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Food and senses

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  • 1. Anthropology and Sociology of Food Prelude Why do we eat what we eat, select one dish from the menu in preference to another, choose one particular kind of restaurant or use a take-away? Why are these dishes on the menu in the first place? Is it because the chef likes them, the customer or the consumer wants them or is this the only food available – what actually dictates what we eat? (Stipanuk, D.M and Roffman.H; 1996) Maybe the following quote may explain why? “To give life to beauty, the painter uses a whole range of colours, musicians of sounds, the cook of tastes -- and it is indeed remarkable that there are seven colours, seven musical notes and seven tastes." -Lucien Tendret (1825-1896) 'La Table au pays de Brillat-Savarin'. Your senses are the important gateway for receiving information about the world around you and what is being communicated to you. By processing the information you receive through your senses, you gain knowledge, allowing you to respond by talking, writing or using some other means of communication (http://www.school-for-champions.com/senses.htm). The simple physical model of five senses localised in five organs (eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and hand/skin) and connected to the brain by the limbic system. In other terms „what it is we see-when we look, hear when we listen, or smell, taste or touch‟ was hardly ever a topic of investigation. G.I. Gurdjieff taught that man takes in three different types of „food‟, ranging from gross to subtle. The grossest form is food and water, taken in through the mouth. A subtler form of „food‟ is air, taken in through the nose. The most subtle form of „food‟ is sensory impressions, taken in through the senses. In each case, the organism must „digest‟ what is taken in, such that it can separate what it can use from what it cannot, transmute the usable into energy, and excrete the unusable. ( http://www.gornahoor.net/?cat=99) 1
  • 2. Anthropology and Sociology of Food Sense the Senses ‘What do diners perceive, how do they interact with the food, and how do they experience food that looks like other food or non-food?’ Philosophy has had recourse to a highly varied vocabulary to describe „food‟: Indulgent, soothing, comforting, satisfying, gratifying, and enjoyable. Food is the ultimate gift for any occasion and is a universally understood language. During times of happiness, stress, sorrow, and celebration, food always takes centre stage. It provides an indulgence that cannot be satisfied in any other way. Eating relieves tension and gives us a sense of well-being and comfort. I had always believed that anthropological studies of food were overly concerned with staple crops, ignoring the fact that food had flavour and was enjoyed and relished by those who ate and prepared it. (Adapon, 2008). Food prepared by a culinary artist makes diners feel that „Life is wonderful‟ rather than „That was delicious.‟ Therefore we recognize culinary artistry by the power of the food to perform a sensual change in the eaters, physically enhancing their experience of life. It is the flavour of the food, encompassing taste, texture, smell, sight and hearing which chefs/culinary artists are able to manipulate to make the eater‟s experience transcend the moment. (Adapon, 2008). Close your eyes and imagine simple food at the end of a weary day, say, some roast fish, a little piece of meat, braised slowly in its own juices, the flavours rounded out with a hint of butter. Or a simply roasted vegetable, its sugars intensified into caramel, but still essentially, recognizable, itself. In fact, when prepared well, simple food can have an integrity and depth of flavour, that, fancier dishes may lack. (Colicchio, 2003) The reason...? People crave for gratification and food certainly stands up to the test. It tantalizes the senses of sight, touch, hearing, smell and taste like nothing else. Food quickly elicits comforting and warming sensations - both physically and mentally (Day, 2008). Our senses are an integral part of digestion and in fact, back in the days of the caveman before food processing, they served to prepare our body for the digestion process. This is why 2
  • 3. Anthropology and Sociology of Food we salivate at the sight and smell of good food. When we salivate, we release digestive enzymes that start the digestive process in our mouth . (http://www.healthplans.com/articledetails.php?menuid=10&articleid=4739). Appreciating the Senses The forming of the five senses is a labour of the entire history down to the present. - Karl Marx,(1844) Anyone who sets out to explore the material world of the past and present is faced with an almost impenetrable tangle of stubbornly surviving images, metaphors, themes and representations (Jütte, 2005). The common sense is also responsible for relating together the data from all the senses producing an impression of an entire object. (Korsmeyer, 1999) "The distinction of the senses is arbitrary." –Marinetti From colour, rising steam, gloss, and texture, we infer taste, smell, and feel, as well as whether the food in question is supposed to have been fried, roasted, baked, steamed, and grilled, and whether it is hot or cold. When you eat some of your favourite food, you might say that it tastes good. But what you really mean is that it has a good flavour. What you sense in eating food is a combination of the taste that your tongue senses, the smell of the food that your nose senses, and the texture of the food, felt by the tongue and other parts of the mouth. These three senses of taste, smell and touch make of the sensation of flavour. TASTE Taste is something we anticipate and infer from how things look, feel to the hand, smell (outside the mouth), and sound. We use these sensory experiences to tell, before putting something into the mouth, if it is fresh, ripe, or rotten, if it is raw or cooked, if it is properly prepared. Our survival, both biological and social, depends on such cues. So does our pleasure. 3
  • 4. Anthropology and Sociology of Food The tongue can recognize salty, bitter, sweet and sour tastes. These simple tastes alone do not really identify the flavor of the food. Smell and touch must be included. Taste, which has as its excitement appetite, hunger and thirst, is the basis of many operations the result of which is that the individual believes, developes, preserves and repairs the losses occasioned by vital evaporation. LOOKING GOOD Visual aspects of food are no less essential to it. First, appetite is influenced by sight. Second, the eyes are bigger than the stomach. What you see makes a difference. Your eyes not only appreciate quantity of food, but color. Milk is white, beans are green, beets are red, lamb is brown, and corn is yellow. By upsetting the expected color patterns your eyes can be further deceived. For example, a plate of sliced white-meat turkey, mashed potatoes, and cauliflower will look bland. If you are accustomed to seeing a full plate as you sit down for a meal, you eat and feel satisfied. ( http://its-my-blog.com/the-eye-appeal-of-food) AROMA ABOUNDS The sense of smell is very powerful and can evoke memories of good times past and accounts for the bulk of what is tasted. Aroma is responsible for the distinctive and subtle nuances which characterize various dishes. We recognize foods by their characteristic odors, not tastes. When you eat, aromas from the food will waft up into your nasal passages, especially after breaking up the food during chewing. The scent of flowers can dull the palate and affect the taste of food, so strongly scented flowers, such as lilies or gardenias, should not be used in a table center piece or near the food on a buffet. Using sliced citrus or crushed cloves in the center piece gives the table an appetizing aroma.( http://its-myblog.com/the- eye-appeal-of-food) TOUCH There are three senses involved in touch. One being the texture, second being is the sense of pressure and the other is the sense of temperature. 4
  • 5. Anthropology and Sociology of Food Textures are important. A combination of crisp, firm, smooth, and soft foods in a meal is ideal. For instance: think of the perfect silk of the cured fish, marinated just until its cooked but no longer, finished with sea-salt and a dash of olive oil. Or the pillowy loft of hand-formed gnocchi, tossed only in aged Parmigiano- Reggiano and butter, each one a cloud of the purest potato flavour. (Colicchio,2003) Pressure: While you are chewing the hardness and consistency of the food is sensed in your mouth. Some foods just seem pleasurable to chew and manipulate in your mouth. Material with the same taste and smell may not bring about a good flavor if it doesn't feel right in your mouth. A rubbery steak may have a good taste, but its consistency will ruin its flavor. The temperature of the food it another factor in flavor. Some food simply have a better flavor when warm or hot. But also, the heat helps to give off aromas that can add to the flavor. Of course, food that is so hot in temperature that it burns the roof of your mouth is not pleasant to eat. (Shock.P.J, 2009) Although you may say food tastes good, what you really mean is that it has a good flavor. What you sense in eating food is a combination of the taste that your tongue senses, the smell of the food that your nose senses, and the texture of the food, felt by the tongue and other parts of the mouth. These three senses of taste, smell and touch make of the sensation of flavor. (Kurtus,R, 2005) 5
  • 6. Anthropology and Sociology of Food LET THERE BE LIGHT Close your eyes, and imagine yourself blindfolded and knowing not what your eating for an entire meal. Completely blind to the surroundings, holding a glass of wine and the meal served on the table what will your experience be..? Such visual enticements and their auspicious effect on taste are now a blind spot in the panorama of Dark Dining. (Mark R. Vogel, 2009) The task of the stylist here is to "show" sensory experiences that are invisible, or more accurately, to provide gustatory and olfactory stimuli cues that we associate with, even in the absence of visual perceptions (Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, 1999). Cooking is perhaps the only art form that entices all five senses. Taste and touch are simultaneously engaged with the first bite. Sweet, savory, bitter, a spectrum of flavors stroke the tongue, while temperature and texture evoke other observations. The presentation of a dish entertains the eyes. Subtle garnishes not only enhance flavor, but provide a visual hint of what is to come. Even the plate participates in the experience. A delicate, ceramic rice bowl versus a classic diner plate. And of course, the aromas! Five minutes before any dish is served, and your nose is already salivating. Further, unlike other art forms, food actively engages the participant. You don‟t merely observe food. You digest it. It physically becomes a part of you. Regardless of whether or not the dish was a complete success or utter failure, food evokes a response. Pair food with wine, with music, with decor, with events even whatever the pairing, food serves to bring people together. ( KMET.C.T, 2010) 6
  • 7. Anthropology and Sociology of Food Creating Chemistry Our senses have a keen ability to detect differences in a variety of stimuli in the environment. For instance childhood memories of homemade jam, the aroma of freshly baked cake and the mystical properties of asafoetida have led many to their true calling. Food nourishes our bodies, tantalizes our senses, and inspires our creativity. Moreover, it permeates our cultural traditions and helps define who we are. (http://www.chicagohumanities.org/Genres/Philosophy/2010-Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner-AnAnthropologists-View.aspx) Locked within food‟s molecules are not only the elements required to provide energy and maintain a sound physical structure, but this chemistry also mediates our thinking, emotions, moods, attitudes, stamina, and vigour; acts as protection from disease; and sets the tone for our entire state of well-being. Eating was meant to be a pleasurable experience. Certainly the vast array of sumptuous tastes, colors, and textures which nature provides indicates that food was designed to appeal to our senses (common sense included), and that satisfying the body’s requirements for nutrients should not have to come at the expense of pleasing flavor, aroma, visual appeal, and variety (Jen, 1999). Understanding each element of a dish and bringing together the correct spices, herbs and flavours to a plate is not any ordinary task. The artist would use various ingredients such as a succulent piece of salmon, piquant calamari or cups of baked parmesan or rustic mashed potato, sauces, purees, compotes, and coulis to paint his plate and place the rest of the food to match the paint. Each sauce served not only displayed the capability of the cook, a wife or daughter-in-law, but also reflected the quality given to the social and ethnic relationships between host, cook, and guests. All our senses are put to test with the actions of the culinary art. Our eyes glance longingly at that inviting plate; we can smell the beautiful compilation of spice and sugar, our ears long to hear the sizzle of hot vapour, our palates await this extravaganza as the rest of our senses feast. Food is, after all, a science and an art. It requires both skill and practice. A chef who ignores will never be able to deliver finesse. This charisma and reverence for food provokes the mind‟s eye to explore the prism of food meaning emanating from the relationship which inextricably links us. 7
  • 8. Anthropology and Sociology of Food Before moving onto the next thought ponder over the chemistry created by the following dish „Braised Beef Cheeks with Poarched Foie Grass and Marrows‟. Senses, Illusions and Exploitation "Deceptions of the senses are the truths of perception". - Purkinje (19th-century Czech physiologist) Patterns confusing the eyes and the brain, leading to misapprehension of the size of a circle, or the length of a line, are the perception (optical illusions), often exploited by the marketers. For example, people may feel highly satisfied with menu items that have long descriptions instead of simple names (chocolate cake vs. a name like Belgian dark chocolate mousse layer cake) or pouring of more liquid into a short wide glass than a tall thin one ( http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2006/12/30/food-psychology/). Tapping into other senses rather than just „taste‟ can actually increase consumers‟ perceptions. Why..? because taste is generated from multiple senses (smell, texture, sight, and sound), ads mentioning these senses will have a significant impact on taste over ads mentioning taste alone ( http://www.thaindian.com/newsportal/health/food-ads-work-betterif- all-senses-are-involved-study_100220790.html). 8
  • 9. Anthropology and Sociology of Food Food and Sensuality What better subject of stimulation is there than food itself. Losing yourself to the pleasures of food, of love and of life itself can only be a rewarding and sensually intoxicating experience. ( http://www.sensualitysecrets.com/blog/31/5-sexy-little-secrets-to-help-youflirt-with-your- food/) We are „‟seduced‟‟ by food, and we „‟hunger‟‟ for love. Our loved ones are “sweet” and “look good enough to eat,” just as we “desire” our favorite flavors and find the most delicious dishes “lip smacking.” Whether it‟s a notorious aphrodisiac or a bowl of homemade soup, beautiful, sensual food, thoughtfully prepared, is not just the fastest way to soften a lover‟s heart, it opens all the senses for pleasure ( http://www.mealtime.org/uploadedFiles/Mealtime/Content/foodstylesforyourlifestyle.pdf). Food can be a wonderful lover if you allow it to resonate within you and if you pay close attention to your body‟s responses. The flavors, textures, juicy variety, and sweet, seductive, colorful charms of fresh fruit and vegetables are parallel to none. ( http://www.sensualitysecrets.com/blog/31/5-sexy-little-secrets-to-help-you-flirt-with-yourfood/) There is also a state of joy to be found in the preparation of a dish. To a true sensualist, there is a depth of feeling evoked in the creation of edible art that stimulates a profound sense of exaltation; it is a feeling of intimate connection with the aesthetic and bodily pleasures shortly to be discovered. There is a powerful sense of urgency, a desire to unveil a world of unawakened pleasures. The sight of a peach evokes images of a woman‟s delicate cheeks and Oysters for the female anatomy. The tickle of champagne on the tongue is as inviting as the touch of a lover‟s fingertips. The sound of a succulent steak on the grill can inspire like the sigh of a lover swept away in a moment of passion. http://rebirthofreason.com/Articles/Iannolo/On_Food_and_Sensuality.shtml) 9 (
  • 10. Anthropology and Sociology of Food Food for Thought In the olden days a gap had opened up between the mind and the world of sensory reality, mediated only by the senses, which were themselves highly unreliable. How could one tell, for instance, whether the impressions conveyed to the mind by the senses were an accurate representation of the world outside? The result was thus the study of these senses. Unlike classical aesthetics, which were primarily linked to the higher senses of sight and hearing, modern aesthetics as evolved from the concept of taste involves pleasure, and pleasure is its own way of knowing. Satan conjures appetite, manipulating consumer desire and turning the fruit into more than a common apple, or dietary container of nutriments (Gigate, 2005). Taste has always ranked low on the philosophical hierarchy of the senses as a means of ingress to the mind. Whereas sight and hearing allow for a proper representative distance from the object of contemplation, taste, like its closest cousin smell, is bound up with the chemical physiology of the body. The two are thought to convey immediate pleasure or disgust, serving to mediate discrete individuals (if at all) based on bodily instinct without reference to shared ideals. Not only is taste bound up with the unruly flesh; traditionally, it is associated with too intense bodily pleasure and the consequent dangers of excess. While the exertion of the higher senses theoretically leads to more mind, the exercise of the lower senses of taste and smell can result in too much body and its various forms of sensuousness: to indulge the most basic human appetites is to risk becoming a glutton, a drunkard, or a voluptuary (Gigate, 2005). Food that is not eaten can still be seen and, depending on the circumstances, smelled, touched, and heard, but it cannot be tasted unless it enters the mouth. However, tasting does not require swallowing. Wine tasters spit out the wine they have tasted, though they will suck it in with air and swirl it around the mouth to bring out its full range. (Barbara KirshenblattGimblett, 1999) How does food perform to the sensory modalities unique to it? A key to this question is a series of dissociations. While we eat to satisfy hunger and nourish our bodies, some of the most radical effects occur precisely when food is dissociated from eating and eating from 10
  • 11. Anthropology and Sociology of Food nourishment. Such dissociations produce eating disorders, religious experiences, culinary feats, sensory epiphanies, and art. (Brillant- Savarin, J.A; 2002) 11
  • 12. Anthropology and Sociology of Food Conclusion One of the reasons I am drawn to the craft of cooking is because my senses are stimulated and I‟m reminded of the positive things in my life, past and present. The smell of my village farms- the water soaked rice and paddy fields, vine-ripened tomatoes- reminds me of hiding in my grandfather‟s sugarcane fields when I was a child, or the sight of a crisp, grilled pomfret reminds me of enlightening times in the kitchen. There is nothing more satisfying than the smell, sight, texture, and even sound of a good raw vegetable snapped in half or a sizzling piece of bacon wafting through the room or a caramelized hunk of prime rib. The stimulation of these senses provides us with immediate carnal satisfaction. Cooking is not only about physiological sensations, though, as my memories of hot summer days in the tomato patch are sparked by the simple aroma of a nice ripe tomato. The physical effects of food can clearly become psychological and have a profound effect upon one‟s emotions. That is why I believe that the best-tasting food is the kind that someone has put “a lot of love into.” Soulful cooking is created by the hands and the senses of those who have tapped into their own memories to create food that has stirred up their own emotions at one time or another. And when people see, smell, taste, or hear food, it, too, may conjure up their hidden senses of emotion–and they may lose themselves for a moment two. (Artandchel; 2008) 12
  • 13. Anthropology and Sociology of Food Bibliography Books Anderson,E.N; 2005; Everyone Eats-Understanding Food And Culture; New York University Press, New York And London. Brillant- Savarin, J.A; 2002;The Physiology Of Taste or Meditations on Transcendental Gastronomy; Brillant- Savarin, J.A; Dover Publication, New York. Colicchio,T; 2000; Think like a Chef; Clarkson Potter Publishers, New York.. Colicchio,T; 2003; Young.C and Silverbush.L(eds); Craft of Cooking, notes and recipes from a restaurant kitchen; ; Clarkson Potter, New York. Gigate,D ; 2005;Taste- A Literary History; Yale University Press, New Haven & London Jen,S; 1999; Food for thought; edition 1;Hartland Publications. John.L.S; 2002; The Psychology of Food and Eating; Palgrave Publishers Ltd. ( Hamshire and New York). Jütte,R; 2005;A history of the Senses: From Antiquity to Cyberspace; Publishers name unknown. Korsmeyer,C ;1999; Making Sense of Taste Food and Philosophy; Cornell university press, Ithaca and London. E-Journals and Articles: Artandchel; 2008; Cooking and the Senses: Food and Emotion viewed on 7.1.2011 < http://thepleasanthouse.com/2008/12/29/cooking-and-the-sensesfood- and-emotion/> Day,Z ;2008;Food Indulges the Senses; viewed on 22.12.2010 < http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/577199/food_indulges_the_senses.html > Food ads work better if all senses are involved: Study; 2009; viewed on 22.12.2010 < http://www.thaindian.com/newsportal/health/food-ads-work-better-if-all-senses-areinvolved-study_100220790.html> KMET.C.T;2010; The Sensuality of Food viewed on 21.12.2010 < http://urbanvivant.com/the-sensuality-of-food/ > Modernity and Indigestion, 2007; Gornahoor Press viewed on 23.12.2010 < http://www.gornahoor.net/?cat=99 > 13
  • 14. Anthropology and Sociology of Food Pink,S;The future of visual anthropology: engaging the senses; Viewd on 7.01.2011 < http://books.google.co.in/books?id=b_n0rHbeimoC&printsec=frontcover&dq=anthr opology+of+senses&source=bl&ots=YSG7f4Vp7w&sig=CzFTwDURPkq9l2v_LnNfMptCS0&hl=en&ei=65MmTfXnOcPIrQfHhoXXDA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct =result&resnum=6&ved=0CD4Q6AEwBQ#v=onepage&q&f=false> Shock.P.J; 2009; Sense and Sensibility: Engage All Senses for F&B Success viewed on 7.12.2010 < http://meetingsnet.com/food_beverage/engage_all_senses_food_events_0209/ > Succeed through Using Your Senses viewed on 22.12.2010 < http://www.schoolfor- champions.com/senses.htm> Vogel.M.R; 2009;FOOD FOR THOUGHT, viewed on 7.1.2011 < http://www.foodreference.com/html/a86-let-there-be-light.html> Websites http://www.school-for-champions.com/senses/navigate_blind.htm on 22.12.2010 at 12:43 viewed http://www.school-for-champions.com/senses.htm#Standard viewed on 22.12.2010 at 12:43 http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2006/12/30/food-psychology/ on 22.12.2010 at 13:34 viewed http://its-my-blog.com/the-eye-appeal-of-food viewed on 22.12.2010 at 13:33 http://www.exploratorium.edu/exhibits/changingill/ viewed on 22.12.2010 at 13:35 http://www.foodforsenses.com/home/english.html viewed on 7.12.2010 at 13:05 http://www.foodforyoursenses.eu/ http://www.foodforyoursenses.eu/ viewed on 7.12.2010 at 13:05 http://www.goborestaurant.com/ viewed on 7.12.2010 at 13:05 http://www.annualreviews.org/doi/abs/10.1146/annurev.anthro.012809.104957 http://www.foodprocessing.com/articles/2007/239.html http://www.sensualitysecrets.com/blog/31/5-sexy-little-secrets-to-help-you-flirtwith- your-food/ viewed on 21.12.2010 at 14:39 http://rebirthofreason.com/Articles/Iannolo/On_Food_and_Sensuality.shtml viewed on 21.12.2010 at 14:33 14