Tagged: Culture

Mom, Satan, And The Origins Of Taste

“You shouldn’t say it is not good. You should say, you do not like it; and then, you know, you’re perfectly safe.”

~James Whistler

whistlers-mother-for-blog…Than Whom Few Knew More About Taste…Or Mothers.

To understand taste, we need to understand its origins. We need to understand what we’re born with, and what we learn. When we understand the source of our own preferences, we’re better prepared to express, defend, or evaluate them.

First, let’s divide taste into three: Global, or Macro tastes which are common to our species, Cultural, or Medi tastes, those which we share with our culture and our families, and Personal or Micro tastes.

Macro Tastes decide what keeps us alive. These are true tastes; they’re not arguable, they’re not subjective. This is the set of choices which have evolved with the resources of our environment and our bodies. The basis of Macro Taste is Biology.

Medi-Tastes are what we’ve discovered and chosen as a people. These are a combination of tastes and preferences. Medi Taste is biological too, but influenced by geography, whether, and temperament. This is culture, and like all culture it’s bound to its source.


Never Let Your Tastes Betray You.

Micro tastes can include fetishes, favorites, bad habits, and sentimental associations. These are preferences. Although we use the word, they don’t really have to do with tastes because they’re too personal, too idiosyncratic. They’re what you like, and that’s all. Here is the inner-kingdom, the place where we all can find our comfort zone. But beware! You contravene nature at your peril! So many of our personal tastes are nearly arbitrary, accidents of place or time. We may forever hate a food which we associate with an illness, or our parents’ divorce. This is why tastes are never arguable, but quite clearly accountable if we look closely enough.

The universal comfort food, the essential food of all humans, is milk. No matter how our opinion may change with later acculturation of our tastes, no normal human, nor any mammal for that matter, will ever have a better meal then its Mother’s milk. This is the Human Baseline.

Beyond that, the tastes created in your first five years or so will become your comfort zone. Also, your culture zone, because if your first meal of milk was the essence of biological taste, meals with family and friends form the tastes of your culture.

But always there is the personal, and as you develop confidence and independence, you’re going to create your own repertoire of flavors which you prefer. Nothing makes these good but your own choice, and that’s wonderful, but it can lead to problems. Remember, you’re not condemned to bad decisions, you can adapt them, re-invent them. These choices can re-form your personal tastes, and, through the filter of biology, you’ll create a personal range of tastes which will never betray you.

The brings us to deliciousness, yummyness and awesomeness. Next week.


Grandmothers And Other Revolutionaries

Well. it turns out that the revolution was televised after all. The food revolution that is. (By the way, They won. More later)

But now that it’s about over and the real work begins, it’s time to think about what can replace the hype, help us satisfy the longing for meaning that we all share.  Are we going forward, or are we circling in a cul-de-sac of celebrity chefs and TV cooking shows? One thing we can be sure of: change won’t happen on the food network, or even in restaurants.

 Restaurants are the trophies of any culinary culture, the flower of the hard work which went before, but they’re not meaningful in themselves. Go to any country where the food culture is not dosed out between advertisements, or painted onto plates with squeeze bottles, and ask a citizen to describe a great meal. Most likely they’ll speak of a family meal, usually prepared by a Mother or Grandmother. That culture is integrated into the lives of the people, and across generations.

Why Grandmothers? Because Grandmothers, who are also Mothers of course, provided the most important meal of all, the one meal in nature, unique to mammals, which binds generations in a simultaneous embrace of physical and emotional nourishment: Mother’s Milk. Continue reading