Understanding Taste

Randie Pic

Eating and tasting is an artistic activity in its right. All the senses come together and play a part in the perception of taste, and it is, therefore, acceptable to describe taste from the perspective of all the senses. The aesthetic of food and drink in any culture can be claimed on the tradition and the appealing of taste. Nevertheless, taste and culture can be affected by factors such as globalization and a change of class.
The Jamaican custom of preparing and consuming jerk meals publicly from a grill pan on the sidewalk reminded us of jerk restaurants and how people became mindful of their status and noble cultural beings. (Korsmeyer, 2005), Mentions that eating and tasting have a tendency to be done in public when complemented by other suitable doings such as social conversation and music. Here we understand why in Jamaican it is traditional to put up a jerk pan at every street dance and so on.
Our taste and all our eating and drinking behaviour are an expression of our social class. Different social levels are recognized by the way in which they express their liking and taste in the food they eat. For example, I am well-travelled; hence my perspective on blue cheese based on exposure is contrary to the person who has never left the deep Jamaican suburbs. Cultural taste comes from having the kind of knowledge and familiarity with which cultural food items are appreciated and evaluated. Cultural taste acquired through engagement in habitus; acquired over a period and passed on from one generation to another (Seymour, 2004).
Touching, smelling and seeing well prepared and presented meals combine our senses to create taste and perception of the aesthetics of food and drink in a particular culture (Korsmeyer, 2005). This triggers an individual’s perception of what is tasty and good to eat versus what is not.
The style of serving meals appeals to the expected taste, and it also blends perfectly with the method of cooking. Eating with the fingers creates greater intimacy with the food. My grandmother would say it makes “food sweeter,” (food is nicer). My rum partner says “the rum taste better from a glass versus a disposable plastic cup.” Ackee and callaloo is more appealing to a Rastafarian if it is served in a calabash (wooden bowl) verse the fine china from your “whatnot” (cupboard)
The cultural values governing what is distinct from good to eat, the way it is prepared, cooked, served and eaten vary between cultures in many different ways(Seymour,2004). I think cornmeal dumpling taste better than white flour dumpling but my wife doesn’t. Is either of us wrong? Is it just personal preference and perception in this case affecting the taste? Also to note, I am a countryman, and my wife is from the city where we would likely to have a different cultural background. I also find it funny she doesn’t eat “pork,” but she eats “ham” only because of its colour.
The actual belief governing the differences in tastes in food is the conflict between the “taste” of necessity and the “taste” of luxury food taste and practices frequently tell the true nature of an individual’s habitus. Taste is not just generally raised but created through being a part of a particular class. These expressions of “taste,” however, are not stagnant hence different classes are able to change their taste based on a shift in focus and status. The classes also use food taste and practices as a way to discriminate their dissimilarity in habitus.

Randie Anderson Executive Chef, CEC, CCA,WCEC, MSc Gastronomic Tourism.
Comments may be sent via email to: chefrandie@yahoo.com


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