The most important intellectual decision a person can make is what to be interested in, what to ‘know’. If you’re a student beginning a specialized education it’s called choosing a major. If you’re young, then it’s general knowledge. But you choose whether something is important enough to add to your knowledge and experience.
We follow our interests, and integrate knowledge into our lives.
But in our tastes we too often accept that the repertoire of our likes and dislikes is preordained, naturally correct.
What happens when we discover that our tastes have been decided by people who don’t give a damn about us?
What can we do when we discover that the things we’ve been eating, ‘liking’, for all of our lives, are harming us?
Then it’s time to teach ourselves what to like.
This may sound strange to a culture brought up on “I know what I like”
Few of us do, in any real sense.
If you look around you, you’ll discover that pretty much everything is described as ‘delicious’ or ‘yummy’ by someone.
It’s not enough to just want something, ‘like’ something, anymore. That worked for a hunter/gatherer culture. Today, we’re the ones being hunted. Our tastes have been the target of flavor chemists and Junk Food makers for three generations.
We have to choose what we want to want, and then target our own tastes, tailor our own desires.
The thing illustrated above contains cheese, bacon, ketchup, fried eggs, ice cream, pickles, ground beef, onions, tomatoes, and can be ordered on a pair of glazed donuts, if you’re feeling peckish.
Some people will describe this as yummy, or awesome.
But, just as scientific formulas must conform to the laws of physics, cuisine must fit a formula too, if it’s to do its job: Keeping us alive and healthy, with the greatest possible pleasure.
That means pleasure while we eat, pleasure the next day, and also the pleasure of having our legs still attached to us to carry a manageable body around for as long as possible.
Our tastes are hugely variable. Anything can become delicious. Why would you want to ‘want’ this Hamburger?
So here’s how this works. You take that hamburger above and you remove things. This is cooking in reverse.
First take away the obvious. The ice cream, the mayonnaise, and the donuts. What about the cheese? Take it away, for now. Then go Large. Take away the pickles and condiments, and of course the Bacon. Is Bacon good? Of course it is, it’s pure sex. Take it away, for now. When you get down to the meat and the bread, put some salt on it and taste it. Don’t just bite into it, taste it. If the bread’s bad, replace it with good bread. Can you taste the meat? Well, if you can’t, then get better quality meat, or find a way to get more flavor out of it. Flame broiled perhaps. Now ask yourself what’s missing. If you find that a flavor suggests itself, then try it, but be sure that it doesn’t kill the flavor of the meat. And remember, we can only taste about three distinct flavors at a time. Too many, and they either combine to form a new one, or they fight each other, and make mud. What’s the tomato, lettuce doing there? They’re mostly water. Would you dip a your hamburger in glass of water? Get rid of the them, for now. Or, if it’s a good tomato, maybe it deserves its own sandwich. I never tasted a good tomato that was improved by ground beef. If you like it, then leave it. But be sure.
Now, if you find you need something, try it. But don’t just put it there because that’s how it looks in the ads. That’s how we got here in the first place.
You can’t taste ads.