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How to approach an unfamiliar cuisine


Fat Guy
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But Senegalese seems to be based on relatively simple stews...

No it isn't. Yassa is one dish, but the cuisine is not based on stews, simple or otherwise.

Okay, answer me this. How do you account for people who like both the kind of food you recognize as good, and also the food which you think is bad. Separate neural pathways? Split personalities? There are plenty of such people on this site, but to de-personalize it, how about the millions of Dutch people who enjoy both French food and Dutch food. Or, maybe a better example, how about the many people in Belgium who pretty much split their diet between French-derived Belgian food and Flemish food. I am assuming you think Flenish food sucks, although whether you believe it to be based on simple stews remains to be seen. :laugh:

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Fat Guy and Steve P agree on something, and I have a big problem with their view

Fat Guy: “I agree that the symbolism and sociology of food does not contribute in any way to its objective taste. Although I enjoy as much as the next person hearing that the shrimp represent whatever some emperor did, it doesn't make me think the shrimp taste better. If the story doesn't contribute to the dish, I'd prefer to hear the story and eat a slice of pizza.
Steve P  “An understanding of a culture and their traditions does not make anything taste any better or worse. Taste is a function of quality and proficency of preparation. A standard that has no borders and sees through race and religion.”

Why are sociology, culture, symbolism being so quickly dismissed? I’m no big fan of postmodern gobbledegook, but if you dismiss the above aren’t you overlooking the whole picture (context) in which food is eaten and people’s socialization process in things culinary.

The wine expert informing the novice of the qualities of wine that may not on first taste be apparent is a socialization process, no? To grade wine as crap or not without understanding the culture of wine wouldn’t get us far would it? (I predict the reply will be that wine socialization is objective and not cultural….hmmm.)

And what is this “objective taste”??

The idea that someone can objectively assess something out of context seems bizarre to me. Don’t you think that a wafer taken in at Communion might taste different to the believer than to the atheist?

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Yvonne, you're right, and I'm compelled to be boring and logical about this. If that view were to be taken literally, you should be able to bring four adults together, from different, far flung parts of the globe, serve them a variety of dishes, and have them all agree which is the best.

Now, the response might be that if you gave my hypothetical diners an education in what they were eating, then - assuming their palates are functioning fine - they would end up in agreement. But what you are teaching them is a set of critical standards, and critical standards are socially derived. The physics and chemistry of what's on the plate is the same, education or no education.

Edited by Wilfrid (log)
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It does not make any assertion that Dutch people can't tell good food when they eat it, only that they are willing to accept their own bad food on a daily basis. Jews do the same sort of thing don't they? Who would go back to gefilte fish after eating one of the more sophisticated chopped fish preparations like quenelles or Chinese or Italian fish balls? People who have come to appreciate something in a cultural context that's who. Non-Jews are not seeking out gefilte fish which is a big clue. But they are seeking out bagels, and pastrami, and Jewish style chopped liver, all things that are good outside of their original reason for existing.

OK, it's all becoming clearer now:

  • Gefilte fish: bad
    Quenelles, Chinese and Italian fish balls: good
    Bagels, pastrami, chopped liver: good
    Appreciating something in a cultural context: bad

Completely consistent with the theory as expressed so far.

Jonathan Day

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

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I happen to like Yassa and think it's a good dish. But I dare you to find one prepared well and with good quality ingredients. Maybe you can in Paris but in this country? And I got the bit about the stews from the review of Jessica Harris's book online. That column claims that she claims that the cuisine is mostly stews. Why wouldn't it be? Moroccan cuisine is stews in large part?

You keep confusing the concept of cuisine and what it is, and how people prepare the cuisine we are discussing. Flemish food and French derived Belgian food both taste good because the ingredient base is the same for each. But cross the border into Holland and the quality of the ingredients drops five fold or more. Why does that happen? Or why does the quality of the food drop so drastically when you cross the Rhine from Mulhouse into Basel. A footbridge seperates delicious food from German mediocrity. Why is that? You can hardly find a choucroute once you cross that river.

You know there is no reason that 99.9% of the bangers you eat should taste like shite. There should be a way to fabricate delicious ones. But that's not the issue. The issue is why the typical one you get in even a good place in London is so dread awful. And to tell me, a foreign visitor to London, that if I went to Lidgate's in Holland Park and bought their home-made bangers and were able to cook them up in my posh Notting Hill or Holland Park house (I would have those pumpkin colored walls they all seem to have,) they would be great, that is not a responsive answer to the question of are the bangers any good in London.

The idea that someone can objectively assess something out of context seems bizarre to me. Don’t you think that a wafer taken in at Communion might taste different to the believer than to the atheist?

Yvonne - Well on one of the other threads, someone commented that there is no such thing as universal taste. I disagree. There is universal taste. People are rarely in disagreement about what tastes good. So when you assess a communion wafer, it gets measured against that standard. But don't take what I just said to mean that any single person has tasted everything. That's not what I meant. But a delicious tasting fish in NYC is a delicious tasting fish in Singapore. We all know what fresh and high quality fish is supposed to taste like.

The wine expert informing the novice of the qualities of wine that may not on first taste be apparent is a socialization process, no? To grade wine as crap or not without understanding the culture of wine wouldn’t get us far would it? (I predict the reply will be that wine socialization is objective and not cultural….hmmm.)

This is something different. Acquired tastes are different then bad tastes. Just because some things taste bad unless you learn how to appreciate them, doesn't make them bad things. Bad things will never be appreciated. Take margarine. Will that ever be good? Will non-dairy creamer ever be good? Will those contaminated vegetables my wife had in Bolivia ever be good?

Wine is one of those things that at the beginning taste bad to some people but with practice can taste good. But the problem with wine appreciation is that most wines, especially wines bought in restaurants are drunk too young. When you drink young wines, all you taste is tannic acid and the wood from the barrels the wine was aged in. You usually taste very little fruit. So on it's face, the taste of wine can be offputting.

In order to taste wine properly, you have to be drinking wines that are typically 10 years old. And in some instances, 30 years old. Wines that are younger then that are drunk more for evaluation of their future quality rather then for pleasure. Where I agree with you is that people are taught to drink wines that aren't ready yet and they believe they should like them even though they do not taste very good. That is a cultural construct because there is no real way for a novice to objectively measure how delicious the wine will turn out. But when the wine is mature, I don't think anyone would need any knowledge to be able to tell a delicious wine from a bad wine. Sure there are some wines that are more diffificult to understand because they have a certain type of complexity to them. But you don't need to be a rocket scientist to like ripe, sweet fruit that is balanced with the right amount of acid.

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So, when a Jewish person eats quennelles in a French restaurant, they really enjoy it because it tastes good, but when they eat gefilte fish in a Jewish restaurant, they enjoy it - despite it tasting bad - because they appreciate the cultural context?

It's much the same with me and lamb stew. I love navarin d'agneau, but when I eat Lancashire Hot Pot, it's not the flavor I appreciate - it's the memory of all those epsiodes of Coronation Street.

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Flemish food and French derived Belgian food both taste good because the ingredient base is the same for each.

:shock:

But cross the border into Holland and the quality of the ingredients drops five fold or more.

:shock::shock:

Or why does the quality of the food drop so drastically when you cross the Rhine from Mulhouse into Basel. A footbridge seperates delicious food from German mediocrity. Why is that? You can hardly find a choucroute once you cross that river.

:shock::shock::shock:

I must be misunderstanding all of those. Are you saying that French cuisine uses much the same ingredients as Belgian cuisine? Are you saying there's a radical difference in the quality of the produce between Holland Belgium? Are you saying you can't get sauerkraut garnished with pork products in Germany? Are you saying the overall quality of German pork is inferior?

I think I'l go and lie down.

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Yvonne, you're right, and I'm compelled to be boring and logical about this.  If that view were to be taken literally, you should be able to bring four adults together, from different, far flung parts of the globe, serve them a variety of dishes, and have them all agree which is the best.

Now, the response might be that if you gave my hypothetical diners an education in what they were eating, then - assuming their palates are functioning fine - they would end up in agreement. But what you are teaching them is a set of critical standards, and critical standards are socially derived. The physics and chemistry of what's on the plate is the same, education or no education.

I'm saying they would disagree. (First para.) Or am I missing something?

But I agree with what you went on to say (Second para), but only up to a point. If, say, these hypothetical diners were given French, Chinese, Italian dishes to try and educated on what people thought were the strengths of the respective cuisines, they might still disagree on what was the best. I take your point, though, that's it's conceivable that these "standards" that we judge all cuisines were available. The more I read eGullet, however, the more I doubt that these standards exist.

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Sorry if I wasn't clear. I think it's on the view that the "objective" taste on the plate is all that matters when it comes to something tasting good, they'd all agree. Of course in real life they wouldn't, and I also agree that you could educate them from here to eternity, and still they might not agree.

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OK, it's all becoming clearer now:

Gefilte fish: bad

Quenelles, Chinese and Italian fish balls: good

Bagels, pastrami, chopped liver: good

Appreciating something in a cultural context: bad

Completely consistent with the theory as expressed so far

Now you're getting desperate. I didn't say that gefilte fish was bad, only that it isn't good enough to transcend the unique parameters of the cultural and socio-economic construct that created it. Pastrami doesn't seem to be falling prey to the same obstacles. And these days, people eat bagels at bible meetings in Idaho. Gefilte fish does not share that type of popularity and acceptance.

Gefilte fish is a dying dish. It is a staple of orthodox Jewish homes (especially ones that use talking fish :wink:.) But you will find it in less observant Jewish homes only around the high holidays and at Passover. Less observant Jews eat things like quenelles, fish mousse, Chinese fish balls etc. the rest of the year. You know why?

BECAUSE THEY TASTE BETTER THEN GEFILTE FISH DOES

It is really that simple. Do they not taste better to you? Are you going to tell me that gefilte fish tastes as good as the best fish mousse or the best quenelles? Unfortunatelty it doesn't. And I wish it did because both my mother and grandmother made some pretty good gefilte fish, that they served with Manischevitz. Too bad they didn't know how to make a nice fish mousse from something like Pike and Crayfish and serve it with a Sancerre.

So, when a Jewish person eats quennelles in a French restaurant, they really enjoy it because it tastes good, but when they eat gefilte fish in a Jewish restaurant, they enjoy it - despite it tasting bad - because they appreciate the cultural context?

No that's not it. Jews are willing to adopt two different standards when they dine. One is based on their own unique cuisine and one based on a universal standard of what tastes good. Unfortunately, this is a cultural impairment. a compromise that we live with.

That is why I find some of the arguments people are making, like Adam's and Yvonne's, that come from a liberal perspective, sort of odd. From a political perspective I would very much like to agree with them. But giving things a long and honest look, I just can't. You can find a very good tasting gefilte fish but it is what it is. It is a not particulary graceful fish dumpling made from fish that has been put through a meat grinder. I wish a more graceful version existed, one that was minced by hand by chefs who developed a great proficiency at mincing the fish so the dumpling would have a certain refinement to its texture. But nobody had or has the imagination to do that.

If you want to ask an interesting question, that is the one. The difference between gefilte fish and a quenelle is pretty much how they grind the fish up. Jews were happy with a course grind and a coarse tasting dumpling. Was it because their life was hard? The French on the other hand made a fish mousse to be cooked in the shape of a log and then sliced into rounds. The end result was smooth as a babies ass. Metaphor for good life that goes along smoothly? Certainly the Jews could have figured out a better way, a way to improve gefilte fish beyond rustic home cooking. But they didn't. Why didn't they do that? To say they liked their cuisine the way it was is a bad answer as far as I'm concerned and is at the heart of relativism in food. Bad food or self-imposed limits on cuisine cannot be excused because they were the result of some type of culturalism. That is xenophpbic and exclusionary because culinary culture should not be limited to what we curerently know, as well as who currently practices it. And most importantly, it shouldn't be constrained by race, regligion, politics or anything else.

I must be misunderstanding all of those. Are you saying that French cuisine uses much the same ingredients as Belgian cuisine? Are you saying there's a radical difference in the quality of the produce between Holland Belgium? Are you saying you can't get sauerkraut garnished with pork products in Germany? Are you saying the overall quality of German pork is inferior?

Yes, yes and yes. The ingredients in Belgium are superior to the ingredients available in Holland. Same with France and Germany right acoss the river. Same with Spain and Portugal. Most countries get food though a centralized food wholesaling system in their own country. The Dutch are supplied through their own market system which specializes in the food they like to eat.

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Well on one of the other threads, someone commented that there is no such thing as universal taste. I disagree. There is universal taste. People are rarely in disagreement about what tastes good. So when you assess a communion wafer, it gets measured against that standard. But don't take what I just said to mean that any single person has tasted everything. That's not what I meant. But a delicious tasting fish in NYC is a delicious tasting fish in Singapore. We all know what fresh and high quality fish is supposed to taste like.

Couple of things: A delicious fish in NY is a delicious tasting fish in Singapore? According to whom? Look at all the anthropological studies documenting researchers’ throwing up when trying to eat "rotten"/"high" food that's valued in some cultures. A Cook's Tour,and travel to other countries show that there is disagreement about what tastes good.

As for communion wafer, yes, I'm sure there is a standard for them, but this is besides the point in terms of their symbolic meaning. I'm saying that people bring to the eating of them different things which affect the experience. If you simply describe the wafer's external characteristics, aren't you missing something? And wouldn't it be valuable if the food writer were to describe that cultural component, ditto other non-religious symbolism.

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I think Tommy once said that you learn something new almost every other day on eGullet.  Today I learned that the Dutch eat rancid oil.  And love it.

Speaking as somebody with a predominantly Dutch ancestry, I've noticed in a subset of my relatives that there is a problem with detecting certain odors that others can detect easily. The answer to Plotnicki's aspersions cast against the Dutch and their seeming happiness with rancid oil may be a physical difference in the ability to perceive what he considers offensive.

We know that some people are color-blind, being unable to perceive all the colors that others can. And we know next-to-nothing about the intricacies of the olfactory system... which leads me to wonder: is there a heritable trait that is the olfactory equivalent of color blindness, a physical difference that masks the perception of certain rancid odors?

If the answer to that question were yes, then we know precisely why the Dutch tastes differ from those of the French and the Belgians-- those groups historically maintain largely separate gene-pools...

Anybody know any science on olfactory cognition and the mechanics thereof? I'm interested now... And if I'm right, then I and my taste buds are also glad that the ancestors chose to intermarry w/ the French rather than the English.

Edited by cdh (log)

Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

Learn to brew beer with my eGCI course

Chris Holst, Attorney-at-Lunch

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Couple of things: A delicious fish in NY is a delicious tasting fish in Singapore? According to whom? Look at all the anthropological studies documenting researchers’ throwing up when trying to eat "rotten"/"high" food that's valued in some cultures. A Cook's Tour,and travel to other countries show that there is disagreement about what tastes good.

Yvonne - Two different things. Specific tastes that are part of enculturation have nothing to do with whether fish is high quality and tastes fresh or not. The Japanese want the tuna from Montauk because the quality is high and the fat content is high. In that instance, there is a universal taste that measures if it is good or not. But yes if we were speaking about natto, an acquired taste, that would fall under your scenario.

Repeat after me;

1) In food there is no absolute truth and as a result

2) You can't prove anything by the exceptions. And for that reason,

3) You have to start with a premise that cuts across all genres of food so,

4) A chicken is a chicken is a chicken and,

5) A fresh chicken of high quality tastes good in NYC, Paris, Bombay, Singapore and Peking so,

6) Everybody knows and is in general agreement as to what a good tasting chicken is and what a bad tasting chicken is

Most food that sucks revolves around bad tasting chickens. And I am just using that as a metaphor for bad ingredients. In fact the countries that consistantly use high quality ingredients in the vast majority of places you would eat in can probably be counted on two sets of hands. That's why this exercise isn't all that diificult. You go to Singapore and the Hainanese chicken is of good quality or it's not. There is nothing relative about quality. It is completely objective. But, one has to know how to detect it.

Speaking as somebody with a predominantly Dutch ancestry, I've noticed in a subset of my relatives that there is a problem with detecting certain odors that others can detect easily. The answer to Plotnicki's aspersions cast against the Dutch and their seeming happiness with rancid oil may be a physical difference in the ability to perceive what he considers offensive.

I find it hard to believe that the Dutch are physiologically inferior or flawed in any way. It has to be a function of enculturation that was probably derived from religious values. Most eating habits are. You can convince me that Catholics have a greater tradition at the table then Protestatnts do, but you are going to have a very hard time convincing me that it is because Protestants are genetically inferior or flawed somehow. I just won't wear that.

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No, cdh, because that would mean Dutch people would have a problem appreciating non-Dutch food too, which they clearly don't.

Steve, German pork is superb. I can't remember any pork in France of comparable quality. You're missing so much. And is it possible that someone might prefer a coarse ground meat or fish product to one as smooth as a baby's ass?

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Steve, German pork is superb. I can't remember any pork in France of comparable quality. You're missing so much. And is it possible that someone might prefer a coarse ground meat or fish product to one as smooth as a baby's ass?

Possible but not really relevant. I haven't said that gefilte fish isn't good. I have pointed out that gefilte fish is disappearing. I have also pointed out that is hasn't been accepted beyond its own religious base. And the inference I draw is that it isn't as good as other fish mousee type dishes. And it isn't as if I tasted them both and I thought the world was missing the boat on gefilte fish that I wouldn't say so. But I happen to agree. A good quenelle is a sensual thing. A good piece of gefilte fish never transcends a sort of rustic home style cooking.

Alas I suspect that German pork as good as it is, will not sway me. I mean it's pork :cool:. Actually what they do have in Germany that is great is Asparagus. One of the great simple meals in my life was in a tavern in the outskirts of Stutgart with a bunch of large stalks of white asparagus.

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I find it hard to believe that the Dutch are physiologically inferior or flawed in any way. It has to be a function of enculturation that was probably derived from religious values. Most eating habits are. You can convince me that Catholics have a greater tradition at the table then Protestatnts do, but you are going to have a very hard time convincing me that it is because Protestants are genetically inferior or flawed somehow. I just won't wear that.

Since when was I calling this difference either an "inferiority" or a "flaw"????! Just because they may not be able to perceive olfactory input the way you do says nothing about their intrinsic character or worth. While you may be disgusted by the state of dutch frying oil, maybe there is some ineffable quality to raw herring that you could never experience without the dutch sensory equipment.

It seems that you have a burning desire to believe that there only one "best" cuisine, and that that cuisine is french haute cuisine. What I'm saying is that maybe other people are built in such a way that similar gratification to that which you receive from french haute cuisine is available to them from other sources.

This difference only becomes a "flaw" or an "inferiority" if there is an absolute best cuisine, and the inability to properly appreciate it is some kind of social stigma. To you, maybe it is a moral failing to fail to genuflect before the altar of Ducasse and Robuchon. I'm not that judgmental.

Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

Learn to brew beer with my eGCI course

Chris Holst, Attorney-at-Lunch

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Speaking as somebody with a predominantly Dutch ancestry, I've noticed in a subset of my relatives that there is a problem with detecting certain odors that others can detect easily.  The answer to Plotnicki's aspersions cast against the Dutch  and their seeming happiness with rancid oil may be a physical difference in the ability to perceive what he considers offensive. 

We know that some people are color-blind, being unable to perceive all the colors that others can.  And we know next-to-nothing about the intricacies of the olfactory system... which leads me to wonder: is there a heritable trait that is the olfactory equivalent of color blindness, a physical difference that masks the perception of certain rancid odors?

If the answer to that question were yes, then we know precisely why the Dutch tastes differ from those of the French and the Belgians-- those groups historically maintain largely separate gene-pools... 

Anybody know any science on olfactory cognition and the mechanics thereof?  I'm interested now...  And if I'm right, then I and my taste buds are also glad that the ancestors chose to intermarry w/ the French rather than the English.

if the Dutch are, in fact, genetically incapable of detecting rancidity in food, I am surprised that they have been able to survive this long.

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No, cdh, because that would mean Dutch people would have a problem appreciating non-Dutch food too, which they clearly don't.

1) Since "bad" Dutch cuisine persists to this day, and people seem content with that state of affairs in the Netherlands, that is a sign that the Dutch don't, in fact, appreciate non-Dutch food more than they do Dutch food.

2) "Appreciate" is a problematic word when we're talking about things olfactory. Since we have no absolute measuring stick like we do with vision. We have no way to tell what an individual's subjective experience of an olfactory stimulus is. We don't have (AFAIK) an analogous test for smell that we have for color blindness... Who's to say that a degustation at (name fancy french restaurant) does, in fact, makes somebody with a dutch nose as happy as it does Plotnicki? No way to tell.

3) Inability to "appreciate" does not translate into inability to eat.

Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

Learn to brew beer with my eGCI course

Chris Holst, Attorney-at-Lunch

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Since when was I calling this difference either an "inferiority" or a "flaw"????! Just because they may not be able to perceive olfactory input the way you do says nothing about their intrinsic character or worth. While you may be disgusted by the state of dutch frying oil, maybe there is some ineffable quality to raw herring that you could never experience without the dutch sensory equipment.

If this was true, the world would be one sorry place to live in. Fortunately, the world only acts like this is true and it exploits the fallacy of it all for profit. Fortunately there are those of us who know better.

It seems that you have a burning desire to believe that there only one "best" cuisine, and that that cuisine is french haute cuisine. What I'm saying is that maybe other people are built in such a way that similar gratification to that which you receive from french haute cuisine is available to them from other sources.

Not at all. I would like there to be a clear and bright line between good tasting food, and bad tasting food. It's my part in the effort to eliminate the bad tasting food from the world.

This difference only becomes a "flaw" or an "inferiority" if there is an absolute best cuisine, and the inability to properly appreciate it is some kind of social stigma. To you, maybe it is a moral failing to fail to genuflect before the altar of Ducasse and Robuchon. I'm not that judgmental.

This is wrong. The difference only becomes a "flaw" in the way you are using it, if it is genetic. Hopefully, whatever cultural issues have ailed the Dutch palate are now being corrected. In fact a few young Dutch chefs have published cookbooks about their cuisine. That's a start.

Edited by Steve Plotnicki (log)
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cdh, I think I misunderstood you - sorry.

Steve, I don't ask you to like pork. You're just wrong about the different quality of ingredients on each side of the Rhine. I wonder if the produce in Alsace got better and worse depending on whether it was part of France or Germany? :laugh:

I guess one main difference of opinion between us is that you think something like gefilte fish fails to penetrate markets because of a fact about its taste or texture. To me that seems crazy, because other markets love their own coarse-ground food, and other foods of which you disapprove. It seems obvious to me that something like gefilte fish doesn't have the cachet that quennelles de brochet do for historical and cultural reasons. If Jews had invented the restaurant things might be different.

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[Anybody know any science on olfactory cognition and the mechanics thereof?  I'm interested now...  And if I'm right, then I and my taste buds are also glad that the ancestors chose to intermarry w/ the French rather than the English.

As much as 80 percent of what we perceive as taste is actually smell. Humans can discern about 20,000 different odours and 10 or more intensities of each. Smell occurs when the odours reach the olfactory receptors in the nasal cavity via two routes - inhalation through the nostrils and through the back of the mouth as we chew and swallow.

http://www.eufic.org/gb/food/pag/food24/food242.htm

Nutrition studies in both humans and animals suggest that an expectant mother can influence the future food preferences of her child by the food choices she makes during pregnancy. Infants appear to respond most favorably and are more willing to try new foods when they are already familiar with the food’s odor before birth.

http://www.thenaturalconnection.net/TNC%20...hot_tamales.htm

A Danish study that measured patterns of regional preferences in taste of foods in Europe. Results suggest marked differences in preferences of taste (sweet, salty, sour), texture (crispy, fluid, melt in mouth), method of cooking (grill, fry, stew), along with other categories and criteria.

http://www.mapp.asb.dk/WPpdf/wp26.pdf

Universal taste??? Have fun.

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Why are sociology, culture, symbolism being so quickly dismissed?

I've said at least twice that I don't dismiss sociology, culture, and symbolism. I think they're as important as anything else. They're just not relevant to the actual food. The food has a physical reality independent of any of that. Likewise, none of that can alter the physical reality of the food in any way. In order to evaluate food -- especially for an audience that doesn't come from the culture that produced the food -- one needs to segregate the concepts so as to be able to explain what's what.

I’m no big fan of postmodern gobbledegook, but if you dismiss the above aren’t you overlooking the whole picture (context) in which food is eaten and people’s socialization process in things culinary.

Bearing in mind that I don't dismiss any of this, let me ask the inverse: If you don't sort out the reality of the food from the cultural context of the food, how can you do a good job explaining either the food or the context to anybody?

The wine expert informing the novice of the qualities of wine that may not on first taste be apparent is a socialization process, no?  To grade wine as crap or not without understanding the culture of wine wouldn’t get us far would it? (I predict the reply will be that wine socialization is objective and not cultural….hmmm.)

I'm not sure you're talking about the same type of phenomenon. The culture of wine tasting is about coming up with words and methods to describe wine. There's also a culture of wine that has to do with the history of wine, the romance of the grape, etc. They bear on wine evaluation in two different ways. To paint with a broad brush, I'd say the former is about the wine whereas the latter is about things other than the wine.

The idea that someone can objectively assess something out of context seems bizarre to me.  Don’t you think that a wafer taken in at Communion might taste different to the believer than to the atheist?

So what?

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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You keep confusing the concept of cuisine and what it is, and how people prepare the cuisine we are discussing. Flemish food and French derived Belgian food both taste good because the ingredient base is the same for each. But cross the border into Holland and the quality of the ingredients drops five fold or more.

So much for the bloody EU, then.

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The idea that someone can objectively assess something out of context seems bizarre to me.  Don’t you think that a wafer taken in at Communion might taste different to the believer than to the atheist?

So what?

If this is your best answer, then maybe you shouldn't be writing about food.

Although you differ from Plotinki in opinions, you both seem to think that (where food is concerned) you are supermen, whose subjective preferences are objectively more valuable.

When you eat in Japanese restaurant, do you use chopsticks?

Why?

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