The Trouble With FlavorNovember 05, 2018
The Trouble with Flavor
If I were to ask you a delicate question...bear with me.....why do you have sex? Is it procreate and have children? Or do you have this deep urge to seek intimacy with someone you really like and just have fun with them? Of course, it's fun and satisfying and connecting. Oh yeah, and you had one kid while you were at it.
Now, extend that analogy to food. Why do you eat your food? Is it to get enough Vitamin A and B1, iron, and protein? Do you sit down at the table and ask, "What calories do I need today?" Come on...... you open the fridge and say, "What looks good to me?". Do you look at the table in front of you and reach for what looks tasty? Yup! that's it. Sex and food are both deeply primal functions that we have to have to survive. And both derive their power from the satisfaction of those drives, and the pleasure they invoke. Pleasure. With food, that's all about flavor.
Here's the problem. As brilliantly explained by the author Mark Schatzker in his book, The Dorrito Effect, The Surprising New Truth about Food and Flavor, it's all about flavor. We humans evolved to have specific flavors on our tongues and in our noses that represented rare and very valuable foods. It was greatly to our advantage to stuff ourselves silly when fruit season came around so that we put on weight and stored enough calories to make it through the next lean period, whether it be dry in Africa or cold in Asia. Hence, sweet is smack dab in the middle of your tongue. Along with about 5 or 6 others on your tongue.
Then there is your nose, with 50,000 different flavors and trillions of combinations. You are hard-wired to seek some flavors. In fact, good science shows it is the anticipation that drives your behavior more than the flavor. That is all about prior exposure, memory, and emotion. It's that interplay of emotion, happiness, pleasure, memory, all hardwired to get you to eat abundantly when you find those flavors. Guess what the food industry has found out! Yup. Exactly what those flavors, memories, feelings and vulnerabilities are. Much of the drive to discover those flavors has been the inadvertant "blanding" of food. What used to be tasty chicken is now blah tasting white meat. What used to be delicious......name almost any food and its flavor has declined with industrial farming, yield improvements, genetic manipulation and long-distance shipping, storage, and mass marketing. Getting a chicken to grow to maturity in just 6 weeks, with just 4 pounds of food, with giant breasts,,,,has resulted in a very bland chicken. No problem!
We can fix bland food by adding more flavor to it of a very specific nature...and you will obediently eat it. Not one serving, but two or three. This book is exceedingly insightful into the battle for your taste. This is a battle not of your conscious brain but of your very primal, survival-based brain stem. It tiptoes along the edge of creating out of control eating. Addiction? In fact, the Yale Food Addiction Scale was recently developed because so many of us are showing eating behaviors that look a lot like drug addiction. Take the test yourself. You may not be totally addicted, yet. You can't chose not to eat, thus avoiding the addictive exposure to flavors. But if you can't lose weight and feel utterly stuck, you might want to consider thinking how you can insert your conscious, rational, logical forebrain into the discussion and avoid the overwhelming power of flavor. Start with sweet. Avoiding sugar means you don't purchase 80% of American food products that have sugar added to them. Consider peanut butter. Next week gets even more interesting. Flavor is very, very important.
WWW. What will work for me. I can't have ice cream in the house. It took me about a year to wean myself off it. The only way I can escape is to not purchase it. I haven't succeeded with Indian All-You-Can-Eat Buffets yet. Fortunately, they are remote and not so easily brought home. And if I give in and have one heaping tablespoon of peanut butter....well, odds are, I have more.
- The flavor sweet was present through most of human history when? Answer: With ripe plants that show up briefly at the end of the growing season, right before the starvation season.
- Where does sweet flavor fit? Answer: Right in the middle of our tongues. Front and center.
- What is the most important driver of flavor choices? Answer: The anticipation based on prior memory and feelings.
- What percent of food in America have some sugar in them? Answer: 80
- How much you eat may be based most on what feature of food? Answer: It's flavor.