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emhahn

3 Most Important Elements of a Plate...

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For some reason many find the possibility of the scores being higher in the "elaborate presentation" group a threat to balanced restaurant reviews. I don't see it that way as the presentation doesn't constitute the whole, only a part

No. For some reason you keep confusing restaurant reviewing with tasting. Tasting is a specific thing that happens to be subsumed within restaurant reviewing.

And they are not on equal planes. Tasting is like the foundation of a building. No foundation, no building. Same here. If it doesn't taste good, it can't be a good dish no matter what. They are not equivelents. They are sequential.

I'm not suggesting that they'd consciously let it affect their score. My thesis is that presentation unconsciously affects the way we taste

something.

Well you can't argue with this reasonable statement. But the issue is, how much can a diner be manipulated when you are talking about first class ingredients?

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For some reason many find the possibility of the scores being higher in the "elaborate presentation" group a threat to balanced restaurant reviews. I don't see it that way as the presentation doesn't constitute the whole, only a part

No. For some reason you keep confusing restaurant reviewing with tasting. Tasting is a specific thing that happens to be subsumed within restaurant reviewing.

Steve, I'm not confusing the two. I was repsonding to macrosan's worry that if posters let presentation affect taste then posts on eGullet would have little merit.

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Maybe, but the sole point is to compare scores on "taste".

Not my sole point, Yvonne. I'm not a better/worse fetishist :wink: My main interest is in experiencing the flavour, hopefully enjoying it, and if I'm in the mood trying to impart my experience to others.

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This thread, in its meandering way, is bringing out some profound misconceptions. First, I agree there's a way things are "supposed to" taste, if by that one means that - all conditions being equal - they will usually taste that way. Included in the "all conditions being equal" qualification are things like:

- the tasters must be adults (and apparently not elderly)

- the tasters certainly have to have the same "hard-wiring" and be healthy

- the taster probably need to come from the same cultural/geographical purview (we could debate how much that's true)

- the tasters mustn't be tasting this thing after or alongside anything which affects the taste

- any other extraneous factors which might complicate the results, including possibly presentation, need to be subtracted

Given that these and other conditions are satisfied, there may be general agreement on how the thing in question tastes. At the same time, these examples demonstrate unequivocally that taste is influenced by factors other than those intrinsic to what's being tasted.

Anyone think baby formula tastes the same to adults as it does to babies? Well, there are people on this thread who'll tell you it's exactly the same damn stuff in the bottle so how the hell can the taste vary???

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Anyone think baby formula tastes the same to adults as it does to babies? Well, there are people on this thread who'll tell you it's exactly the same damn stuff in the bottle so how the hell can the taste vary???

You were doing well until you got up to this. I submit, this type of example is outside the scope of the dining experience. And as such, invalidates any claims based on it.

To make your point, and this is for the benefit of others who argue that taste is perception, you have to stick within the confines of what we would reaonably call the fine dining experience. The only way you can accurately assess how much presentation adds to a dish, is by sticking to those parameters.


Edited by Steve Plotnicki (log)

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You were doing well until you got up to this. I submit, this type of example is outside the scope of the dining experience. And as such, invalidates any claims based on it.

To make your point, and this is for the benefit of others who argue that taste is perception, you have to stick within the confines of what we would reaonably call the fine dining experience. The only way you can accurately assess how much presentation adds to a dish, is by sticking to those parameters.

I am not addressing the presentation issue here. I am addressing the position struck by Fat Bloke early in the thread, and others later, that presentation can't affect the taste of food, because the taste is determined by what is literally on the plate. No-one said that was the case only for fine dining - on the contrary, it was advanced as a self-evident generalisation.

I have demonstrated that the position is unsustainable - and the baby formula example is a good one. This means that people who contend presentation can't affect taste have to find a different and better argument.

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Maybe, but the sole point is to compare scores on "taste".

Not my sole point, Yvonne. I'm not a better/worse fetishist :wink: My main interest is in experiencing the flavour, hopefully enjoying it, and if I'm in the mood trying to impart my experience to others.

I think this thread is moving away from the opening premises and claims (this has never happened before!).

Macrosan, I don't think anyone would disagree with you--we want to experience, enjoy and impart. What I was describing above was the role of the "gourmet" in the experiment. I'm saying the sole point to the experiment would be to rate the "taste" of dishes (some plainly, others elaborately presented).

At issue is the argument that diners can somehow extricate taste from context. Research cited on this thread does not support this idea, and the proponents of the argument that this is indeed possible have not put forth any evidence that they can rate dishes holding in abeyance presentation. The proponents simply stick to the belief that this possible.

G. and I were talking yesterday about an experiment Blumenthal did, I believe. It goes something like this: ice cream will taste different depending on whether the diner strokes sand-paper or velvet while eating. The senses are all intertwined. To be able to leave out tactile (outside of mouth) and visual cues while eating seems near impossible.

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You were doing well until you got up to this. I submit, this type of example is outside the scope of the dining experience. And as such, invalidates any claims based on it.

To make your point, and this is for the benefit of others who argue that taste is perception, you have to stick within the confines of what we would reaonably call the fine dining experience. The only way you can accurately assess how much presentation adds to a dish, is by sticking to those parameters.

I am not addressing the presentation issue here. I am addressing the position struck by Fat Bloke early in the thread, and others later, that presentation can't affect the taste of food, because the taste is determined by what is literally on the plate. No-one said that was the case only for fine dining - on the contrary, it was advanced as a self-evident generalisation.

I have demonstrated that the position is unsustainable - and the baby formula example is a good one. This means that people who contend presentation can't affect taste have to find a different and better argument.

I think you are being too philosophical here. "Can't" doesn't mean "in all possible worlds this is not the case" -- it just means "doesn't" but emphatically. It is a mistake to try to over-analyse these discussions -- it assumes more precision than is being used.

I think we probably all agree that in most cases presentation does affect the taste of the food -- and there is good evidence for this. What is at stake (steak?) is whether there exists an elite group of gourmets who have trained themselves to be immune to these distractions. Perhaps my carefully neutral description reveals what I think of these claims :raz: .

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You mean we needn't get into a discussion about scope of modal operators? Well that's a relief. I know people are speaking loosely, but I disagree somewhat that it doesn't matter. Endless threads on eGullet spring from people being unwilling to define their terms and use them consistently. My philosophical bent on this thread was prompted by the absolute terms in which early posters dismissed the possibility that taste could be affected by anything other than the food in and of itself, vide Fat Bloke:

"Again, semantics. Yes, if taste includes perception of taste, all sorts of things other than actual taste can affect it. But surely you don't think the food is actually changed by these externalities?"

and again

"As I've said before, if subjective perception is the issue, of course perception can be influenced by a million things. If it is, as I have posited for the purposes of having a discussion that makes sense, 'the objective, physical reality of food,' it cannot be influenced by cosmetic changes."

Hence my doubtless dull but nonetheless valid point that, unless taste is identical with some aspect of the food's "objective, physical reality" - in which case the taste would necessarily occur wherever that reality occurred, which it clearly does not - I fail to see what evidence underlies that very bold and emboldened "cannot".

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I have demonstrated that the position is unsustainable - and the baby formula example is a good one. This means that people who contend presentation can't affect taste have to find a different and better argument.

I don't think your data proves anything. For it to be meaningful, you would have to show that the same person tasted it differently. Switching from a baby to an adult doesn't prove anything.

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Not data, a logical argument. If taste is identical to some aspect of the food's physical or chemical properties, then it is necessarily identical to those properties and will occur wherever those properties occur. It's like if I were identical to Bux, I couldn't show up without Bux showing up. But we know that the same physical and chemical properties are present when taste varies. You can do that with a baby and an adult, or the same adult with and without a severe head cold. It doesn't matter. This demonstrates, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that something is relevant to taste other than the "objective, physical" properties of the food.

We have seen a multitude of candidates which that something might be - including the physical and chemical disposition of the tasters taste organs (which you think might impress people advancing the "objective, physical" properties argument). Unless you have an argument which shows that presentation of the food cannot be that something, or cannot have any effect on that something, the abrupt dismissal of the claim that presentation might have an effect is hot air.

Of course, a lot of experienced eaters in good health taste a lot of things (not everything) pretty much the same, despite these extraneous factors. We could discuss why that is, rather than prolonging a debate (which to be fair I don't think you set up) about whether such factors can influence "actual taste".

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Let's take an example where presentation is not only equal to but often more important than taste. The Kaiseki dinner is a ritualistic series of 7 to 10 tiny courses that follows a prescribed order that Dorothy Kalins in Saveur describes as "with so many art forms, style is key and presentation is all."

The chef not only expresses himself and his style through the food, but in the artful way he presents it. This even extends to the "vessels themselves, a different one for each course: Are they rough pottery, red lacquer or fine blue-and-white porcelain? Round, square or oblong?" In fact, many of the best kaiseki chefs design their own pottery as well as the tableware. The chef is "acutely sensitive to the importance of choosing the right dish or bowl to express the integrity and seasonality of his ingredients." (As an aside, Thomas Keller is in the process of having dishes made by Limoges to complement and enhance his dishes.)

Now, as to the issue of the constant of taste and tasters, there is a huge range of ability. A taster's expertise is not just a matter of his experience or knowledge. Scientists have discovered a genetic component to taste. There are super-tasters who have more fungiform papillae and therefore "feel" foods more intensely. In Savoring Flavoring by Helen Bauch she quotes Linda Bartoshuk: "This is like reaching up and feeling something with 500 fingers as opposed to 50. Super-tasters feel more 'burn' from substances such as ginger, alcohol, the carbon dioxide in soda and the capsaicin in chili peppers. Bitter tastes bitterer; salt a bit saltier, sour sharper and some sweets sweeter.... Bartoshuk has found that about 25% of the U.S. population are super-tasters, 50% are tasters and 25% are non-tasters." Hopefully our restaurant critics don't belong to that last category.

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Once, in the new wing the National Gallery at about 4:00 pm on a winter's afternoon, I was looking at a picture. At that precise moment, the artificial lighting came on and the picture 'changed' before my eyes. The colours were different, spatiallly it appeared flatter, etc.

The point is that the picture remained the same in every way. What changed was the way I percieved it. I changed the picture.

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G. and I were talking yesterday about an experiment Blumenthal did,

The truth of this sentence would be better served by replacing the verb, "did" with, "invoked".

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Once, in the new wing the National Gallery at about 4:00 pm on a winter's afternoon, I was looking at a picture. At that precise moment, the artificial lighting came on and the picture 'changed' before my eyes. The colours were different, spatiallly it appeared flatter, etc.

The point is that the picture remained the same in every way. What changed was the way I percieved it. I changed the picture.

Lewis - I didn't know you had a sappy side to you.

Otherwise that is what I have been saying, You changed and the picture stayed the same.

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Lewis - I didn't know you had a sappy side to you.

I don't, I was considering stealing it.

Otherwise that is what I have been saying, You changed and the picture stayed the same.

I'm not sure this is what you've been saying, but anyway, although I changed the picture, it was beyond my control.

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Good, we're all agreed now. Which is just as well, as Mr Shaw, with his "actual taste" theory, bailed on the thread pages back.

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And so taste is perception.

It's not. Taste is about the ability to notice things properly. I can't stress the word properly enough, especially the ability to notice which elements are present and work in harmony with other elements. And while that might include noticing and appreciating enhancements, which change perceptions, it will always be about the ability to notice what is actually there, not what is only percieved to be there.

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Just when I think I'm out, they drag me back in.

-Michael Corleone

It's not. Taste is about the ability to notice things properly. I can't stress the word properly enough, especially the ability to notice which elements are present and work in harmony with other elements. And while that might include noticing and appreciating enhancements, which change perceptions, it will always be about the ability to notice what is actually there, not what is only percieved to be there.

Scenario 1 - A molecule of food is brought to your table. It smells divine. It looks gorgeous. Your mouth waters. Being a responsible taster, you note your mouth is watering. You think - a ha, clever chef. He/She is exploiting the capacity to enchant all my senses, not just one. You put the molecule in your mouth. It tastes divine, helped along by your watering mouth.

Scenario 2 - A molecule of food is brought to your table. It smells divine. It looks gorgeous. Your mouth does not water. You think this chef is trying to harness all my sense but it ain't working. I wonder why? You analyse the reasons. You put the molecule in your mouth. It tastes divine, but not the same as when you were helped along by your watering mouth.

Scenario 3 - A molecule of food is brought to your table. It smells divine. It looks gorgeous. Your mouth waters. Being a responsible taster, you note your mouth is watering. You think - a ha, clever chef. He/She is exploiting the capacity to enchant all my senses, not just one. You put the molecule in your mouth. It tastes like crap. You never go back to that restaurant.

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Just when I think I'm out, they drag me back in.

-Michael Corleone

Perhaps we should just organize a telling Plotnicki he's wrong rota. I'll take the 10 to 2 EST shift.

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I'd hoped that we could come here and reason together. And as a reasonable man I'm willing to do whatever is necessary to find a peaceful solution to this problem.

Vito Corleone

:laugh:

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