Wednesday, 4 February 2009

To make up for yesterday...

...I will attempt to write TWO (yes, count 'em, two) blogs today! I am hoping that by doing one now I can then undertake another one in a few hours time.

I was just reading an article about in taste in food. According to this author, taste is dictated to us through media outlets such as TV commercials, magazines, supply at supermarkets, and the officiating presence of mass-produced cookbooks. Now, this is quite a grand statement. To assume that taste is not, in fact, something which we develop as children and then carry with us all our lives (which has traditionally been a common theme in Social studies of food behavior). No, this article is assuming that we are so weak-minded that our taste for what is "good" or "bad" can be swayed by the media and popular culture.

I am not claiming that either of these theories is wrong...but I don't believe that either of them are independently correct either. As children, we learn culture through seeing it, experiencing it, and recreating it. We learn from our families and whatever influences our parents expose us to. This leads to patterned behavior, which in food-land, means that we develop a taste for what is yum, and what is not so yum. We also in childhood learn habits, such as eating at certain times of day, eating certain types of meals, and eating certain foods in certain ways. This is where kids (at least in America) learn that sugar= the best and broccoli= not so yum. These habits and beliefs become so ingrained within us that as we get older, it becomes harder and harder to see various ways of eating, and types of unknown products as "food".

On the other side of the debate, research HAS shown that by promoting a product in an attractive way, people will be more willing to buy it. This is especially true in regards to food. We all need it to survive. Most of us like it. So it can be quite easy to be sold on an item of food from a commercial or magazine. Of course, this is assuming that the food being promoted is not SO foreign as to be seen as taboo or inedible by the audience.

And there are always the exceptions to the rules. There are people who are always interested in new types of food. They thrive off of new experiences (culinarily, in this context), and they are always open to experience "New" tastes. Also, there are those people who never try new things, no matter who endorses it or what the product consists of.

These first people go against the former theory, and may be considered victims of the latter. The second group may be seen as champions of the former and enemies of the latter.

But in my point of view, they are both neither here nor there. Being cultured a certain way, most people will always find ways to make the unfamiliar familiar through the addition of comfortable ingredients, cooking methods, or ways of eating. They either will or will not become prey to the media's endless onslaught of ideas as to the edibility and desirability of numerous products. Others will not jump in the car and hit their nearest supermarket for the new fad food because of dietary restrictions, yet they may find ingenious ways to try new foods outside of the mediated brand names who pay for their products to be (figuratively) shoved down our throats. The things that are harder to change are habits surrounding food. When food is eaten, where it is eaten, and in what quantity. These things take conscious effort to change. Taste is much more subtle a thing.

What I'm trying (not so eloquently...i'm tired) to say is that we cannot theorize on the concept of "taste" in regards to food. Our taste buds change our entire life, and with globalization our choices are constantly changing too. Culture shifts are nebulous, and we usually cannot see how an outside influence is changing a group or society until after the fact. Hindsight is 20/20, and Heinz' sight is 360...but that doesn't mean they influence us all in the same way.

So don't assume that you will NEVER eat Escargots...or that the burgers and fries you eat are eaten by some sort of free will devoid of cultural influence. Change happens, tastes change.

1 comment:

Darleen said...

There's a lot of truth in your blog... also, a lot of speculation. But I think all the points make sense to some degree. But just like in art, exposure, availability and context all make a huge difference to how it (also food) is received by the public. All I know is... I love eating. And I feel sorry for people with bad taste. Hahahaha. Yummm... I want latkes.