if the standard is the fact that loads of people like it, well billions of people like McDonalds (far more than like blue cheese). Does that make disliking McDonalds "wrong". Or are they the "wrong" sort of people?

Edited by Tonyfinch (log)
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Instead of someone being able to say to themselves, the world loves oysters, I don't, I guess that I might be deficient in this area, those who can't admit that to themselves turn to calling the speaker insecure and then try to make the conversation personal.

First of all, the world doesn't love oysters.

Secondly, are we supposed to understand that it is 'what the world loves' that sets the high standard? Wouldn't that place Coca Cola and Macdonalds at the top of your hierarchy.

Thirdly, perhaps you could address the substance of my previous post and the one on well-doneness of meat. If you don't, I, and the thousands who have PMed me on the subject, will assume that you incapable of formulating a reasonable argument and you will have to excavate a hole in which to accomodate your credibility.

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The notion that there is a body of knowledgeable people out there whose expertise determines that food's place in the hierarchy of gourmet delights is misconceived.

What do you mean? Do you not think that Fay Maschler, Jay Raynor, Patricia Wells, Giles Pudlowski etc. drive traffic at restaurants? Do you not think that certain opinions on this website and others drive traffic? How is it that people in London know that shopping at Borough Market is good on Saturdays? Does everybody know? Do the people in the Sainsbury's down the road know? Do they care? Do the people who only shop in Sainsbury's have a reliable opinion about food? Does the guy who likes white button mushrooms and has never tasted a morel know about mushrooms? Is his opinion reliable? How can you say that there isn't a body of knowledgable people out there. What do you call the people who shop at Borough Market and not Sainsbury's because the food is "better"? Are they "wrong" about it and the food is just as good at Sainsbury's? How about Tesco?

Aside from that, both Tony and LML confuse popularity with acceptance by a knowledgable group of people that creates some type of standard. That is what I said. Again, I didn't say it was a popularity contest among the masses. I said it was decided according to a market made up of knowledgable people. Call it a group of people with discerning taste. Call them gourmands or gourmets. Call them whatever you want. Whatever, it isn't controversial to say that oysters are good based on who we know likes to eat them. But it is unreasonable to say that McDonald's and Coca Cola are good based on their popuarity because you are using the lowest common denominator of taster to evaluate them. Second, you both miss the point about market value. Nobody like truffles because they are rare, people like them because the taste is complex. That they are willing to pay a premiuim might be because of the shortage of supply, but that has nothing to do with why they want them in the first place.

Edited by Steve Plotnicki (log)
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Thirdly, perhaps you could address the substance of my previous post [on preferences] and the one on well-doneness of meat. If you don't, I, and the thousands who have PMed me on the subject, will assume that you incapable of formulating a reasonable argument and you will have to excavate a hole in which to accomodate your credibility.

I'll just slip this in again.

both Tony and LML confuse popularity with acceptance by a knowledgable group of people that creates some type of standard

If on the dozen or so occasions in this thread when you have used the term, "popular", and said "the world loves oysters" when what you really meant to say was "acceptance by a knowledgable group of people that creates some type of standard", then it would seem that it is you who is confused.

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Maybe there is another issue that I haven't yet raised. I don't think there is a reason not to like any food.

Now THAT'S quite an interesting idea. If Jaz is wrong for disliking blue cheese why isn't anybody wrong for disliking anything that a substantial body of people like?

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The problem with working on the basis that some people have better taste than others is that it overlooks the reality that in most people good and bad taste co-exist.

I have a friend whose taste in food and wine I respect enormously. But one day after dinner I realised I had run out of coffee. "Do you have instant?", he asked. "I prefer instant". "You're joking", I said. "No, honestly", he said.

Now if anyone is going to tell me that instant coffee is in the same league as freshly brewed fresh coffee then I'm Charles Laughton's sister. Not only that, I'd run out of milk (I must have been having a bad day). "Do you have any dried milk?" he asked.

Now tell me this. Does dried milk count as food? It smells of vomit and tastes worse. It is non-food. But my gourmet friend would have had dried milk in his instant coffee if I'd had any.

So, do I now regard him as a no-nothing putz when it comes to food? Of course not. I still respect his taste. He is erudite and knowledgeable. But he prefers instant coffee and he likes dried milk. So he has good tate and he has bad taste. Just like everybody else.

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I don't like anise, ouzo, black licorice, sambuca, etc.  I do think something is wrong with that. I'm sorry I don't like them.  I can't help it, hard as I try over and over again - but I do think it's my problem.

Actually I don't care for those either. But I do like flat bread with cheese and toppings, even though I've been exposed to DiFara's pizza traditionale, which is the best I've tasted. So I guess having high standards doesn't necessarily deprive one of being receptive to new experiences. :raz:

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So, do I now regard him as a no-nothing putz when it comes to food? Of course not. I still respect his taste. He is erudite and knowledgeable. But he prefers instant coffee and he likes dried milk. So he has good tate and he has bad taste. Just like everybody else.

But this is exactly what I have been saying. He is not a reliable source for those things. But he is a reliable source for other foods and wine. Nobody has said that any one person's taste is infallable across the board.

La Nina - Me too. I am not a black licorice guy although my tolerance level towards it has imporved in recent years.

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Thirdly, perhaps you could address the substance of my previous post [on preferences] and the one on well-doneness of meat. If you don't, I, and the thousands who have PMed me on the subject, will assume that you incapable of formulating a reasonable argument and you will have to excavate a hole in which to accomodate your credibility.

I'll just slip this in again.

both Tony and LML confuse popularity with acceptance by a knowledgable group of people that creates some type of standard

If on the dozen or so occasions in this thread when you have used the term, "popular", and said "the world loves oysters" when what you really meant to say was "acceptance by a knowledgable group of people that creates some type of standard"....

For me, the best and most encouraging thought to emerge from this thread is the absolute certainty that those culinary cretins who like what they like (and keep right on enjoying it -- and eschewing what they don't like), regardless as to whether or not the "knowledgeable group" thinks they're "right" or "wrong," don't give a rat's ass what Steve thinks, either.

:biggrin:

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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I don't like anise, ouzo, black licorice, sambuca, etc.  I do think something is wrong with that. I'm sorry I don't like them.  I can't help it, hard as I try over and over again - but I do think it's my problem.

Actually, it might be genetic and closely related to the initial dislike of Cilantro (which is easier to overcome), so it probably is your probelm. :rolleyes:

M
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Now what does what I think have to do with any of this? And carry on at your Caribbean night.

You bet, Dollface. :wink:

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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