The Architecture of Taste: Part II

The Cultural Womb

A human being is a cultural sponge. This accounts for much progress in our biology and our society. Change is driven by random mutations and then by imagination, curiosity, and chance.

As the human race began its colonization of the earth, creative eating and cooking, especially cooking, were powerful elements in our strategy for domination. Cooking of meats allowed us to preserve what we hunted and to thaw it out over fire, allowing us to live in frozen parts of the world, storing our resources for later consumption. Diversification of our diet allowed us to free ourselves of geographical restrictions. Humans, the voracious omnivores, adapted to any and all conditions and never looked back. We’ll eat anything, and therefore we can live nearly everywhere. We may seem fragile, but we’re able to survive in the most extreme condition thanks to our willingness to adapt.

Strategies for survival end up as part of the culture. That’s the beautiful dance of cultural evolution. And that’s the key to its success: it’s an evolution. Because that means that each point of its development is useful and worthy, or it would be discarded. We incorporate a local herb into our stew and discover over time whether its good for us. And only those things that work, The Fittest, survive. Our tastes evolve along with the discoveries we make about our environment, (our Terroir). When that evolution is guided by market opportunity, we can end up with horrifying results.

Do you really think that when the miracle of inter uterine bio-luminescence is achieved The Coca Cola company won’t try to co-opt birth itself?

Geophagy and You

Animals are bound to the earth in ways we hardly think about. Parrots lick clay deposits for minerals, and Elephants burrow deep into ponds with their trunks to seek nutrition from soil deposits under them. Humans, too, eat clay and earth, with almost no cultural encouragement. This demonstrates the depth of our relationship with the earth and a natural understanding of our needs. Not liking dirt doesn’t change that. We need it, and our bodies know it.

And, it turns out we don’t need as much Coke and mayonnaise as we thought. “Liking” it doesn’t change that either. Deciding to not like it is where we have to begin.

We need to train our desires, naturally, by the use of our instincts, or unnaturally by the use of our brains.

The first thing our brains can tell us is that we must never listen to food marketers. They don’t want the same things we want.

It’s up to us to design our own tastes.


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