Metrics, Acuity, and Taste

How Does Your Dog Smell?

Acuity Ain’t All It’s Cracked Up To Be.


A Dog’s’s sense of smell is a million times more sensitive than yours.

Mythical Sommelliers can identify Appellation, vineyard, vintage, of a wine with a single taste, but compared to an average dog, the Sommellier is a block of wood.  And yet, humans possess something infinitely more valuable: Imagination, and the dimension of refined taste. There’s clearly more to this than just sensitivity. What about your taste? Does it matter? Well, because another person can never taste exactly what you taste, your taste can only be compared to itself at another time. And that uniqueness makes your tastes meaningful.

In the realm of the senses, acuity is often thought of as a most desirable skill. But it’s not a skill, it’s a faculty, an innate ability. Nor is it always desirable. As we know from ‘super-tasters’, those people who have an over-abundance of taste receptors on their tongues, it can be a burden.

There are ways to train our tastes, but usually this relies on interpretation rather than acuity. We can all taste to one degree or another, but how to interpret those signals, order them, understand them is what defines your tastes.

Taste is the indefinable, the elusive Grail. There’s not much to think about, just develop what you have in a natural way, and the best way to ensure clear taste is simply not to screw up what you have. Play the hand you’ve been dealt, with confidence and an open mind. Your tastes exist in the privacy of your imagination. It’s your palate and you make the rules.

What draws us to over-emphasize acuity is that it’s measurable, and that makes it comfortable. But, it’s your imagination which gives it meaning.

Which brings us to…



The obsession with quantification is another sign of insecurity. We always want to know how much, how often, and we judge things by size, by duration. Totally High School…boasting, testifying, taking endless photos, proofs. What could be more boring than pictures of yesterday’s dinner? I used to photograph food professionally, but it never occurred to us to photograph something we were about to eat, and we certainly never ate the food we shot, after hours of styling, prep, and hot lights. This new phenomenon isn’t about food, it’s like photographing yourself kissing. Kids comparing notes about last night’s (purported) conquests.

Foodies are like teenage boys who’ve just discovered lace panties, (and what’s in them). They don’t like to acknowledge that others before them enjoyed sex—even though they’re living proof of it.

They can have their fun, and we can have fun making fun of that fun, but concentrate on the essential, the eternal: taste. You can’t taste a photograph, no matter how pretty, so what’s the point? Testifying. Proof. Veni, Vedi, Vesci. These are markers, our version of the fire hydrant, the fence post. They define our territory, and make us feel safe.

Imagination takes chances. Imagination can not be measured.

Next week, The Language Of Taste.

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