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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Theory of the what?

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More general food philosophizing here……a somewhat platonian take on nutrition…..

So I’m taking a few liberties with Plato, twisting his words around, and re-visiting him….a couple of millennia later. Plato wasn’t exactly into food…..but if I stretch, knead and bake his ideas a little bit, I can use them to illustrate a little food musing……

Take his Theory of the Forms…..(and I’d like to thank SparkNotes for refreshing my memory on the specifics)….the gist of this theory is that there are TWO levels of reality/existence. There is the so-called “real world” – where we actually are, and then the world of Forms, which stands apart from the real world and gives it substance. Not that that makes any sense.

But basically, if you take this from a food perspective, in addition to being able to judge whether food is delicious or not, we also have a general concept of what deliciousness really is. The only reason that we can say a certain food is good is that we have an abstract concept of this goodness. All this to say that tasty things we eat are tasty only because they are a part of a more general form of Taste, which is actually unchanging, impervious to time (unlike tasty food, which, most definitely, loses all notions of tastiness within a given amount of time). For example, you could eat a wonderful salad today, and it would be tasty….but if you were to eat that exactly SAME salad again tomorrow, it would be limp, yucky and overall disgusting (especially if you’re like me and have a tendancy not to wash your dishes as promptly as you really should).

And if you stretch this marginal theory a bit…..let’s say you eat a fast-food burger. Now, on the menu, you’ll have a picture of a burger that looks perfect – it looks juicy (thanks to food dye and glycerine), it looks beefy (thanks to being cut down the middle and opened up so proportion is larger….), it has delectable sesame seeds (most of which have been glued on), a crisp bun (because it’s protected from the burger with rounds of cardboard) and overall is a perfect form of what a fast food burger should be. So when you are anxiously awaiting your own burger, and you open it up….and it is soggy, goopy, limp and overall lame…..you still eat it. Why? Is it because you have this perfect idea of what it should be, waiting in your head?

Or………let’s say you have a perfect idea of what a chocolate cheesecake should be……it should be rich, decadent, chocolatey, resistant, melting in your mouth and something to savour….it should be rich chocolate perfection on your plate. And let’s say you order such a cheesecake at a chain restaurant…..in your head you have these visions of perfection. And what arrives is oversweetened, whipped (and hence not resistant), not very chocolatey, inferior sorry specimen of said cheesecake.

What do you do?

You eat it anyway. And again, why? You have this vision of perfection and when you encounter inferiority, you accept it….perhaps because the vision you have of perfection is transcending the dark nasty blob of sugar on your plate?

A more timely example (on this blog at least) could be some of those much-harangued meat substitutes…..when a reluctant vegan (and let’s face it, they do exist…..those who love the taste of meat but can’t eat it on ethical grounds) eats one of those processed soy packages of ick….what are they tasting? Are they buoyed by grilled perfection? Can they accept this as a form of what they are missing?

And even those of us who are food obsessed really aren’t much different….one of my favourite dishes is really yummy macaroni and cheese, made with strong strong cheddar and just overall, amazing comfort food. And yet I’ll eat kraft dinner. And enjoy it. And have seconds.

I don’t really have any answers on this random rambling here……....

Thanks for reading my nutty musings. Real post to follow.....

1 comment:

Snacks from the cruise buffet said...

Just found your blog from a google search [on freezing eggplant, if you must know], and ended up at this post which i loved. which goes to show that blog posts have a longer shelf life than vegetables...
snacks from the cruise buffet [a blog that is *not* focused on food though i do love to eat]

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